Stress Relief For the Emergency Personnel
There are three types of stress that the Emergency Personnel experience. The first is general stress, the second is critical stress, and the third is cumulative stress or burnout. General stress is everyday strain, Critical stress is when you experience an extraordinary trauma with unusual circumstances, and burnout is when you have several stressors that could be general and/or critical.
General stress is like a movie, it makes us laugh and it makes us cry. This kind of stress usually includes emotional, financial, mental, relational, and/or health problems. For example, if we are having a hard time financially it could disrupt our relationship with our significant other and the pressures can cause health problems. These problems may include, but are not limited to, headaches, neck aches, backaches, gastrointestinal problems, and insomnia. Everyone experiences this kind of stress including the Emergency Personnel.
In addition to these stressors, Emergency Personnel experience difficult work partners or patients, negative work environment, missed meals, interrupted sleep, and rotating schedules. The biggest stressor that Emergency Personnel experience is death, dying, and/or gruesome imagery often related to trauma. When this occurs it may be a critical incident, which in turn develops into critical stress. A critical incident is an event that interrupts one’s ability to carry on everyday life. This interference may disrupt behavioral, cognitive, and emotional well-being.
Some behavioral signs may include avoidance, blaming, a decrease or increase in appetite, a decrease or increase in sleep, difficulty with speech, an increase in alcohol, caffeine, drug, or nicotine, irritability, poor hygiene, restlessness, anger outbursts, or withdrawal. Some cognitive signs may include denial, difficulty in decision making, difficulty problem solving, disorientation, disturbed thoughts, hyper-alertness, intrusive images, memory loss, night mares, and poor concentration. Some emotional signs may include anxiety, apprehension, depression, fear, grief, guilt, or panic.
Often times when an Emergency Worker experiences a lot of general stress and a critical incident it can lead to cumulative stress which is burnout. The elements of burnout consist of cynicism, physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, and ineffectiveness. When we are cynical we become very negative and unenthusiastic and this creates unhappiness. When we are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted we become drained and unwilling to continue to do all the joyful things life has in store for us. Finally, if we are unhappy and unwilling we are ineffective to our families, our profession, our community, and ourselves.
As an emergency worker under stress and strain the best thing we can do for our family, friends, and selves is seek help. Seldom do emergency workers seek help due to the fact that we help others and to need help may indicate a sign of weakness. We must help ourselves before we can help others.