You guys know the drill. You go to work, exist on a roller coaster of adrenaline dumps and returns to normalcy. Your workday is anything BUT normal. It’s chaotic. It’s noisy. It’s sad. It’s happy. It’s everything in between. You get where I’m going with this, right? It can get OLD. And fast. They say most dispatchers, or any first responder for that matter, go through their first “burnout” phase between 3-5 years into the job. It’s almost to the point where if you DON’T feel the “burnout” I’ll look at you like a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. There isn’t one first responder that I know who hasn’t gone through at least one round of burnout. Most I know have gone through many. I’m in my 18th year of first responder bliss. I know I’ve gone through the burnout several times. And I keep coming back. It’s something ingrained in us. Something that makes us keep taking the emotional beatings over and over again. It’s who we are as people. Our jobs aren’t easy! Not to say that we’re superhuman (I meaaaan some of us probably are, let’s be honest) we see the worst society has to offer and we still do what we do! Day in and day out.
While there are varying degrees of burnout, mine have always teetered on the “I F***ING HATE THIS JOB AND THE BS THAT COMES WITH IT” spectrum. I tend to get angry for several weeks and then chill out for a bit. Realizing that my job isn’t the worst thing in the world and because I’m actually pretty good at what I do, quitting probably wouldn’t do anybody any favors. When I think about qualified employees quitting because of animosities or because the burnout is real, I cringe. I think of all of the men and women working the streets. The firefighters, the police officers, the medics, who all rely on qualified dispatchers. You guys, we literally ARE the lifeline for our first responders! Don’t take it lightly. My husband’s out there. My brother in law is out there. Friends, family, are out there. You get the idea! These are the people that would suffer if qualified employees left. Susan sitting on her couch at home with a heart condition would suffer. Joe on the corner whose house is on fire would suffer.
There are ways to lessen the effects of burnout! Follow me, here!
1:) Take your stinkin’ vacation time! E.S.C.A.P.E. your environment for a few days! Regardless of what you think, and how highly you may think of yourself, your office CAN and WILL survive if you take a week/month/3 months off. Keep following the blog, and I’ll have some travel tips!
2:) SHUT YO PHONE OFF when you get home! No, really! Unless you’re really important and can’t be missed, turn it off. I signed up for Ooma for this specific reason. Nobody does landlines anymore. Everything and EVERYONE is right in the palm of your hands when you have a smartphone. I get home from work, plug my phone in, and grab the landline phone. People who are important have the number and know they can call that if they need me. I can’t stress how much of a difference this has made!
3:) Find a hobby. A real one. Get creative! Write, paint, draw, or if you’re like me, make some stuff with your hands! In my spare time, I’m kind of a Cricut expert. I make all kinds of t-shirts, tumblers, signs, wall decals, etc. I HAVE to do something in my off time to keep busy and keep me relaxed. Making stuff is my jam!
4:) Layoff the caffeine. I know, easier said than done for some. Your Starbucks baristas may miss you for a while, but it really is for the greater good!
5:) Sleep. Lots. My nightly average of sleep is around 4-5 hours. I KNOW I don’t sleep enough. When I know I don’t sleep enough, I stress a little more than usual. Luckily, my husband also works day shift and goes in relatively early some days. Any more if we’re not in bed by 9, there must be something seriously wrong going on. Shut your alarm clocks off on your days off! Catch a little extra sleep. Being a little lazy isn’t going to kill you!
6:) Set aside some time JUST for you. Not you and your kids. Not you and your husband, Not you and your wife. JUST YOU. You need time to decompress after your shift. Jam out to your favorite music or maybe sit in silence and meditate. Whatever it is that relaxes YOU, DO IT!
7:) Acknowledge that you need help! You can’t do everything on your own! Though you’re programmed to take care of things, sometimes getting an extra hand from someone can make a world of difference. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing to be ashamed of! For real! Rome wasn’t built in a day and it sure as HELL wasn’t built by one person! Your empire will take several sets of hands to make it into the kingdom it’s meant to be!
Seriously, you have to realize that the only person that can take care of you is YOU. Nobody else. Not your mom. Not your dad. Not your husband. Not your wife. NOBODY BUT YOU. You have to advocate for your own mental stability. Take breaks when you need them. Say, “No” when things are rough. Ask for help! With a little bit of vigilance, you can get past your burnout phases! You’re good at what you do! The world needs people like you! Don’t let a few bad days ruin your future in a career that you excel in! If you start feeling smothered, take a step back, take a big breath, evaluate things and move forward. Figure out where you can cut corners and go from there! None of us are machines! Let me repeat that, NONE OF US ARE MACHINES! Let yourself feel emotions. Cry it out! Do whatever it takes to come back stronger than before! And as always, if you ever need an impartial ear to bend, I’m your person! Send me comments or emails!