By: Brian Thompson Ph.D
When was the last time a significant other said, “You treat the general public better than you treat me?” Ouch. And the follow-up to that question is this response, “They pay my salary!” Well, it is a fair question, and depending on who the significant other is, it might carry much more significance. However, that response could get you in hot water. Time to fill up your emotional bank.
When we respond to an EMS call or an AFA, we often help the customer with no issues and treat them respectfully. The customer gets the best version of us. But the littlest thing might set us off when we get home from a shift after getting throttled with calls all night.
Let’s fix that together and reduce the storm brewing on the horizon.
How often do we hear “leave work at work and home at home”? That ideology cannot be farther from the truth or reality. How does someone accomplish that? You must leave luggage at the door or empty your cup to retain stock in the emotional intelligence bank. Understand that we must take our situation at home or work seriously but never at the cost of our life or partner(s).
All our positive emotion is consumed at work while giving great customer service, and we are now trying to find ways to draw from reserves in the emotional bank to keep from snapping at home.
Here are a few ways to help you get through a safe shift and take that positive approach home.
One, do not attempt to separate home from work. Let the members on shift know if you need help at home, big or small. Our brothers and sisters may have a lot of life experience that can be helpful. And if you’re on the side of someone approaching you for help, ask them if they want you to be an active listener or want some advice back. Divorce, illness, finances, and family drama are on the shortlist and not the only situations but often have the most depleting effect on us.
Keep an open mind and dialogue
Do not ever go it alone; let your family know about work and work about family. However, you might omit some details to keep things PG or PG-13, obviously for the fire family. Remember, most of us hang out with each other’s families anyway, so things that affect you will influence your first responder family. There is a clear relationship with our crew and family. They parallel one another and have the same toll on our emotions when things go wrong. But we can also find the positives as important if we let ourselves enjoy those wins.
Two, do things to help build your emotional intelligence. Try sleeping a little earlier at night or having a safety nap, reducing coffee and energy drink consumption, having a good workout or hands-on training, and lastly, communicating. Talk to your family and let them know it was a rough shift, and you might need to nap, miss a morning soccer game, or even skip an event altogether. The two missed hours will be better served in recovering than being at an event and not being present. With this, when at home, be present there and with them. Please give them your best version, and remember that quality time is far better than quantity.
Third, get into a routine of doing something minimal when getting home from a tour of duty. It might be running the trash out, starting laundry, or making lunches for the kids, which feels insignificant but can take something off the to-do list. I will tell you from experience that those small tasks will greatly impact your family or friends. Then when those bad days or bad calls come up, it is better managed when your home schedule gets altered.
Learn to let it go
Finally, just like Frozen taught us, let it go. Small items will compound and grow and gain momentum. Think of our emotional junk drawer and the amount of finite space in that drawer. We are all guilty of taking that small item and do not know where to put that emotion. So we throw it in the catch-all or junk drawer. We continue to do the same thing repeatedly until we have a hard time opening the drawer. Before we know it, we grab the handle and forcefully open it with a salvo of firefighter talk, and shit gets strewn everywhere. The emotional blow-up happens. Let things go.
People will inevitably get under your skin; your coffee order can’t always be perfect, and there will always be bad drivers on the road. I can emphatically tell you I’m the groundhog driving angry in the movie “Groundhog Day,” and Bill Murray is telling me, “Don’t drive angry.” Look that one up on YouTube; it is worth the laugh. Let it go. Take charge of yourself and your emotional response. And not just on the terrible driver ahead of you but all the things that do not endanger you or your family’s safety. Emotional intelligence is like performing a 360 on all situations. Always do a size-up.
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