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8 Tips to Reduce Stress for Emergency Responders

The two underlying principles of this post are self-awareness and self-regulation. Awareness lets us recognize when those distressing feelings are beginning to build. Regulation tells us what to do about it so we don’t end up being emotionally hijacked.

1. Say Cheese
Smiling is a two-way street. It happens when we are relaxed and happy, but it can also work the other way and make us feel relaxed and happy. “Smiling transmits nerve impulses from the facial muscles to the limbic system, a key emotional center in the brain, tilting the neurochemical balance toward calm,” Dr. Cooper explains. When your duties are getting you stressed try it, what have you got to lose, besides a weight off your shoulders.

2. Be a Fighter
When stressed, you often hear people complain, ‘What did I do to deserve this? Feeling like a victim only increases feelings of stress. As a responder it’s your job to help the helpless, in this instance you need to help yourself. Instead of feeling self pity focus on being proactive and positive. If your equipment fails don’t wallow, find another solution. If your officer in charge is on your case, see it as a chance to prove yourself.

3. Put It on Paper
Writing provides perspective, that cannot be found by repeating a problem in your head over and over. Divide a piece of paper into two parts. On the left side, list all the stresses you may be able to change, and on the right, list the ones you can’t. Now systematically change what you can and stop fretting over what you can’t.

4. Shake It Up
Standing or sitting, stretch your arms out from your sides and shake your hands vigorously for about 10 seconds. Combine this with a little deep breathing, and you’ll do yourself twice as much good. This quick exercise helps loosen the muscles in your neck and upper back (big problem areas for many responders).

5. Learn How To Say “No”
Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal,  professional or volunteer life, refuse to accept additional responsibilities when you’re close to reaching capacity. Taking on more than you can handle is the fastest road to stress. A nice way to look at this point is, it’s better to do a job with your full commitment, than half do it.

6. Think About One Thing At a Time
Your mind can only deal with one thing at a time, if you introduce more than two goals, you will surely end up feeling stressed. The only reason large projects seem stressful is because you try to think of everything you would need to accomplish at once. You should divide a large project or problem into small steps and execute those steps one at a time.

7. Don’t Procrastinate
Procrastination creates stress because of the internal conflict that you have. You know that you need to do something, but you don’t do it. This internal conflict creates stress. The more you delay to take action, the more stressed you will feel.

8. Manage Your Time
Good time management is key to reducing stress. If you’re constantly chasing your tail you’ll never get a chance to switch off, as the workload will appear to never reach an end. A great technique, is to make a list every evening outlining what you need to do the next day. Priorities the list and put a line through every job as you complete it. The clear evidence of you getting through the workload will give you the encouragement to get things done.

Posted by Marc Healy - Decisions [D4H]™ Emergency Response Team Software Crew

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