Mental Toughness and Making Decisions as a Firefighter

Female firefighter adjusting hat

The Firefighter's Mental Toughness

  Firefighters are some of the most courageous people in the world, and their mental toughness is something we all can learn from. Every day, they put their lives on the line to protect others. But being a firefighter is about more than just bravery; it's also about mental toughness. Firefighters have to be able to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. They can't let their emotions get the best of them. So, how do they do it? How do firefighters maintain their mental toughness? Here is a glimpse of what mentally tough firefighters do differently.  

High Pressure Decision Making

  When faced with high pressure and often life or death decisions, it is important to remain calm. Only extensive training will allow you to remain calm in the worst situations. Firefighters spend a lot of time training their minds as well as their bodies to react to stress differently than most people do.    When making high pressure decisions, firefighters refer to their training, and use their head, not their heart. By staying true and consistent to their training protocol, they avoid the risk of letting their emotions get the best of them when things get heated. They understand that panicking will only make the situation worse. Instead, they focus on staying calm and making sure that they don't make any rash decisions.   

Fight or Flight Response

  Our first and natural human reaction to the type of terrifying and threatening situations that firefighters face, is our fight or flight response. This is our automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as threatening, stressful or frightening. The perception of the dangerous situation triggers and activates the sympathetic nervous system which triggers an acute stress response preparing the body to fight or flee.    As a firefighter, you must be able to recognize this response being triggered, and mentally override it. While even firefighters need to be cautious, they understand how to look at these triggers rationally, which allows them to remain calm in stressful situations. By remaining calm and centered, they can focus on their training and proceed to do the work they need whether it is putting out fire, rescuing someone from danger, or controlling hazardous environments. Training in various different situations and simulations allows firefighters to practice controlling their stress response.   

Staying Positive & Team Oriented

  When you are a firefighter, your coworkers and team members become family. You spend the majority of your time together and need to be able to trust and depend on each other. When you train, you’re not just training for yourself. Everyone on your team is depending on you to do your part in staying cool headed and focused on the rescue.    By admitting and learning from mistakes, firefighters can let them go and shift focus instead on how to improve next time. Mentally tough firefighters know that they can't do it all alone. They surround themselves with people who will support them, no matter what. This is of course fellow firefighters, but also friends and family. Knowing that they are making a difference is what drives most firefighters. Although our heroes seem superhuman, they too need support. When things get tough, these people are there to help them through it.   

Do You Have the Mental Toughness of a Firefighter?

  Mental toughness is an important trait for anyone in a high-pressure occupation, but it's especially important for firefighters. Firefighters have to be able to make quick decisions and stay calm under pressure. They also need to be able to learn from their mistakes and surround themselves with supportive people. By understanding and practicing these things, firefighters can develop the mental toughness necessary to succeed in their dangerous profession.    Even if you’re not going to be running into burning buildings, or prying open car doors, you can still benefit from practicing mental toughness and staying calm in stressful situations. Mental toughness is what allows firefighters to remain calm in the face of danger and make these decisions quickly and efficiently. But mental toughness isn't something that you're born with, it's something that can be learned and developed over time if you work towards it.   Being mentally tough is just one of the many necessary tools a firefighter must have. For other tools and equipment, check out our wide selection of professional and volunteer fire and rescue items here at Fire-End. 

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