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  • Writer's pictureHeather Keenan, LCSW

Navigating the Holidays as a First Responder

The holidays are often highlighted as a time of excitement, connecting with our loved ones, beautiful decorations, and we can’t forget the time off work! However, for first responders, there are some unique challenges they face as we approach the holiday season. 

While others are off of work and gathering with friends and family, first responders continue to show up for their shifts. They often miss out on special time with friends and family, they’re busier than ever and oftentimes understaffed. This time of year can also bring an increase in injuries, fires, and accidents as people gather and cook their meals, usually leading to an increase in usual alcohol consumption. 

Due to these unique challenges, here are a few tips for how a first responder can navigate this holiday season.

Schedule Ahead and Plan to Celebrate:

Just because you may have a shift on the actual holiday, does not mean you cannot still celebrate the holiday with your loved ones. Make sure to look at your schedule ahead of time and communicate with your loved ones to pick a day to celebrate as you normally would. This could mean opening presents on Christmas Eve or having family over for Thanksgiving dinner the weekend before. Regardless of when, it is important to allow yourself to continue meaningful traditions and create new ones as you celebrate the holidays.

Communicate With Your Loved Ones:

Although you may celebrate on another day, it could still be challenging not being home on the actual holiday. Your feelings are valid and it is important to express and communicate this to your loved ones. Communicate your feelings, your boundaries, and even what you need from your partner or family during this time. Being able to offer this guidance to your friends and family can allow them to support you in the best way possible. 

Validate & Acknowledge Your Feelings:

The emotions can vary all the way from sadness to grief to disappointment to even anger and frustration. Whatever the emotions may be, they are valid! Rather than shoving these emotions down, it is important to acknowledge them and allow yourself to work through them. Suppressing emotions can lead to physical health issues, increased substance use, disconnection from loved ones, and the emotions arising later on in life. Very rarely can we suppress our emotions without some kind of consequence.

Be Proactive in Self-Care:

If we know that an increase in stress is coming, we can properly plan for it by proactively taking care of ourselves. Developing healthy habits that support our physical, mental, social, spiritual care can decrease the impact stress has on us. 

Getting some kind of daily movement, eating healthy foods, practicing mindfulness, talking to a professional are all examples of practicing self-care. As the holiday season is approaching, practice using these tips to ease the stress and emotions of working as a first responder. 

Counseling for First Responders Can Help! 

If you’re a first responder who could use some extra support, we’re here to help.

Our Certified First Responder Counselors are experts in working with first responders and their loved ones.

Contact us today for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305

For First Responders families, if your child/children could benefit from counseling, take advantage of FREE counseling through the First Responder Children’s Foundation Resiliency Program.

Click here to complete an application for FREE counseling in the state of Florida. 


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