The dedication that first responders have towards their role is admirable, however this can come at a personal cost.
One of these costs is carrying the weight of ongoing stress.
At Fortem’s summit, Beyond Duty – what is the bigger picture in first responder wellbeing?, Dr Sally Kelty shared her research on what works to reduce the stress that’s brought on within the job.
Dr Kelty, a Psychologist from the University of Canberra, explains, “In order for first responders to have resilience within their job, they need to make and use really good coping strategies.”
Here are three of Dr Kelty’s strategies that can help reduce stress:
1.Create balance in a meaningful way
While balance means something different to everyone, it’s important to find something that you like to do outside of work.
“When the job becomes consuming of your whole life, that can be a real problem,” says Dr Kelty.
She adds that, as long as out-of-work activities are healthy and non-destructive, there are no rules for the activities that help keep us well, as long as it’s something you enjoy or find meaningful.
“The people who seem to manage (or avoid) burnout or job strain have put in place something outside their work that gives them something meaningful. It doesn’t matter what that thing is, it’s about a connection with other people, and a connection to something that’s ongoing and meaningful to you.”
2.Develop healthy sleep habits
When sleep is disrupted, you can feel tired, irritable and stressed. If better sleep is not restored within a few days, negative feelings can increase and impact on your mood and sense of wellbeing.
Dr Kelty says that, for first responders, good sleep can help to combat stress, as well as improving performance at work: “It creates the ability to quickly think on your feet, make creative decisions and have really good problem solving – and we need these things from first responders.”
We recognise that sleep can be a real challenge for first responders – you can find practical tips on developing healthy sleep habits HERE.
3.Take up a creative hobby
Having a healthy way to escape from a high stress working environment can be a powerful tool in reducing ongoing stress.
“Stress creates a rushing through your mind, thinking about what’s happened in the day,” explains Dr Kelty, adding that some hobbies “give you some mental space to go away from the reality of the job into a more gentle space. People feel so much better after doing that.”
Dr Kelty says her research shows that creative hobbies, in particular, are powerful in reducing stress, “A lot of the people who do better at managing stress are those who take part in creative pursuits. These activities create a kind, relaxing space for the mind.”
“That might be photography, joining a competitive group, dress designing, painting, walking through nature, or writing.”
There’s much more to this conversation, click play to watch…
More about our speaker:
Dr Sally Kelty – University of Canberra.
Dr Sally Kelty is a psychologist and criminologist working as a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Applied Psychology at the University of Canberra, she is also an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies.
Dr Kelty has consulted with the Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police, National Institute of Forensic Science, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, and the Justice Departments of Western Australian, Northern Territory and Tasmania.
Further recordings from ‘Beyond Duty’ will be published to the Fortem Australia website over the coming weeks. The community is invited to share those recourses widely, be agents for change themselves and keep the conversation and connection going.