Two of the biggest challenges facing public safety today are recruitment and retention. These issues actually feed into each other: Inadequately staffed departments often turn to mandatory overtime to cover shifts. This results in employee exhaustion and burnout, which can prompt even more workers to leave. One way to mitigate this cycle is with a carefully crafted wellness program. Health benefits, including formal wellness programs, are a proven draw for new recruits; they can also help keep existing employees healthy, happy and on the job.
In her presentation during Lexipol’s Connect 2023 virtual conference, Lexipol Sr. Strategic Wellness Director Mandy Nice showed how focusing on wellness can be a big part of a department’s efforts to recruit and retain good employees.
Health benefits, including formal wellness programs, are a proven draw for new recruits; they can also help keep existing employees healthy, happy and on the job.
Here are a few key takeaways on how focusing on wellness can impact first responders:
Coping and Recovery
Mental Recovery: Maximize your mental recovery time, particularly after a traumatic incident, by practicing these strategies:
- Tactical pause: Taking a deliberate break after a stressful situation can help distance yourself from the trauma and give your mind a chance to rebound.
- Box breathing: Developed by special forces soldiers, this breathing technique helps shed physical stress while centering your mind.
- Connection support: Leverage your personal and professional relationships to help recover from traumatic incidents.
- Reframe: Sometimes, a deliberate change of perspective can help prompt a mindset reset.
- Gratitude immersion: Feeling and expressing gratitude have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing resilience.
- Growth mindset: Focusing on continual improvement can help you break free from stagnant thinking.
Physical Recovery: Ensure your body is ready for the next challenge with these proven elements of physical recovery:
- Water: Staying hydrated is critical to bouncing back from trauma.
- Sleep: Sleep is a key to healing both body and mind; when sleep won’t come, it’s helpful to have multiple strategies to relax.
- Change of scene: Sometimes, physical distance from a situation is the best way to resolve the stress it causes.
- Movement: Activities such as cardio, gym workouts, yoga and other forms of stretching can activate your muscles and help your body recover.
- Immediate gratification activities: Satisfy your need for achievement by immersing yourself in activities such as cleaning, organizing, listening to music and pursuing hobbies.
Building Healthy Habits
Mental Habits: You can proactively train your brain to help cope with on-the-job trauma by adopting habits that promote mental resilience, strength and flexibility.
- Assess your identity to help you grow from the one you currently have to the one you want to adopt.
- Practice goal-setting that is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).
- Learn communication skills that increase your connection with both coworkers and the public you serve.
- Recognize the hypervigilance roller coaster and take steps to manage it in a healthy way.
- Routinely inject gratitude and awe into your day.
- Maintain the relationships — with your spouse, family members, friends — to keep connections with the people who matter most.
Physical Habits: The strength, resilience and flexibility of your body has a huge impact on both your quality of life and the quality of your work.
- Book your annual health screening to catch small problems before they become bigger ones.
- Practice a pre-sleep routine to help you wind down and prepare for a solid period of sleep, even if you’re working night shift.
- Use occupation-specific physical fitness training to ensure your body is ready to perform job-related tasks effectively.
- Automate good nutrition and energy management to keep your body and mind in peak performance.
- Practice weight management to help you maintain control of your physical abilities.
Looking for more wellness resources for your agency? Lexipol’s Cordico wellness app provides effective, actionable content that can serve as the foundation of any agency’s wellness program.