Monday, January 7, 2013

The Hush-Hush word ... "Help"!

Today's topic is one that many of us never want to approach, but it needs to be addressed. That topic is asking for help. We face so many emotions each and every day. We put on our headset, log in to the CAD, and click that little green button that says we are ready. What are we ready for? Is it ever possible to be completely ready for the responsibility our profession insists we take on? The answer is no. However, we do it anyway. We do it with pride, with the grace of a ballet dancer, and the strength of Atlas holding the world on his shoulders.

We have all gone to the trainings that talk about dispatch stress and burnout. What is burnout? To put it simply, burnout is that feeling of giving all you can, feeling the steam in the engine is just about gone, and you feel close to cracking. We all have those occassional days where we feel this way. Burnout is when you feel this way all the time.

So, what are the symptoms?

1. Increased feelings of anger and resentment towards co-workers and supervisors without a rational cause.

2. Lack of appetite or even a marked increase in appetite (Either you're not hungry and haven't eaten for a while or you're eating even when you're not hungry).

3. Prolonged bouts of insomnia lasting more than a week in succession. Everyone has trouble sleeping once in a while. If it is unusual for you, then pay attention to it.

4. Physical problems like stomach aches, constipation, headaches, chest pains (Note: Chest pain is always a cause for medical attention. However, not all occurrences of chest pain indicate a heart attack. Chest pain can sometimes be a signal of temporary sustained rise of blood pressure due to stress. Either way it's a strong signal that your engine is over-revving).

5. Feelings of worthlessness, listlessness or an attitude of "What does it matter anyway?"

6. Feelings of being overwhelmed. You feel like you're being surrounded by life and it's events.

7. Forgetfulness - Not just losing your car keys, but forgetting important appointments, promises, tasks, or meetings.

8. Incidents where you lose your composure or lack of control of your emotions. What dispatchers call a "composure-failure". Some examples are: Being rude to complainants, officers, banging the keys on the keyboard, verbal outburst, etc.

9. Prolonged depression. This isn't just being sad, but a marked sadness. Everybody gets sad once in a while, but when it last for more than a week this could be signal.

10. Inability to concentrate or focus on familiar tasks. Even those simple Teletype entries feel like the first time that you did them!

Is there anything that can be done about it? ABSOLUTELY!

Mke sure you get adequate exercise, (I need to work on this one!). Eat adequate, well balanced meals, (I'm doing better), cut back on junk food and caffeine, (uhm.. coffee? Not a chance!)

Learn to take it easy. Many of us have Type A personalities. This type of personality is a perfectionist and we expect the very best of ourselves. Instead, try just being a little better each day. Stop driving yourself crazy. Let go of the little things. 

Whatever schedule you have, try and get as much rest as you can. Our bodies need proper rest to allow them to repair itself and strengthen itself for new demands placed on it.

Learn to breathe properly. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth using your diaphragm.. Make sure you are taking slow deep breaths. This is a great way to de-stress anytime you feel the need. Even a few minutes of this is very rejuvenating.

Take time off whether it be a vacation or just simply taking your breaks away from the dispatch floor. This is a perfect time to get in that walk or try some breathing exercises. 

Last, but certainly not least .. ask for help if you need it. Many employers offer some type of an employee assistance program. Take advantage of it. Check to see if your medical insurance covers counseling. If you have a critical incident, talk when you need to. If your agency offers debriefings, I strongly encourage you to attend. I have had the opportunity to attend two during my years and I left each incident feeling better.. stronger. Know that you are not alone. We have all had similar circumstances. Talk to your co-workers and if you notice someone struggling, reach out to them. Let them know you are there to help if they need it.

We are all here for each other ... hand in hand.

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