WOW........What a leading question!!
Trust me, just because I've retired from the Service doesn't mean I'm sat back living the life of luxury, "Living the Dream" as it were. Seriously it couldn't be further from the truth.
Life, in general, is bloody hard work for all of us, whatever we do.
So how do we cope?
I mean really cope!!
During my service career, where sleep was a luxury and meals are eaten so quickly just in case we got called out again and then would have been running on empty for hours. Random hours of rest and more often than not, spoilt meals, which I carried on eating them as it was this or nothing.
So as you can imagine, not great for the digestive system. You can possibly all relate.
If I was a car, I was putting in rubbish fuel and it was not being looked after, with high mileage lol.
Plus I was running my Falconry business and looking after my 3 amazing kids.
All parents are juggling these days, and dealing with long hours. I know I'm not alone in this.
100 hours plus a week was regular for me. We just dig in and keep going right?
Auto-pilot most of the time.
This is not good for our health and dangerous depending on your line of work.
It will catch up with you. I know this now.
So I had to set a date to stop punishing myself.
I retired at 50 years old. It had always been my plan. 30 years pension at 50 years old.
This all comes at a cost though with contributing a huge amount of pension monthly to have this small nest egg. I went without a lot so please don't think we have it easy. Again how far from the truth. All public sector are aware of this.
I as do so many others had to juggle 2 jobs to make ends meet.
To have the retirement age in Fire Service now pushed dangerously high from 55 to 60 years old is an absolute insult and puts the Firefighters and public at risk.
So I stuck to my word and left.
Why? Yes, I could have stayed on and was tempted but my health is just as important as anyone else's. I owed it to myself and so glad I did as since I've slowed the pace of life as it were many issues have arisen that I just ignored or hadn't noticed.
I'm working just as hard if not harder, but now the telling thing is, it's on my time schedule.
People used to say, hope you have a quiet night shift........and don't work too hard!!
Well, this really wasn't down to me. I just responded to what was required of me and needed.
Then after moving to France where it has been incredibly stressful from the minute we arrived and certainly not the 'Dream Life' we wished for. After months of construction of aviaries, I had to sell my birds of prey due to lack of work and a huge unforeseen tax bill. This was my alternative therapy remember!! This was a huge whack!! And I'd lost a distraction I guess.
Suppressed health issues start to raise their heads.
And to top it, we had 3 and half months of strict 'Lock down' ...................this is where I now had time on my hands.
For the very first time, I was properly floored for a while. Not the usual bounce back after a day or so. I try to not be done, I've seen too much to appreciate what I have got. I had distractions whilst in the job, incidents and training, birds of prey to fly and look after and of course my kids. I can only apologies to them for the hours missed due to so much, but I had bills and they needed food and clothes, so we just get on with it. Needs must as it were.
Life in the service took its toll too. All adding up. At incidents, where we had done everything possible to extricate someone from a vehicle, and yet they didn't make it, also hits hard.
You can't just walk away and not be affected. We are all human after all.
As a Lfm I had a roll and crew to look after so again I was distracted. This, when I look back, was a blessing and enabled me to go home to my kids and be a parent again. It was precious time away from being on duty. Hopefully, they never suspected anything. Everything was being suppressed and squashed down.
I've always used exercise as a stress release. Hey, it works for me, plus I was constantly outdoors connecting with nature. Very grounding. If you don't do this, then seriously, you have to try. You don't have to hike into mountains, just sit with nature.
We were in our 'open prison' so I returned to Karate, this I can take anywhere and need little room to train. It's just me against me!
Oh, how the body and joints screamed at me as not trained or stretched in over 7 years! lol But this is for my body to move and to help ground myself mentally.
Gentle exercise changes the mindset.
To seek perfection of oneself. With this, I have also been meditating on and off over the years, so here I am now with plenty of time so why not give it a proper go?
Sitting quietly allows much to come up in the mind.
Awareness of sounds, feelings in the body.
Contact with the ground and sensations.
This noticing of stuff. Nothing whacky, just noticing.
Allowing it to come up, acknowledge it and let it go.
This is iREST yoga nedra.
Look it up, it was developed to help with PTSD and veterans from the Gulf.
So sitting still, brought up a lot of things I thought I had dealt with, brushing it aside and burying it down. Too busy for all that. But this time I had to face some stuff full on.
Through all of it, I maintained my level of exercise, and as soon as restrictions were lifted, I had the freedom to move so I took to cycling up mountains.
Big challenges require big challenges and physical exercise comes for my mental strength.
And during this period, I studied PTSD and started my blog page.
I want to help others and writing this helps me too. I am processing my stuff.
So take time out to sit and think about what you really need to help yourself.
Sit quietly and still and just breathe.
Notice the sounds around you.
Notice the breath and where you feel it, in the lungs or deep in the belly.
Notice sensations in your arms, legs, the breeze on your face.
Notice how you feel before and after sitting quietly.
This is about noticing how you feel and looking after you remember.
We owe it to ourselves.
Be in the moment.
Humbled and blessed with what I have.
Keep safe and in touch with each other.
Stay connected. Keep safe.