After the Webinar: Self Care for First Responders. Q&A with Chris Chandler Yates

Webinar presenter Chris Chandler Yates answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Self Care for First Responders: Essential Strategies to Prevent Burnout and Enhance Performance. Here are just a few of his responses.


Audience Question: It feels like we are all living in a state of exhaustion. How do we know when we’re actually burnt out versus it was just a bad or a rough day? 

Chris Chandler Yates: How I look at that is how long you’ve been sitting in that state. Because a state can be shifted as we talked about today with a physical movement, with a change of focus, and a change of communication. Burnout is one of those things that you can change. So, what I would say is, how do we know we just had a bad day, or are we actually burned out? Well, how long you’ve been sitting there? I’m not a clinician. I can’t diagnose you with burnout. But what I would say is, have you tried to change it? And if that’s not working, have you then sought some professional advice around it? Because it can be your environment. It can be the way that you’re actually turning up to things and then it just becomes a habit. If we aren’t changing that habit, then we keep doing the same thing. So, burnout is one of those things that you can change quickly. And yeah, that’s my two cents on it. The only way to really figure out if you’re actually burned out is to change your environment, and change your state, and if that doesn’t do it, then you’re probably in a somewhat of a state of burnout.


Audience Question: What is the link between nutrition and feeling well and what proactive steps should I be taking to have a better diet? 

Chris Chandler Yates: So, I like to meal prep. There is a correlation, I don’t know the science on it, but if there are enough people out there talking about the science on the nutrition side, I do know there’s a correlation. If you’re eating a lot of sugar, you’re going to have spikes in your glucose in that production. And so, you’re going to feel different. You’re going to have these heightened things, think about first responders and our Monsters or energy drinks, Red Bulls. You get this spike, and then you have this crash. It’s the same thing that a drug addict gets. They get this high, they get this crash. They need more drugs. And so, you have this thing. Nutrition is the same way. If you’re eating healthy, then you will feel better because it’s just like a vehicle. If you put horrible fuel in the United States, you guys have lots of ethanol in the fuel. if you get non-ethanol fuel into your vehicle, it’s going to hurl like a Formula One car. If you put high ethanol fuel in it, it doesn’t like it so much. The fuel you put in your body is the same. So, I would say that the way that I like to do it is meal prep. I meal prep everything. I figure out what I’m going to eat for the week. And then I eat that. I’m a creature of habit, so I eat a lot of the same things. But my wife changes it up every week. Look at what you’re getting, a good amount of protein, a good amount of carbohydrates, and a good amount of fat. If you have those balanced, you’re going to be good. Priority is the protein side and you’re going feel a lot better, and I’ll have a lot more energy.


Audience Question: A number of folks in the audience are on the lower side of that passion scale where we started the webinar today. What are the first things we should do if we recognize that we just don’t have the passion for our work like we used to? 

Chris Chandler Yates: The first thing I would say is, ask yourself, why did you start the job? Why did you start the job? And see if you can connect yourself back to that because that passion hasn’t died away. What’s happened is you’ve piled on all these different layers of things that people have said, or that you’ve seen, or that you’ve done. And it’s changed the perspective of the way that you look at it. You look at law enforcement, everybody wants to join into law enforcement because they want to help people. Well, how many law enforcement agents do you talk to that are 10 years in, or even 5 years in these days that think about the fact that they’re out there helping people every day? No, they talk about all the politics, all the lack of sentencing, and all these things, instead of talking about, how are they actually helping people. So that would be my tip to shifting that passion quickly, is again, that physical. How are you turning up? How are you focusing on the job? How are you focusing on the work? I’ve talked to people who 30 years in still love the job, and they only left because their body was broken.


Audience Question: Given what everybody in the audience does for a living, focusing on bad things is kind of part of the job. How do we change what we focus on without leaving the profession? 

Chris Chandler Yates: My number one tip, and the one thing that I train and I wish I had known is again that purpose, why did you start the job in the first place? But every day, when you finish work, especially, find 5 to 10 things that were positive out of that day, 5 to 10 things that you did, that you’re proud of, 5 to 10 positive things. Maybe you just keep them simple. This is where I say, keep it simple, stupid. Because if you keep those simple you’ll find them. And then when you start, when you go in to go into your shift or go in to go to work. Actually, focus on, “Okay, cool. What are some of the things that I want today that are going to be positive, like, what positives do I want to do today?” Because, yes, we are in a negative world, especially in the job that you guys do still is, you’re in that. You’re dealing with the bottom 2% to 10% of society every day. You have to focus on the positives of that. And then, when you’re off duty, have things that you do that have nothing to do with work. It’s why I still like paragliding for me, motorcycle riding for me, had nothing to do with work even for what I do these days. So, it disconnects me from that and puts me in an environment of people who have nothing to do with what I do. And really staying in that positive is the biggest one.


Host: That kind of sounds like a gratitude journal in some ways. 

Chris Chandler Yates: Yeah, yes, definitely. If you can find there are a ton of gratitude journals out there. Wake up with it, wake up every day, and write down 3 things you’re grateful for. Go to bed with 3 things that you’re grateful for. If I’m having bad weeks, which I still do, if I have bad weeks or bad days, I’ll pull out my phone. I’ll just start typing in 3 things that I’m grateful for, and 3 things that I accomplished today before I go to bed. So, I fall asleep in that positive gratitude state, instead of falling asleep in that negative spin, and then not being able to sleep.


Audience Question: You talked about the importance of family but working shift work like so many of us do. It’s really easy to miss some of those big, important things in life, from ball games to music, recitals, or even weddings. How can we make up for those missed opportunities? 

Chris Chandler Yates: It’s looking for other opportunities. So, for example, I did shift work for 7 and a half years. I wasn’t able to go to friends, things, going to weddings, my wife would go to things. What I would do is, define opportunities to actually sit down with them or recreate some sort of experience with them that was on when I could actually do it because of shift, because I was off to work. So, for example, you know one thing that popped into my head while you were asking that question, was somebody with a sports game or a recital, have somebody video it and sit down with your kid afterward on your day off and actually watch it with them. Praise them for it, relive that experience with them, and show them that you care. The other thing as well is, if you’re taking care of yourself, and you actually have a full tank, and when you turn up to them, even if you can’t make that recital, you can’t make that sports game because of shift work. When you are there with them, you’re 100% present. The amount of times that I see first responders, including myself in the past, I wouldn’t be able to make it. And then, when I was with my wife, or I was with my friends, I was off in Lalaland because I wasn’t actually taking care of myself in any way, or I wasn’t disconnecting myself from work. I was still thinking about that job that I had the thing about, that paperwork, the thing about that guy that I was hunting for, the last job. It’s actually disconnecting yourself and actually going, “Hey, I’m not at work. I’m here to be with my family.” “I’m here to take care of myself,” whatever it is, and being more present.


Audience Question: How do you prevent a negative atmosphere like your coworkers or your boss from affecting you? 

Chris Chandler Yates: That’s a hard one, because that environment and environment can change everything, but all I can say is, turn up how you want them to turn up. If you turn up in this positive mindset, yes, it will be hard, but by turning up in the state that you would like to do. By you asking them to change, by you the way that you show them that you are, it will change things. And then there’s the times where eventually you get to a stage where you’re “Hey, I have to move areas.” And that’s okay. But if you can say, “Hey, I turned up a hundred percent myself. And there’s nothing that I can actually do,” then change your environment. Sometimes you have to.


Audience Question: Could burnout be caused not necessarily by the work we’re doing, but by the people we work with, and the atmosphere of negativity that we’re working in?

Chris Chandler Yates: Yes, it can be. I would definitely agree with that. But this is why, if you can just not tell somebody what to do but like, give them advice be like, “Hey, I see that you’re doing this, what about it? Why don’t we go do this? Or why don’t we shift to the positive?” or you are helping shift them to that positive. It will change that. That’s where leadership comes in. Be the leader that you want to be. And so yes, we can. The environments that we’re in, cause it, the people that are around it cause it. But if we can actually be the person that we would like others to be, then we can actually start to shift and change that because law enforcement has been around for how long, and we’ve been in this negative, for how long. The only way to change it is one person at a time, and it starts with you


Audience Question: What is an effective way for me to drive home the point during my peer support training, that this job is what they do and it’s not who they are. How do we stop people from tying their entire identities to the job? And it seems like that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? 

Chris Chandler Yates: It is well, I was actually talking to a friend of mine the other day about this, and it again comes down to that language that I was saying, how often do you say I’m a cop? I’m pretty sure every cop that’s here, or every person says I am, whatever it is that they do. Instead of saying, I work as a police officer. If you just change that language, you stop identifying as the cop. If you say I am. If you lead something with I am, you start to identify as it. You put physical movement behind it. You put the focus behind it. You put the emotion behind it, it reinforces it even faster. So, for example, there’s that movie, End of Watch, and the opening scene of it is, I am a cop. I am a this. I am a that. It’s identifying as all of that. It’s why we cops when we watch that movie, it gives you goosebumps. But if you start to actually say who you are, I am Chris. I am a husband, I’m a father to two puppies. That’s who I am. And then when it comes into that mission statement that I said, you know the purpose. I help people see themselves. I’m a person who helps people truly see who they are. And so that’s who I am, and it’s nothing to do with what I do. It’s just who I am because I actually have done, you do all that work. So that’s the thing that I would say is start getting people to, you know, start recommending to people. “Hey, you’re not a cop. You are a husband, you are whatever they truly are. You’re a person that works as a cop or as whatever it is that you do.”


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Self Care for First Responders: Essential Strategies to Prevent Burnout and Enhance Performance. 


Additional Resources
7 months ago
Burnout and Resilience: What Criminal Justice Professionals Need to Know
Working in the criminal justice system means being regularly exposed to trauma on top of the stress […]
10 months ago
Thoughts about Officer Burnout from Sherri Martin
Sherri Marin and Dr. Jacqueline Drew shared so many great data points and insights from their resear […]
1 year ago
Burnout and the Law Enforcement Exodus Crisis: Causes, Symptoms and Solutions
A perfect storm – that has got to be the best description of what policing has been experiencing f […]
2 years ago
Burnout in Law Enforcement and First Responders: Building Resilience & Reclaiming Your Energy
Mental illness issues are much higher in first responders than in civilians. Deterioration of mental […]