HEALTHReflections at 50: Five Wellness Lessons Learned Over 30 Years in the Fire Service

Reflections at 50: Five Wellness Lessons Learned Over 30 Years in the Fire Service

By: Ryan Provencher, Firefighter Peak Performance Founder and Executive Fitness Advisor for CRACKYL Magazine

I turned 50 last year and recently hit the 30-year mark in my fire service journey. Lately, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my life and career. It has been an amazing ride, but I certainly recognize the physical, mental, and emotional toll that this job has taken on me over the last three decades. 

Here are five wellness lessons I have learned that have helped me to protect my health and well-being as I approach the end of my fire service career:

1. Prioritize Sleep: It is widely known that quality sleep is the foundation for good health. Unfortunately, the very nature of shift work sets us up for chronic sleep deprivation. Strategies for optimizing sleep include taking naps, getting to bed early, being mindful about how caffeine, alcohol, and meal timing impact sleep, and limiting light and noise.

2. Protect Your Mental and Emotional Health: It has been amazing to see the shift in the fire service in support of mental health. It seems much of the stigma is gone and we now realize, “It is okay not to be okay”. Strategies for managing mental health include talk therapy, somatic therapy, meditation, gratitude practice, social connection, and physical activity. 

If you are struggling with mental health or are experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out for help through peer support in your department or one of the many national support entities such as Safe Call Now.

3. Be Proactive with Stress Management: At Firefighter Peak Performance, we believe that “self-care is the foundation of service.” The adage, you can’t pour from an empty cup rings true. Strategies for stress management include building confidence in skills through training, managing overwhelm through planning, committing to life/work balance, avoiding alcohol/substances, and regular practice of breathwork and meditation.

4. Be Intentional in Your Physical Training: We know that regular exercise is one of the best things we can do to support our health, wellness, and firefighter performance. Strategies for intentional physical training include purposeful exercise selection, varied-intensity workouts, and well-planned physical training programs.

5. Customize Your Nutrition Plan: There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition that works for everyone. Try experimenting with different strategies, decide what works best for you, and then follow that plan consistently. Be sure to reach out to a qualified professional to assist you if needed.

If you are intentional about your lifestyle in each of these areas, I am confident that you will see improvements in your general firefighter wellness and overall quality of life.

Photo by Stephen Baer

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