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Spencer AKA "The Mando Medic" on the Importance of Decompression Time

From episode: Divorce in Public Service

you have a firefighter who's having a hard time transitioning from work to home, and isn't having a lot of empathy and gratitude for their spouse, what do you think is the ultimate game changer there? For me, it was honestly the decompression before I walked through the door, because I think that what happens is I think we have good intentions. I think on the way home we're excited to see our families. I think we're excited to get off of work and we'll go back to our home environment. The problem is, it's less of a problem if you have that perspective and empathy, but as soon as we walk through the door, right, maybe we had a really rough shift and we're getting hit with all the things we need to do for the rest of the day. Some sort of chaos happened in the night before that we hadn't heard about yet, we're having to deal with. I know me as a child, I can remember my father was a trooper for 30 years, I remember being really excited to see him when he got home, running right at him. So things like that becomes over stimulating and I think that when we're in that mentality, we get frustrated with things that may not frustrate us in a logical perspective, but emotionally, because we're so stimulated from coming off shift, it hits us wrong and we can start to say things we don't mean or give off tones that we don't intend to give off. So for me, the biggest game changer was that decompression. Honestly, all I started doing was staying late at shift and having breakfast with the oncoming crew. It's something as simple as that. We just hang out, have breakfast with them for maybe 10, 15 minutes, a little bit longer than your regular Passover. We're not talking about work, we're talking about so and so's kids Little League, how they're doing, or whatever vacation somebody just took. We're talking about things that don't involve work and it's giving me time to process what happened the night before. Or if we had something bad go on, you know, we had a rough call or a rough fire or something, we can have that discussion. So it's processed a little bit more before we get home. The commute honestly helped me a lot too. You know, I've worked stations that are 10 minutes from my house and I've worked stations that are 40 minutes from my house and the ones that were 40 minutes from my house. I was so much nicer coming home, throw a podcast on, I would get my head in a different space, think about what I was going to do the rest of the day and be able to plan it. And then by the time I got home and came through the door, didn't really matter what was going to be thrown at me because I had decompressed enough from work that I wasn't still wound up. My heart rate wasn't still through the roof waiting for tones. Again, I wasn't thinking about the next shift. So I think those two are really big game changer journaling too. Honestly, what I recommend now to people, which I wish I would have done sooner is if you're going to take that decompression time, take two to five minutes in your car or in your truck before you leave the station, pull your notes app out and do a quick gratitude journal, write the things you're grateful for, or type out how your shift was, the things you want to change the next shift. But it's some level of processing that your mind can work through it before you get home and end up throwing your burdens onto your family because you're frustrated from your shift and you're not able to process it properly. Yeah, we talk about that tricky transition a lot on this podcast. I'm sure you've heard it multiple times because it's ultimately the number one question that we get. Why are they so upset every time they come home? Like we know that they want to see us and we've missed them, but they come home so grumpy and they take it out on the kids and they take it on to the dog. And it's the frequently asked question of frequently asked questions. I think that that was a great way of describing it from your perspective. I know we talk about a lot what works for us, but from your perspective as the firefighter coming back into the home, if you didn't have that 40 minute decompression time in your car or you didn't have the opportunity to sit down with your crew for 15 minutes, if you didn't have those two options, what would be a good way to transition back to home and how can the spouse help with that? So I'm going to take a lesson out of the book of my old man right here because I remember this vividly from my childhood. I actually think he was a fantastic example of how to do this. So because he was a state trooper, they had take home cars. So his commute home was on duty. So until he pulled him to the driveway, he was completely on duty, ready to respond and everything like that. And then he would go out of service in the driveway. So he literally had zero decompression time, like 30 seconds, maybe up to the door. And the communication for him was huge. I understood from a very young age, I'm talking like five or six years old that, hey, dad just needs like 30 minutes. When he gets home, she's 30 minutes. My mom understood. He had already talked to her about that and what he needed. He would literally go into the bedroom, close the door and read a book for 30 minutes. He's a big like Wild West guy. So he'd read it like some Wild West book or something like that for 30 minutes, get his mind off everything, take a shower and then come out for dinner or breakfast or whatever. If he's working nights or days. So I think that from the family perspective, allowing us that time without making us feel bad about it. I know that can be a touchy subject too. I know with several of my buddies that when they go home, that's their biggest frustration is they feel like, you know, they're made up to be the bad guy for asking for time. So I think that's huge. But at the same time, we also have that responsibility to speak up on as first responder as well. You know, if we don't express to y 'all what we need, then I don't think it's fair to expect y 'all to read our minds and meet us halfway if we're not willing to take steps toward

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