You have to get educated

By Ric Jorge

Originally published 7 May 2014.

The truth of the matter is, everyone gets scared. But when fear develops into anxiety around a function of your job (being a fireman) now we got problems. The biggest problem is not how did it occur, but how are we going to manage it?

Lets identify:

FEAR as an emotion caused by danger.

ANXIETY as an uneasiness not necessarily associated with danger

Yes these definitions are oversimplified, but for the purpose of this article it is to show that fear can be life threatening, while the anxiety does not have to be.

Now I will pose the question, do you know how to manage your fear and anxiety?

Avoidance is the most common thread in people with fear and anxiety. In my FD when a department wide training was scheduled it was not unusual for the sick rate to skyrocket on said training day. Wtf was that all about? Well, its not life threatening danger, it is only training, usually associated with some form of mask confidence drill that was called something else but was still incredibly difficult. So anxiety develops to the point that people would call in sick. This is an example of avoidance, and in the fire service this is not a good way to manage your anxiety.

I developed this problem (anxiety) several years back, during a divorce. My children were being used as weapons against me, and I was crushed. I began to struggle with my breath, and at times my mask made me so claustrophobic I wanted to rip it off. I needed help, fortunately for me my FD has EAP, and this is where my unraveling stopped.

With the help of a PTSD councilor I developed a plan, and carried it out like a man possessed. What I share with you is what worked for me, this isn’t some hippie woo-woo theory, like contemplating the lint in your navel. In order to conquer fear and anxiety you have to get educated, ask for help, develop a plan, build on bravery, and practice, practice, practice.

Lets identify:

COURAGE as: the ability to conquer fear

BRAVERY as: the act of conquering fear

Understanding the ability to do something, and doing it is vital to recovery.

Facing your fears and anxiety will take acts of bravery, and this process is called EXPOSURE. Exposure involves gradual and repeated engaging in fearful situations that will increase your anxiety. If done right, exposure will decrease your fear and anxiety, but if done incorrectly it can compound existing problems.

How to do it?

1 Identify your fear/anxiety problem

2 Create a LADDER ( a systematic approach to gradual increase in exposure)

a) Identify your goal (to be comfortable in your SCBA mask)

b) Create a plan on how to accomplish this by including length of time, time of day, the environment, and who is with you.

3 Face your fear/anxiety through exposure by putting your plan into works, exemplify courage by showing bravery (bring strength, someone who can help you thru the sketchy parts). Exposure exercises should not be rushed, take your time gradually prolonging your exposure.

4) You must repeat these exercises: repeat, repeat, repeat.

Next we will cover realistic thinking techniques.

Published by Data Not Drama

Data Not Drama is writings that provide a point of critical thought about firefighter fatality data and education, line of duty deaths, and risk. The main focus is to encourage less risk aversion and better knowledge on the subject of firefighter fatalities in firefighters, fire departments, and fire service organizations.

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