As we approach the end of 2020, many of us are eager to hit the reset button.
As we continue to navigate a global pandemic, it's easy to see why so many of our 2020 New Year’s Resolutions didn't materialize the way we hoped; our focus, frankly, has been elsewhere.
But in looking at a FireRescue1 poll, asking firefighters to name their top resolution, there are several direct connections between our “pre-COVID” goals and the impact of the pandemic.
The top three resolutions identified by firefighters in December 2019:
- Improve my health and wellness – 62%
- Devote more time to family – 18%
- Retire comfortably – 11%
Let’s review the connections between your top resolutions and COVID-19, and I’ll provide a resource roundup to help you stay on track throughout as we consider our 2021 resolutions.
Resolution 1: Improve my health and wellness
None of us could have known going into 2020 that health would be the top focus of the year – worldwide.
Health experts warn that the immunocompromised are particularly at risk with COVID-19, underscoring the importance of staying fit and eating healthy to maintain strong immune systems.
Aaron Zamzow shares an informative video and article about how to boost immunity. And with social distancing guidelines in effect, many gyms – and even some outdoor areas – where people exercise were suddenly off-limits. On this topic, Aaron put together some helpful content detailing 7 exercises firefighters can do anywhere.
Staying safe and healthy on calls was paramount for all first responders on the front lines. FireRescue1 published several pieces focused on keeping you safe:
- The realities of firefighter PPE decontamination following COVID-19 exposure
- COVID-19 testing for first responders: Understanding antibody tests and immunity
- How can I protect my family from COVID-19
- Company officer COVID-19 advice: Time, distance and shielding
- Video: How to properly don and doff PPE on COVID-19 calls
Don’t miss our PPE resource section as well.
Of course, mental health is a critical piece in the overall wellness puzzle, particularly as we know that heightened and prolonged stress adversely impacts our immune systems, making us more susceptible to disease and infection.
Here are some resources to help you focus on mental wellness:
- Webinar: First responders, stress management and coronavirus
- First responders, COVID-19 and stress: Tips for finding peace
- On the front lines: ‘Anxiety on every call’
- A playbook for psychological health during the COVID-19 pandemic
- 5 ways first responders can focus on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Protecting the mental health of first responders during a pandemic
The standard “improve health and wellness” resolution certainly took on a new look in 2020, but we can still meet these goals, even if for slightly modified reasons.
Resolution 2: Devote more time to family
Americans spend a lot of time at work, and a common repeat resolution is to carve out more time for family. Well, 2020 served it up on a platter.
Yes, there are some whose work lives became so busy with COVID-19 that their family time was limited, but on those “off” days, shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders essentially forced many family members to get that quality time together, whether assembling puzzles, brainstorming creative games, or watching movies.
IAFC President Fire Chief Gary Ludwig shares eight great movies that firefighters can watch if they are quarantined or just staying in with family. And Lexipol's own Mike Vatter also listed several movies to help stay entertained during our "locked-down lives."
Finally, Jay Fitch shares a compelling piece about what it’s like to be a first responder workaholic, with five tips to achieve a lifestyle that allows you to balance your career, health and relationships.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for many of us. Seeing the increasing number of first responder deaths at the hands of the disease – and watching the national and global death numbers tick upward – undoubtedly reinforces the importance of spending time with family.
Resolution 3: Retire comfortably
One of the side effects of the pandemic has been an economic downturn the country has not faced since the Great Depression, meaning this resolution is likely hardest to achieve.
Fire departments were impacted nearly immediately, with terminations, layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts in some agencies. And some firefighters who were nearing retirement decided that this was the moment for them to say farewell, even if a little earlier than expected.
Further, for those firefighters not planning to retire anytime soon, many are taking this opportunity to retool their finances.
Matthew Broom is not only a firefighter but also a financial expert who put together several resources to help firefighters make key financial decisions:
- 5 finance questions firefighters are asking during the economic downturn
- A firefighter’s guide to financial preparedness
- 5 financial concerns to address when leaving the fire department
- Firefighter pension payouts: How to choose the best option
A different perspective
COVID-19 changed everything. But it doesn’t have to derail all our goals; in fact, it can amplify some of them – an increased focus on health, family and finances.
Perhaps it’s time for a mental shift to revisit these resolutions from a different perspective.