As a First Responder who has been with me awhile now, you see that it’s possible to boost your energy, stamina and recovery time so you can go from surviving to thriving on the job and at home and you are ready to put it into action.
Though getting your colleagues on board to join you may not be an easy task.
They have never seen anyone succeed in this goal and as much as they want the results you are working towards, they have resigned themself to the fact that it is not possible. So why should they support you, let alone try themself?
You’ve watched things slowly change
This is so frustrating, because the reason many of you joined 911 Stress Management was so that you could help your colleagues as you see them silently struggling. You want to make a difference for them. You’ve seen the change in them over the years…
Coming to work exhausted saying they didn’t get much sleep last night needing you to keep watch while they try to get a few more minutes sleep between calls.
The never ending stops for coffee and energy drinks.
More and more sick time off because they are catching the latest cold and flu or worse, they are always hacking and sneezing in the seat beside you, your entire shift.
Their uniforms start getting tighter around their midline.
They’ve stopped talking about things at home or worse, have started complaining instead of it being a happy subject.
You avoid subjects, like asking them about a certain commander or their views of the way things are run because even the small things frustrate like they never used to when they first started on the job.
And some have become so different and anger rules their shift.
They definitely do not want to feel this way.
But they don’t know why this is happening to them or that it’s possible to reverse these symptoms and they definitely don’t want anyone thinking there is something wrong with them as that can put their job in jeopardy and change the way people look at them.
Besides, it’s their job to take care of others…. No one should have to take care of them.
You feel…frustrated as you now have the answers to help them get a solid sleep, boosting their energy, stamina and recovery time.
How do you convince them so they want to hop on board with you?
Would getting your colleagues on board with this new way of thinking change your entire service’s future on the job?
And if so, how the #@*% do you do that?
This really matters to you.
You desperately want your colleagues to join you.
Well, because you’ve seen what can happen if they keep going the direction they are going.
You definitely do not want to lose another brother or sister in blue, and you are unsure if you can handle it if it was one of yours.
You want your colleagues to be healthy, happy and safe — to feel good. You want to protect them from the pain of poor health.
You want the best for them.
Here is how to get them on board
Habits can be contagious.
There is a saying that you emulate the top 5 people you hang out with.
Research shows that we are affected by the body composition, habits, and lifestyles of those around us. The more people around us who are doing something, or living a certain way, the more likely we are to do and live the same — whether that’s what we eat, how we eat, whether we move (or not), how we move, how we think about things and so on.
If you are surrounded with colleagues who are always complaining, chugging down coffee, eating out and not making the best choices in life, you’re more likely to do the same.
And the reverse is true.
If your partner, friends and family are fitter and healthier, you’re more likely to be fitter and healthier too. Most of this happens subconsciously. We often change our habits to match those of our social group without talking or even thinking about it.
How do you use this knowledge and get your clients on board with making the changes you know will take them from surviving to thriving at work and at home?
Social support works both ways.
The people around you can influence you. And you can influence them back.
This is where going it alone and being a good “silent” leader can make such a difference.
While it may be easier to wait until your immediate colleagues come around to prioritizing healthy choices, it’s also incredibly empowering and inspiring to be a leader for change, despite the forces against you.
Here are 3 crucial strategies for getting your First Responder colleagues on board and take the first steps to start reversing their burnout.
1. Accept that you may not be “right”.
Step back and embrace some hard truth.
How much of the friction you feel from others… is actually created by you?
Even if you mean well, and even if you are absolutely 100% correct (yes, grabbing that fast food meal is bad and the healthy meal you brought from home is good)…
How often have you been judgemental? Insistent? Preachy? Self-righteous? Dismissive? Over-enthusiastic?
Conversely, how often have you been curious? Interested in others’ perspectives? Able to deal with diversity and tolerate various viewpoints? Open-minded? Empathetic and compassionate? A good listener?
It’s tough to see when you know the answer, but maybe what you are doing and why isn’t so obvious to them.
All behaviors and choices have a reason to be there. Everyone has a story. Without knowing their reasons it’s tough to understand them. You don’t have to agree with them, but understanding can go a long way. And it may be the only way they know of doing things at this point in time.
Change is tough…
We all accept change at different paces.
When we focus on defending what we feel is right and proving our colleagues wrong, our perspective becomes very narrow and our relationships become oppositional.
However, when we let go of judgement and choose compassion and empathy, we make room for understanding.
Understanding dissolves conflict, because it usually shows us that, at our cores, we are all dealing with the same themes — we’re more alike than different.
Some great ways to do this is to change the questions you are asking.
“Why are they so different from me?”
“When have I dealt with something similar?”
“How do I get them to stop the bad habit?”
“What problem is the bad habit trying to solve?”
“What is wrong with them?”
“What might they really need?”
As your colleagues begin to feel more understood, and less judged, they may begin to ask you questions and be more open to what you are doing. (BTW these are also great questions to ask yourself 🙂 )
2. Lead by example, not force
Resistance more often comes from fear more so than them truly disagreeing with you.
Change is not easy and puts us out of our comfort zone.
Resistance and fear don’t respond well to rational arguments and pushing.
So while you must press forward with the changes you’re trying to make for your own well-being, you’ll more likely get support if you practice persistence rather than pushiness. You see this all the time when dealing with the public.
Pushiness means attempting to force others to join/agree with you, and accepting only a rigid set of compliant responses.
Persistence means continuously offering opportunities to join you on your quest for a healthier life, and yet remains open to a wide range of responses to any given invitation.
So be persistent:
- Keep offering healthy snacks and stop at healthier restaurants on shift.
- Keep offering to refill their water bottle, even when it’s not empty yet.
- Keep having conversations about the things you are learning from an excited, hey guess what I just learned perspective, instead of preachy.
As much as you can, take the drama and emotional charge out of these conversations. Validate your colleagues reasons for staying the way they are, and don’t push back.
Perhaps, when their fear subsides and they realize it’s safe to create a routine before bed that helps their mind shut down and fall asleep, or that their anger is being caused for a reason and there is a way to fix it, they will start asking more questions and try some of the healthy habits you have been implementing so they can start feeling as good as you do.
3. Just “do you”.
Change is difficult.
We all need certain things to happen before we are ready to make changes in our lives.
Respect that your colleagues may take time to figure out their why. You will notice that the more that hop on board the faster others follow. It’s a snowball effect. But you can’t force when this will happen.
While you are waiting, just “do you”.
Focus on what’s motivating you? Being your best for your family so that you are calm and happy with them and set a good example for your kids and be a strong supportive spouse (or whatever your motivation is)
Stay connected to what’s driving you, deep inside, to make these personal changes.
Spend more energy on you and how you are able to fall asleep and you are waking with energy, happier and don’t worry that you may not be able to react quick enough when needed on shift.
If you were on the outside watching you, what would you be thinking?
When you saw that person pushing through and changing right before your eyes. Starting to look younger and happier and in control of their life?
Feel like what you thought was impossible, may actually be achievable
Feel like if it worked for that person, it could work for you too?
By working toward and achieving a healthier, happier, more confident and capable version of yourself, you become the inspiration, the positive influence to your colleagues without pushing them or causing friction.
Influence happens in both directions, remember?
Lead the way.
Check your motives.
Each time you make a decision about your lifestyle habits on the job (where and what you eat, what and how much you are drinking, sleep habits…) ask yourself:
Am I doing this because everyone else is doing it, or because it matches my own internal intentions and values?
This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to want to do what other people are doing. But if you do go the way of the crowd, do it consciously.
Want help becoming the healthiest, fittest, strongest version of you?
You know deep down that the way to help your colleagues is to help yourself first. Lead by example.
If you have not started working on your sleep, energy, stamina and recovery that’s ok. You can start now.
What to do next?
We’ve learned that change is hard, and changing others is harder. It can be challenging to know where to start yourself.
You want to be supportive to your colleagues. In order to lead them it’s important for you to have support as well. Having a support person that is detached from your social bubble can be tremendously helpful.
A skilled coach provides an objective perspective and functions as a sounding board, a voice of reason, and a resource for practical ideas and inspiration — a source of momentum.
An experienced burnout prevention coach can also provide accountability, which is especially important if you are the trailblazer in your service.
I’m here to help you as a First Responders sleep, boost their energy, stamina, recovery time and improve their health, for the long-term..
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.