As a 911 dispatcher, you provide assistance to your communities, your partners, families, and friends. National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is a wonderful time for us to recognize your dedication to the communities you serve. It’s also the perfect time for you to give back to yourself with three simple stress-busting steps.
If You Are a 911 Dispatcher, You are a Caregiver
Our friends at the Mayo Clinic share “Caregiving can have many rewards. Caregiver stress — the emotional and physical stress of caregiving — is common. People who experience caregiver stress can be vulnerable to changes in their own health.”
Here are three easy-to-implement steps for increasing your stress resilience. While each step has a few action recommendations, begin with the basics, and dive deeper as you become more comfortable with the process.
#1 Create Awareness of 911 Dispatcher Stressors
Becoming more aware of your thoughts and actions can help you recognize patterns and areas where you can improve. The next time you feel stressed, simply pause and notice your reaction.
- Listen to your body. How does your body react to stressful 911 situations?
- Write it down. Make a list of your signs and symptoms of stress. This gives you a moment to check in with yourself and pause before you respond.
- Reflect. Take note of what your mind is telling you in the moment of stress. You can then question if what you’re telling yourself is true or rational.
#2 Focus Your Attention on the Present Moment
A powerful technique for recovering from stressful 911 dispatch calls is to focus on the present moment. This reduces the mind’s tendency to ruminate on the “what-ifs” that add to stress.
- Focus on your breath. Notice the coolness of the air as you inhale and the warmth as you exhale.
- Look for points in your day where you can practice focusing your attention on the present moment. This might be mindfully eating your lunch by engaging your senses to notice the taste, smell and textures.
#3 Don’t Pass Judgment (for at least 3 minutes)
Combat this “righting reflex” by challenging yourself to simply experience someone, or something, for three full minutes without trying to “fix” the situation. Practice this when recovering from difficult 911 dispatching calls to improve recovery time, and increase empathetic learning.
- Delaying judgment creates space for understanding and gratitude – both important elements of stress reduction.
Bonus Stress-Busting Tactic for 911 Dispatchers
Laughter as Medicine
When you start to laugh, it actually creates physical changes in your body. Laughing, at the good and bad, is an effective de-stressor.
- Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen. This stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.
- A good laugh levels out your stress response, increasing then decreasing your heart rate and blood pressure. This leaves you feeling more relaxed.
- Laughter stimulates circulation and aids in muscle relaxation. This helps reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
- 911 Dispatcher Health and Wellness Blogs
- Curated COVID-19 Resources for Public Safety 911 Dispatchers