You don’t have to work in the healthcare field to know that a career as an EMT is one of the world’s most stressful jobs. In fact, the Hospital Careers list crowns it the Most Stressful Job in Healthcare.
No one is immune to stress. And everyone is at risk of health problems if they don’t recognize stress and try to find ways to mitigate its effects. Short-term stress causes headaches, digestion problems, difficulty concentrating and trouble sleeping. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress causes “anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system.”
Many people can find some relief from stress by changing elements in their workplace that cause it. But what can you do when stress is an integral part of your job–part and parcel of the actual work you do every day? EMTs can’t follow a lot of the well-meaning advice out there. For instance, the Mayo Clinic recommends that one “Change the circumstances that cause it.” The stressful circumstances–someone who’s having a heart attack, or has been gravely injured–are the job.
Ways for EMTs to Lower Their Stress Levels
Avoid Toxic People and Behavior
You might not be able to change the fact that you do a stressful job. However, there may be some you can change. Do you work with a “Debbie Downer,” someone who’s always complaining or stirring up negative feelings? If so, establish limits to avoid these stressful conversations. Tell the person you’d rather not talk about those things and change the subject.
Go For a Walk
With the hectic schedule of an EMT, getting to the gym on a regular basis might be daunting. But even a short walk provides enough exercise to help relieve the effects of stress. Look for 10 to 15-minute breaks in your day when you could walk around the block or through a park.
Talking to a friend or family member or vent to your journal by writing for a few minutes at the end of the day. The act of communicating your feelings will lower your stress levels.
According to the Harvard Medical School, mindful meditation can lighten stress. You don’t have to spend hours a day or go to a special class. Mindful meditation means practicing a mental habit of focusing on stressful thoughts in a way that separates them from yourself. “Mindfulness teaches you to recognize, ‘There’s that thought again. I’ve been here before. But it’s just a thought and not a part of my core self.” You can learn more about mindful meditation here, the site of Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Mindfulness can also help you during those intense moments of your work.
Remember to Breathe
You can engage in this stress-relieving technique anywhere and anytime. Breathing deeply has been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Plan to Have Fun!
Doing things you love to do will refresh and restore you, thus lowering your stress levels. Make sure you don’t get so busy and overwhelmed that you neglect regular opportunities for the entertainment you enjoy, the activities that give you a happy feeling, and the people you like to do things with.
Remember, just because stress is a part of the job doesn’t mean there’s no way out. With a little planning and thought, you can find ways to combat it and feel relieved and restored every day.