Meditation for First Responders: Why it Works and How to Introduce it to Your Agency
Date:Monday March 20, 2023
Meditation may bring to mind a room with soft lighting and incense burning, but the reality is that meditation is actually a strategy used in many other contexts in addition to yoga studios or spiritual contexts.
At its heart, meditation is all about focus. It’s the opportunity to spend time thinking carefully and clearly. Guided exercises help clear out distracting thoughts and allow your mind both rest and refreshment. Because meditation has been practiced in many forms throughout the world for thousands of years, there are many ways to approach it and find the right method to deliver maximum benefit for each individual.
- Provide beneficial impacts on anxiety and depression that rival antidepressant medicine assistance.
- Improve people’s concentration and attention, which are both key to the split-second decision-making that first responders need.
- Have beneficial impacts on both social anxiety and on addiction.
- Even help children do better in school, meaning that learning about it may be beneficial for family members of first responders.
Meditation can be a powerful tool to balance mental health and help first responders thrive in many aspects of their lives. Unfortunately, some people view meditation negatively, or simply “not for me.” So how can agencies help their staff benefit from this ancient practice in a modern, accessible way?
How to Introduce Meditation in an Approachable Way
The way that meditation is presented can have a big impact on whether those who try it find it helpful. Presenting the strategies for focusing on the breath and clearing your mind in a way that appeals to first responders can be key to receiving the many benefits of practicing meditation.
Consider these options for bringing meditation into your agency:
- Schedule a workshop with Pause First or another organization that deliberately works to reduce stress for first responders using strategies like mindfulness meditation.
- Have an open discussion of ways that have worked for the team members in your agency to reduce stress, while offering a variety of options. While some team members may be resistant to certain kinds of stress relief, including meditation, presenting it as one of many healthy options can take some of the pressure out of the situation. Ask everyone to try one new approach to stress management and report back about what they did and didn’t like about it.
- If using the term “meditation” is a turn off, you can still make conscious space for quiet during busy days. After a stressful incident, consider offering brain break time or asking everyone to take five minutes to themselves to quietly process before moving into the next task. Not everyone will try breathing or meditation exercises during that time, but you’d be amazed what a little quiet and alone time can do.