This year has been challenging for everyone as the ongoing pandemic has changed our daily lives and has forced people to settle into a new normal. But outside of the COVID-19 virus, the entire nation bore witness to civil unrest earlier in the summer following the death of George Floyd, bringing more awareness to police brutality. This prompted widespread protest and sparks of violence and looting, creating a hostile environment for police dispatched to calls.
While many Americans are experiencing higher levels of stress and anxiety due to these challenges, some professions, such as police officers and first responders, might be facing even more. More specifically, one of the most stressful jobs in the United States rests on the shoulders of those who receive and direct calls: police dispatch professionals. Due to the inherent nature of their jobs, police stress management is critical.
Regardless of social unrest and public health issues, 9-1-1 professionals work with high stress levels while handling traumatic calls from the public. These professionals need to take proactive measures to prioritize their mental health and well-being now and always.
Indirect trauma, compassion fatigue, and dispatcher burnout result from working among others’ suffering, manifesting as depression, anxiety, weight gain, suicidal thoughts, and other adverse health issues. Fortunately, there are steps that dispatch professionals can take to mitigate these mental, emotional, and physical risks.
One way to overcome stress is through self-care, which is a conscious act that people take to promote their physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is essential for building resilience toward stress triggers in life that you can’t eliminate. Some ways to practice self-care include planning downtime, doing something you enjoy, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Even if it’s taking 10 minutes out of every day to listen to upbeat music, go on a walk, or look forward to a weekend hike, doing something or multiple things that elevate someone’s awareness around their level of stress can help cut down on the impact of its effects. Over time, small shifts in thinking result in greater levels of mental and emotional strength to draw from.
Dispatchers can also practice stress management while at work. It may seem like there is not enough time to practice this in between calls, but it is possible. Deep breathing exercises, talking with a co-worker about the weekend, going on a walk on a break, or meditating in a quiet space can all be great options to limit the effects of stress while on the job.
After work, dispatchers who have dealt with numerous calls should find ways to unwind and unload their stress during the day. A great stress-relieving option includes exercising. No matter what kind of exercise someone prefers, it allows them to expend extra tension and energy after a long, hard day.
At the end of every day, dispatchers must remember that they work a job that comes with a lot of responsibility and rewards. As a first responder, they play an essential role in various emergencies that need tending to. To continue playing this vital role, it’s critical that dispatchers take time each day and on their off days to deal with the stress that the job will assuredly cause.
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