Coping with Stress
Earlier this year, a student who participated in a ride-along with me died very suddenly two weeks later. The emotions I experienced after her death surprised me. I also felt embarrassed because I knew my co-workers and other students knew her much better.
What constitutes a significant or traumatic event varies from person to person and is likely impacted by many factors such as age, experience, knowledge, socio-economic traits, underlying health, other life stresses, and daily stress outlets. These measures help me manage stress on a daily basis:
1. Eat and sleep well. I average seven or more hours of sleep per night and eat four or five small meals a day instead of two or three big meals.
2. Regular exercise six or seven days a week. My exercise varies from walking the dog to intense marathon training to road cycling to playing with my kids.
3. Reflect about each call as we clear the hospital and make a simple statement or ask a question about something that went well, was interesting, or could have been handled differently to invite conversation if my partner is interested.
4. Maintain a network of friends that are paramedics in other systems. When I talk with them about my highs and lows, their emotional attachment is to me, not the system.
5. Learn and understand good stress and bad stress. I thrive on a bit of stress to meet project deadlines, achieve fitness goals, and manage a busy family schedule. I enjoy learning about how others achieve balance, manage their time, and techniques for stress management.
Finally, I have taken advantage of my employer’s employee assistance program (EAP) after a couple of traumatic events. What helped me the most was talking to a counselor to identify solutions best suited for me as an individual.
For additional information on coping with traumatic events visit the CDC page Coping with Stress.