The holidays are often regarded as a wonderful time of the year filled with joy, laughter and cheer. Communities across the nation settle into a routine of enjoying time with their families and doing what they can to pay it forward with open hearts. There is so much to be excited about with fall festivals, pumpkin carving, hearty meals surrounded by those we care about, and of course, gift-giving and goal setting as well.
But for many first responders, this may not be how the holidays feel. As decorations make their way to store shelves and Black Friday commercials begin, instead of excitement, you may feel your stress levels rising. As a first responder, holidays are just another day on the calendar that you are tasked with doing your part to serve. And it can be difficult when high expectations for happiness have been set … because while others are celebrating, you’re still working in the margins and the mess of this world. Daily struggles of the job don’t just disappear. This is especially true for law enforcement, as they tend to experience more “real life” than most.
At Safe Life Defense, we want you to know that you’re not alone this holiday season. We recognize the amount of work it takes to keep our communities safe and unfortunately, tragedy is no stranger to emergency personnel during these special times. Our police officers, EMS workers, security guards, and others have to be hyper-vigilant in keeping citizens safe, criminals in check and neighborhoods secure so everyone else can enjoy the season. In this blog we’re going to dive deeper into the stressors you may face, the gear that can help and provide a few tips for keeping your mind focused and healthy.
The Emotional Toll of a Stressful Job
It’s unfortunate, but with the commercialization of the holidays, our culture has created a non-stop freight train of emotions like stress, depression, and anxiety that scream well through to January. With a duty to ensure that the holiday season cheer doesn’t disappear, a lot of weight is placed on the shoulders of those who protect, serve and save. That’s why we must stop and evaluate both the toll this responsibility can take on those active in our streets, along with the threats these individuals — perhaps even YOU — face.
When we look at the long-term effect this environment can have on our first responders, there is so much more that can be done. If you’re one of these individuals, making sacrifices to provide essential services is probably nothing new to you. Oftentimes that entails working long hours with sleep deprivation, missing out on family time or eating several hours late because you were caught up in an emergency. It truly is risking your health and safety to put the needs of others before your own time and time again. Plus, there’s the physical strain of being stuck in gear that may not be optimal for long periods. That in itself can add extra weight onto an already heavy load you’re carrying.
In addition to this, we’ve seen a substantial strain on resources, whether that be gaps caused by staff having to self-isolate due to illness or the cancellation of rest days and annual leave because so many departments are short-handed. And all of this certainly doesn’t solve funding problems either. It’s no secret that many professionals have resigned from their field due to rising tensions, increased dangers and social pressure. Some groups have even been forced to contract out work or close their doors because of schedule gaps.
Let’s not forget that these issues expand beyond individuals and also affect entire family units. There are countless mothers, fathers, children and dependents that wait each day for their loved ones to return home safely. It’s a shared risk and a very real burden many bear. Sadly, some have made the ultimate sacrifice and we must make time to respect, remember and mourn those losses, too.
Increased Threats and a Duty to Fulfill
The holidays are a heightened time for emergency calls and many professionals are constantly responding to incidents that would certainly dampen anyone’s joyful spirit. Criminals and careless individuals don’t take holidays off, so neither do those working to stop them. Distracted and fatigued travelers are on the move during inclement weather causing accidents, intoxicated and impaired individuals display more frequent disruptive behavior, and then there’s the big box store gauntlet where shoppers battle for ingredients and presents. It’s a holiday craze layered with financial pressure, family disputes, public scrutiny and even more checkpoints to manage. Burglary rates rise for law enforcement officers, EMTs must respond to elevated suicide numbers, and there are more house fires from space heaters, decorative lights and fireplaces.
The mental and physical health strain on public safety professionals must not be swept under the rug. It’s an epidemic among all first responders — firefighters, health care workers, EMTs, police, K9 handlers — and we must acknowledge it. Sure, these people chose a stressful and demanding job overall, but the changes in this season make it particularly pressure-filled. There is an elevated risk and equally elevated anxieties attached to it. Exposure to more traumatic events like life-threatening situations, accidents and deaths, can leave you in a state of hypervigilance that can lead to PTSD.
Self-Structured™ Gear and Great Resources
At SLD our mission is to keep you safe. When gear options are limited and difficult to get funding for, we’re here to help provide protective supplies. With advice on grants and options like our Guardian Angel Program, we’re able to assist in taking some of the weight off your shoulders rather than offer an impossible choice. “Take the risk of injury or death in stride, or go work somewhere else” is not ever an acceptable answer. The work our first responders do is far too important, and the sacrifices being made are far too costly to let them go without the help they deserve. We’ve got to get better as a society at giving credit where it’s due, especially when it pertains to human resilience.
Doing a good job of providing for our protectors’ basic needs extends beyond great resources and into equally awesome gear. What you choose is so important, not only to ensure that your equipment is going to hold up but that your body will too. That’s why our self-structured™ body armor is something you need to know more about. The term “self-structured™” refers to the manner in which all Safe Life Defense panels are made. Being self-structured™ allows the panel to free float in the carrier without any annoying suspension systems or janky Velcro rigs. Since our panels do not hang from the shoulders, we’re able to eliminate the sagging and curling that plagues so many other types of armor. Rolling at the base of a vest typically cannot be repaired and it can end up reducing the overall coverage area. This can not only create a safety risk, but it leaves an annoying ring around the belt of the wearer.
To add to these benefits, our self-structured™ materials also distribute the weight of the panel evenly across the body allowing for much more comfortable armor for 12+ hours of wear. And if you’re frequently working in warm environments, this technology has also been proven to promote increased airflow by allowing micro pockets to move behind the outer armor. Non-structured panels tend to retain all of your heat and can feel as though you’re covered in saran wrap. We like to call that Kevlar Cling.
Self-structured™ body armor also supports increased strike resistance. Where many setups require the addition of trauma pads to reduce the blunt force trauma around the organs when hit, our panels have all of that protection built-in. This means the extra gear is not required and instead, you get a larger pocket to accommodate rifle plates. Overall, our unique vest cut and thoughtfully engineered design offers increased durability and an effortless fit. It has proven to provide a level of comfort unmatched by any other vest on the market, and has achieved the #1 comfort rating among all soft armor by customer review! For gear that supports you while you support others, choose Safe Life Defense.
Tips Beyond What You Wear for Self Care
We want our customers to not only survive this holiday season but to thrive throughout it! For many first responders, the holidays bring heavy emotions. Will you get to be with your family or will you be working? If you do get to be at home, you’ll probably be thinking about your work family’s safety. And sadly, you may also be missing a fallen colleague, or thinking about how their family will be without them this year. With all of these questions, concerns, and what you see every day, how can you truly feel joy and peace? We won’t tell you it’ll be easy, but we do have a few helpful ideas for you to check out below:
- Ditch the comparison game and focus on yourself. The grass is not always greener on the other side, despite how it may look. The faster you’re able to accept your struggles, the more quickly you can lean into them and use them to fuel your work. Focus on what matters to you, your mindset and practice gratitude exercises daily.
- Be realistic about your plans and give yourself some grace. Set your expectations for this season in line with the reality of your little piece of the world. Do your best to plan, but focus on completing just one task at a time so you don’t become overwhelmed by what’s on your plate.
- Recognize and address elevated emotions. It might be time to give your regret or guilt a holiday, too. Better yet, let go of it! It certainly never hurts to talk it out with a coworker, friend or family member either. Just like we visit our doctors annually for our physical bodies, we must also pay attention to and care for our minds.
- Set bite-sized and actionable goals. If there’s something you wish was different, and you still can change it, start small with anything easily achievable. Checking items off your list doesn’t have to happen today. But if you can’t change something, try refocusing on what you can change so it doesn’t eat away at you.
- Make time to prioritize your needs. Create healthy boundaries and learn how to say “no.” We can only do so much as individuals, and if you’re not your best self then you need to make space to get back to that part of you. We can only truly serve others to the best of our ability when we too are cared for.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. It’s easy to do during the holidays, but your body and mind need fuel and consistency to function at their peak. Eat well, hydrate often, exercise daily (even if it’s for a short time) and grab whatever hours of sleep you can.
Stay Rooted, Happiness Is Here
The holiday season, just like your life, is what you make of it. It’s not what others tell you it should be, and it’s not what your holiday looks like compared to others. Celebrate for the reasons you choose, in the way that fits your life and make the very best of it with whatever you have to work with.
“Policing” is a unique profession that is meant for only the most resilient of people. You have been chosen for law enforcement because you care about others. Celebrate your profession. Being exposed to trauma impacts you, but it doesn’t mean that you are diminished because of it.” Source: Privacy for Cops
What comes next is not all grim, gloom and doom. Step into the sense of family that’s felt between coworkers, crew members or your team. As many of you have served side by side before, you’ll have mutual experiences to share. Ask for help, and be a help to others because conversations like these are so important and they don’t always happen when needed. Engage with your community in events like parades and festivals and take joy in the little moments. Remember why you chose this path and the difference you’re making in the world. Now, as you prioritize some self-care, don’t forget about checking out some of our self-structured™ gear. Comfort all around is vital and while you prepare for that holiday strain you’re going to want to do all that you can to boost your confidence both on and off the job.