December 11, 2017
As a busy fire fighter or paramedic, it can be difficult to make time for self-care, especially on a daily basis. And while effective, some of the best ways to reduce stress take dedication and time that you may struggle to find during the day. Common stress-relieving activities like keeping a workout routine, taking up a new hobby, and meditating may not be reasonable with your busy schedule. But that doesn’t mean you have to let your stress run rampant.
No matter how hectic life gets, you can do these three activities anytime, anywhere, to dial back your stress levels and feel happier every day.
The beauty of breathing deeply is that it’s instant, simple and effective. Whether you’re on a call or at the station, whenever stress strikes, counter it by taking three deep breaths. Focusing on your breathing can help diffuse racing thoughts, slow your heart rate and even lower blood pressure to effectively manage stress. To instantly become calmer, inhale slowly and completely through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Find the right breathing exercise for you and make it a daily habit.
A rather underappreciated form of stress relief, laughing is proven to be endlessly beneficial for the body and mind. Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda University in California conclude that laughing has tremendous benefits, including lowering your stress hormones, boosting your immune system, reducing muscle tension and strengthening your heart — all of which bolster your body’s defenses against stress. The next time you’re feeling stressed, pull up a clip of your favorite comedian or a funny cat video, or call up a friend who makes you laugh. Your body will thank you.
Simply thinking about what you’re thankful for is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to reduce stress. A 2015 study by UC Davis revealed that when you practice gratitude, your brain’s cortisol (stress hormone) levels decrease by 23 percent. Gratitude is associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, even in stressful situations. Simple gratitude activities you can do each day include counting five (or more!) blessings or making a list of little moments, experiences or even people and pets that you’re thankful for. After all, Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time you think about what you’re grateful for.
These are just three of the little ways to stress less on a daily basis, no matter the situation you’re in. You can put these activities into practice at any time, without any preparation or planning, and reap the mental and physical benefits every day.
Is your stress getting the best of you? Have you been turning to substances to cope with the pressures of everyday life? You don’t have to suffer in silence. Real help is closer than you think, and easy to get started with. Call the IAFF Center of Excellence to speak with someone who knows what you’re going through and can help you find the right treatment.