Coping Through the Holidays

How Can First Responders Find Balance During the Holidays?

Published on November 28, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Emergencies do not stop for the holidays, and neither do first responders. As a public safety professional, working through the holidays while trying to maintain your family life, personal health, and social life may feel like juggling more than you can handle. As a result, you may find yourself attending more to one over the other, leading you to feel off balance. 

As the holiday seasons approach, many of us recognize the increased amount of stress that accompanies this time of year. On top of the heightened anxiety in the air, first responders must also deal with increased work schedule conflicts, and many cannot get the time off to spend with family and friends. Trying to find a balance between all these commitments can lead to an elevation in mental strain among first responders. To help ease any overwhelming feelings, it can be helpful to determine your priorities, schedule them to the best of your ability, maintain healthy habits, and communicate any emotions you find hard to handle. If you find yourself in this situation, the following 5 tips can help: 


Determine Your Priorities


You may already have a strong knowledge of what your priorities are, as this is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a first responder. However, during the holidays, new obligations may arise, and your priorities may shift a little. To help manage this, try writing down a quick list of things you are thankful for. Taking the time to look closely at what really matters to you can help you get your priorities straight. It can also help you find some peace in letting go of certain things that are not essential Once you realize what is important and what is not, letting go of what is not important will give you more time to pay attention to what is.


Plan Ahead and Be as Realistic as You Can


We are continuously being shown picturesque family holidays online, on TV, and in advertisements during the holidays. In reality, every family’s holidays are going to look different. Avoid comparing what other people are doing for the holidays with what you are doing. Many people will be celebrating in their own ways. Take the time to plan ahead with reasonable expectations by looking at the schedules of your family and friends. Sometimes this may mean celebrating a day before or after the actual holiday or having multiple celebrations. The more you can figure out ahead of time, the less stress you may feel as the holidays get closer.


Maintain Healthy Habits


As much as the holidays are about being thankful and spending time with loved ones, there is often an atmosphere of indulgence around eating, drinking, and gift-giving. It is important to remember during these times that your health and well-being are a priority too. When we overeat, stay up too late, and fail to get some exercise, our bodies and minds feel the consequence. To avoid this, keep up with the healthy habits you usually implement. You can also try using portion control during meals, meditating, and going for walks.


Acknowledge Your Emotions and Communicate Them


It may feel too overwhelming to process your emotions when you have so much going on. However, avoiding your emotions or bottling them up may only lead to worse problems down the line. It is normal for all kinds of new emotions to arise during the holidays. Allowing yourself to be open to the people you trust may help alleviate any stress or turmoil you feel in yourself. When you are able to get a handle on the emotions that are weighing you down, you can make more room for positive feelings instead of putting on a facade of happiness in front of family and friends.  


It’s Okay to Say “No” 


To avoid spreading yourself too thin during the holidays, realize it is okay to say “no” to certain things that are conflicting with your priorities. Agreeing to attend every event or occasion can often put a strain on your mental health and well-being, especially if some of them conflict with your other priorities. If something interferes with your family, mental health, or anything else you wrote down on your list of priorities, set it aside. Many people will understand that you have limited free-time because of your schedule, on top of it being the holidays. Politely saying “no” to an event that is stressing you out can make more room for you to say “yes” to your priorities. 

The holidays can make it hard for anyone to balance their priorities. For first responders, there is also the added challenge of attending to emergencies while others may be celebrating. Many difficult emotions may arise because of this; therefore, taking steps to prepare yourself for the season is vital. The holidays look different for everyone, so there should be no shame in realizing yours might look different too. It can be helpful as a first responder to sort out your priorities, schedule them ahead of time, and communicate any feelings you may be dealing with. Though these times can bring many people joy and peace, they may bring stress, anxiety, and depression for others. Holidays can bring to light any mental health concerns or challenges a person has been struggling with. Here at First Responder Wellness, we understand the unique challenges first responders may be facing during the holidays. Contact us at (888) 743-0490 to learn how we can help.