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First Responders First - Stress relieving activities

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Stress is a part of everyday life, and paying careful attention to the body can prevent stress from mounting. Healthcare providers meet unique challenges, especially in the face of disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, it’s easy for self-care to fade into the background as demands increase. However, taking small, conscious, and actionable steps every day can make a positive impact on life and work.

Here are some tips to support healthy stress levels and manage self-care, stress, mental well-being, and interpersonal connections.

Self-care activities help support your body’s physiological needs and keep it recharged. First, stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle nearby. This could be at your station or in the break room. Hydrating with water can limit sugar intake and prevent sugar-related energy crashes. Second, allow your body to slow down, especially during meals. This brief pause can provide a mental break and promote proper digestion. Third, recharge your body with enough sleep to recover and repair itself. When getting inadequate sleep, take naps or close your eyes for five to ten minutes to allow the body and mind to rest before moving to the next task. Planning for adequate sleep is particularly important in planning for shift work. Fourth, maintain good posture and focus on extending the spine when walking or sitting. This relieves tension and improves focus. Finally, avoid substances that can impair judgment like tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs as these can be harmful and prevent the body and mind from restoring balance.

Follow these steps to reduce the burden of stress on the body. First, identify personal warning signs of stress and recognize their triggers. These can include increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating, negative emotions such as irritability, anxiety, or sadness, and social conflicts. Use these signs to help guide breaks throughout the day. Second, recognize moments that can cause mental or emotional distress and allow your body time to recharge. This can include stepping away from stressful notifications, news, and social media. During particularly challenging moments, take extra time to recover and pause to remember the positive reasons for joining this field. Third, take breaks to unwind. This can include the use of techniques to increase circulation and release muscle tension, like one-minute stretch breaks or walks outside in the sun. Fresh air and sunlight can help reset the circadian rhythm and provide vitamin D to the body. Finally, practice gratitude by taking moments like the 20 seconds of handwashing to recall three things you are grateful for.

Sources
  1. "As a First Responder, Your Health and Well-Being Are Key"  (2020)
  2. "Prioritizing Self-Care as a Healthcare Worker"  (2020)
  3. "Sustaining Yourself During the Coronavirus Crisis"  ()