Most people will experience some form of work-related stress at a point in their careers. People who work in public safety, however, are exposed to more high-stress situations than the average civilian. Public safety professionals are the first responders to the emergencies and traumatic situations that occur in our communities, putting them at a higher risk of developing severe stress-related conditions, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), and more. Due to their elevated risk, public safety professionals need to have resources available to help them manage and cope with the daily stresses they face on the job.
If left untreated, high levels of stress or severe stress conditions can cause long-term chronic stress. This article will explore helpful stress management tips for public safety employees so they can recognize when they feel stressed and learn how to effectively manage it.
Create a healthy work-life balance
Creating a healthy work-life balance is difficult for all public safety professionals, but particularly difficult for those who are just starting out in their careers. Almost every job in the public safety sector relies on shift work. Working irregular hours, such as weekends and night shifts, can lead to an increase in work-related stressors and challenges. There may be a transition period for junior public safety professionals, whether that be a few weeks, months, or years, where they get accustomed to working shift work. This transition period may be difficult for some, but eventually, your body will get used to your rotating schedule.
This being said, shift work makes it difficult to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. It also makes it challenging to find a time that works for both you and your loved ones, so you can spend quality time together. Lacking a healthy work-life balance can contribute to high-stress levels and impact your overall health. Regardless of your seniority or the stage of your career, it’s important for public safety professionals to create a work-life balance that involves getting an adequate amount of sleep every night and balancing their work life with their personal life.
If you’re a public safety professional, you can create a healthy work-life balance by:
- Scheduling social commitments with loved ones on your days off
- Leaving your work at work
- Sharing the workload and reducing your overtime hours
- Ensuring you get between seven to eight hours of sleep per night
Poor eating habits can also contribute to higher stress levels. For people who work in high-stress jobs, such as public safety professionals, a healthy and balanced diet can provide the extra energy needed to cope with stressful events. However, the decision to eat healthily can be difficult if you’re on duty, and especially difficult for those on night duty. If you’re unable to meal prep on your days off, try following this guide for ordering out.
Physical exercise is one of the best preventative measures you can take against stress and burnout. It also keeps you alert and can improve your self-esteem.
Almost any type of exercise can improve your fitness level while also decreasing your stress. The mental benefits of aerobic exercises, in particular, have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, and stimulates the production of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that work as our body’s natural painkillers and mood boosters. They’re responsible for the feelings of optimism, accomplishment and happiness that accompany many hard workouts.
Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is a great way to reduce your stress levels and keep you healthy. It doesn’t matter which exercises you choose to do, as long as you keep up with them consistently and stick to your training plan.
Take your vacation
We know taking well-deserved time off can be difficult in the public safety industry. With 24/7 scheduling needs, it’s difficult for public safety professionals to take time off without feeling like they’re letting their team down.
This being said, you’re entitled to take a vacation when you need it. Giving yourself time away from your duty allows you to get in touch with yourself again. You should never forget who you once were before you joined the public safety sector. Taking time off also allows you to come back refreshed and relaxed, and more able to protect the community you serve.
Join a peer-support group
Stress in the workplace is natural and normal, but sometimes it’s difficult to share your workplace stressors with your loved ones. Those who work in emergency services experience traumatic situations and are at a higher risk of developing PTSD.
By joining a peer-support group, public safety professionals can talk to others who can relate to their traumatic experiences and job stresses. Peer-support groups can provide public safety professionals with positive validation, a sense of a shared experience and an outlet for their stress.
Reach out if you need help
Work-related stress manifests itself in different ways for everyone. If you’re struggling with managing your stress, reach out to your supervisor, colleagues, or loved ones for help.
If you’re a public safety agency wanting to help your employees with stress management, reach out to our team to learn more about InTime Wellness, a proactive and data-driven approach to wellness for public safety professionals.