Life as a First Responder has so many stresses. You understand and accept many of them as they are out of your control.
But there are a few that we struggle with.
One I often hear about is administration and those senior to you.
Looking from a different lense
When I hear of a high ranking individual who loses their cool easily and micro manage things I often wonder what they were like earlier in their career?
Were they calmer? Happier? Easier going?
Did they get along better with everyone around them?
The reason I ask this is when your body has been stressed for long periods of time – shift work, OT, the stress alone of putting on your uniform and prepping for your day year after year ,it all takes its toll.
Coming off the road and into an Office does not take the stress away. It only changes it.
And your stress management system starts giving you signals over time that it needs support.
- Tired and wired
- Waking mid sleep
- Short fuse
- Reports become so tough to focus and take all of your energy
- Creating strategic plans, scheduling now becomes a struggle
- Lose the ability to forward think and you can only focus on the here and now.
- Small things grate on you for days and days
And with all of this it becomes tougher and tougher to manage a team and keep all of the moving parts running smooth adding more fuel to the fire.
Which in return can change someone who you thought would be a great leader into someone who micromanages, and is more likely to criticize than teach and help you grow.
It’s not easy to be working under someone who is like this. And when you become stressed to the point where it affects you the day before you come on shift and your entire shift- can’t sleep, digestion messes up and you struggle to keep engaged and calm with your family, then you are not the one who is control of how they are making you feel.
Taking Back Control
So how do you change this and not allow it to affect you as much as it does?
It’s not easy, but the first thing I start with is to do a little research into how this individual used to be and try to figure out why they are the way they are now?
Have they changed?
If so, is it the added stress where their stress management system is taxed to the max and they have not learned about the symptoms of a stressed management system and how they can be reversed yet?
It’s very possible as what I teach is based on newer research. Research that was most likely not available most of their career. They may have no idea that these could be physical signs of stress and not a mental health issue. And just like many First Responders they know that something is off, but they are afraid of losing their job if they say something and are from the days of suck it up and deal with it…
Sometimes really putting yourself in their shoes humanizes what is going on and allows you to look at it differently and see what is happening to them may not be a personal attack against you, but their body’s stress management system screaming for help.
You just happen to be the one caught in the crossfire.
If this is the case, then you have a choice to try to reach out and show them the info you have learned in my blogs and 911 Stress Management FB Group.
Be prepared that they may or may not be willing to change.
Through digging you realized that they truly lack the leadership skills and have always been the way that they are now.
We may not be able to change the way they are managing us, but we can change the way that we allow their behaviour to affect us.
There are many things in your job that you can not control.
- What you wear
- The situation that occured before you arrived on scene
- When things slow down and when they are chaos back to back calls
What you can control is how you react to each and every stress that is thrown your way.
We are all in charge of the choices we make.
Allowing someone else to have control over us is our choice.
Let’s say you are on scene and someone is irate or out of control and micromanaging, how do you react?
Do you amp yourself up as much as they are and have a shouting match?
Do you observe without emotion and create strategies to calm them down and help them gain some control of the situation understanding that their past experience and feeling of lack of control may be causing their behaviour.
Both reactions are your choice.
The same as you have a choice as to how you let your short tempered, micromanaging upper level management emotionally affect and drain you.
I’m not saying that you had the skills when you first got on the job to stay calm and assess the situation. Some never learn this skill.
Because it is just that…. A learned skill.
Let’s look at fighting a fire. Every single movement and the way and how you communicate what is going on and what you are doing to your team dictates the outcome of that fire.
I’m sure you would agree that if you go in without a plan, with your emotions in high gear and react on them instead of strategically think things through and take the emotion out of the situation that you have a better chance of putting out that fire with the least risk to others.
This is a learned skill.
And in order to learn the skills needed to be a good Police Officer, Fire, EMS, Dispatcher, Corrections, and every other frontline worker, you have to look at every situation and ask yourself a few questions.
- What part did I have in the outcome of that situation?
- How could I have handled it better so I can improve next time?
This is the part you have control over.
When you stay cool and calm (not always easy) and assess the situation from the outside for all that it is and work on the parts that you have control over then you take the power away from the other parties involved.
It’s when we let our pride and emotions come into place that we let others control the situation.
We do not have to like what they are saying, but giving them the power will only make it worse.
If they piss you off, you can vent for 5 minutes after the fact and then take a deep breathe, assess the situation just like you do on a call, debrief with a trusted colleague honestly looking at the entire situation. Figure out what role you had in any of it and work on that. The rest is out of your control.
What if you are struggling with a short fuse and keeping your cool?
If you are the one whose stress management system is causing your sleep issues, exhaustion, brain fog, short fuse, digestive issues and other stress/burnout symptoms and you would like to reverse them and get back to the person you were when you started the job, download this free teaching I created that explains why this is happening to you and the steps involved in reversing your burnout.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
About the Author
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi has a background in athletics including a 25+yr career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach to athletes and stressed out high end executives.
Being healthy and active was what she lived for. Until her body started waking absolutely exhausted, workouts become something to push through instead of enjoy. A short fuse crept in, motivation left and injuries seemed to be a part of life. All of this added up to the point that she had to stop all activity altogether.
Doctors, specialists and prescriptions were never able to fix the problem.
Once Andi realized she had a genetic stress condition that puts her body into an increased stress response state all the time (similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day) was she able to figure out what was happening and how to reverse it.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to thrive when your body is always functioning at higher than usual stress levels. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husband’s career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout,
exhaustion and a tanked immune system that she knew can result from high levels of stress that are out of your control.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi created 911 Lifestyle once she realized the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and First Responders so they can peak during crisis, recover quickly after, have energy left over for their families and become the Elite First Responders that they were born to be.