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Achieving and Maintaining Work-Life Balance

Date:Monday September 21, 2020

First responders know better than most people the importance of self-advocacy. Sharing key information during a crisis, for example, can save lives and help first responders do their jobs well.


When it comes to self-advocating as a first responder yourself, however, you may feel like there are more barriers. If you got into this field to serve others, remembering to take care of yourself may not come naturally.


Maintaining your work-life balance isn’t just good for you; it makes it possible for you to continue serving your family and your community. Here are some ways to help your team members and yourself as you work toward work-life balance.


Balance the Benefits of Overtime/Overwork With the Drawbacks: A major source of overwork is the opportunity to take on lots of overtime shifts, which is prevalent in first responder cultures. While occasional overtime can be helpful for the budget, making it habitual can leave you depleted long-term and less able to bounce back from tough circumstances. Set a goal to put a limit on your own work, even if it means changing your family budget to no longer rely on as much overtime pay.


Whether New or Experienced, Be Part of Mentoring Relationships: First responders often form deep bonds with each other. One way to make the workplace experience less overwhelming or likely to burn out new team members is to model the kind of relationship you want to have with your work. As experienced team members, this means talking about how you value outside-of-work pursuits and not setting people who work all the time on a pedestal. As new team members, it means guarding your time and recognizing that you can give 110% during your shift without giving up all your free time after you’ve worked the standard amount of hours.


Learn What Recharges You and What Drains You: Work-Life balance isn’t just about hours at work and hours at home. The quality of your home life affects how ready you are to return to work for your next shift. Notice the kinds of activities or behaviors at home that make it harder for you to return to work, such as focusing on negative television news or staying up too late at night. You know your own rhythms, so perhaps these things don’t affect your quality of life, but proactively spending time at home doing things you enjoy can really affect how rested you feel after a day off. Whether you like taking some time for a walk or some backyard soccer with your family or enjoy getting dinner and talking with a good friend, work hard to make time for what really prepares you for your next shift.


Resources for First Responders Working to Achieve Work-Life Balance:

  • The Mayo Clinic offers some straightforward ways to reconsider the toll that overwork takes on your body and mind, and strategies for improving balance.
  • If you find that time slips through your fingers without helping you feel ready for work again, consider these benefits of using a planner to stay organized and make the most of your time off.
  • If lack of work-life balance has affected your mental health, groups like the Code Green Campaign offer excellent resources for short-term help and long-term improvements to work-life balance.

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