5 EMS stress management tips

Updated July 27, 2016 

Here are some tips to get through those stressful events.

In early 2009 a student who participated in a ride-along with me died very suddenly two weeks later. She was murdered by her estranged husband. 

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.
I use that quick reflection to 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. A quick conversation often helps me let go of something that I might have done differently. 

4. Build a support system.
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 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.

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