Developing Mental Strength

April 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

The need for physical strength in what we do is obvious. The patients are getting larger, equipment heavier, and the need to be able to handle signficant physical aspects of the job continues to increase. However, how to do we develop that mental “toughness”. Those of who take on the job, whether fire, police, EMS, or other levels of emergency response/management, are often thought of to be a bit more mentally tough. unfortunately though, we aren’t all that tough. Like those outside of emergency services, we are impacted by the things we see and the people we interact with. It may take more than it would with someone NOT in the system, but it’s still going to come. 

So, what do we do to prepare for the sudden hit. How do we understand that we aren’t 100% made of steel?  Understand these are my thoughts, not ones that have been scientifically proven, just ways that get me through and have helped me.

Understand your triggers and prepare for them – i know the calls that I will be most impacted by. I have run them and been impacted by them before and because of that I’m able to better prepare myself for the next one.  I know that any call with a child, especially a young boy will be hard. Because I know that I’ll see my two boys in the patient.  Because of that I train harder on the pediatric issues.  It helps me stay focused on the treatment and the specific patient and keeps my mind from wandering to the “what-ifs”

Recognize your limits – When I first stated I used to run multiple nights and multiple different stations. I probably deserved the number of times I was called a squirrel. However as things changed in my life, I recognized the limits of my time, my ability, and most especially my mental strength. At a certain point you have to “step back”. in the volunteer world it’s a bit easier than the career side. But occasionally you have to take a day off, enjoy a vacation with the family. Even if you say “well I only work 10 days a month”, there is still an impact on you during those days and recognizing your limits BEFORE you get there is huge!

Train Like Your Life Depends on It – I know this seems a bit cliché, but training means that when you are on that call that throws you mentally, whether it’s the young child, a family member, a crew member, or whatever your trigger is, that you’ll be able to fall back to the basics, the training that you have to complete the job ahead of you. I can say this because I’ve used this one.  I’ve run calls of family members, both major and minor injuries. I’ve seen crew members who have had medical emergencies or been injured. Most importantly, I’ve had to treat my own children through illnesses and other problems. By having the strong basics skills that I do,  the impact of these situations ahs been much less than it would have bene had I not trained properly.

Know when to ask for help- Have you ever seen Bringing Out the Dead. I think Nicholas Cage truly embodies the image of burn out. He’s a man that recognizes he has gone over the edge, but continues to get on a truck. He is haunted by his demons, but continues to go out there and introduce himself to so many more. I don’t ever want to become that person. I don’t ever want to put myself in a position where I am doing more harm than good because I didn’t know when to ask for help. In a previous post I hit on the need to know where your help is and how to get it and I can’t stress that enough.  You need to know your resources BEFORE you need them!  And you need to recognize when you need help!  It’s not a sign of weakness to ask!

So, those are some ways I start and continue to build my mental strength and preparedness BEFORE the call. What works for you?  How do you prepare for the reality of the job you do?

Thanks for reading and until next time…stay safe and don’t forget to follow on twitter (@stickysidedwn).


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