Stress at work. Photo by A. Gentry

Some Thoughts On Stress Relief

Stress relief and how we deal with stress is very personal to each and every one of us on earth and that is especially true in the world of EMS and the Fire and Rescue services.

We all know what we are supposed to do to cope with anxiety, depression and stress when confronted with it in a dramatic and new way. Usually, we run to the doctor and seek medicine and the all mighty magic pill to cure what ails us.

But is that really what we want to be doing to get through the hard work days as professional EMS workers and rescue crews? The short answer is “No.” The Longer answer is a even more hearty “NO!!!”

Jumping on the medicine bandwagon is quick and easy, usually only requiring that we make the doctors appointment on our next scheduled day off and then telling him about our problems. In most cases these days, the doctors are quick to offer the relief in a bottle we so desperately desire. So for us EMS workers, it’s quick and painless and in a few hours, we start to see some relief from our mental and physical symptoms.

But we all know that that is surely the wrong avenue to go down to attain long-term and long lasting high quality relief. Like many people, we also struggle to understand the long-term implications of the constant use of these medicines while at the same time we see the daily results of their overuse in the patients we care for.

Therefore, as practitioners and providers as well as students of the industry, we should be the role models for the proper way to care for ourselves both physically and mentally while working in the EMS world. To steal a phrase: We need to lead by example.

Now those of you who have spent years in this business know exactly where I am going with this story. You know that the next words out of my mouth, or the next words I am about to write are going to be; don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do illicit drugs and stay away from fatty foods as well as those high in carbohydrates. Yep!

But what I am going to say next may surprise you. I am not a saint and we didn’t get into this business because we are all the next in line towards sainthood, or about to become the next Anthony Robbins of EMS. We are humans and we decompress and deal with anxiety and stress differently. Sometimes, having a couple beers and talking to your family or buddies is exactly what fixes you. Sometimes heading out to the bar and dancing and letting loose is exactly what you need.

But what we need to practice is self-control and knowing when to stop, knowing when too much of a ‘good thing’ is no longer a good thing and that it can be harmful to our health or those around us.

Remember the edict in medicine First, Do No Harm”. (Which, by the way may be from Epidemics vs Hippocrates. (1). Remember that when you are trying to manage your own personal issues. Remember that, First Do No harm, like BSI and Scene safety, applies to each of us healthcare workers and our long term well-being too.

  1. Anthony Robbins Official Website https://www.tonyrobbins.com/ (Accessed July 3, 2016).
  2. Gill, N.S. Is “First Do No Harm” From the Hippocratic Oath? Myth vs Fact http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/greekmedicine/f/HippocraticOath.htm (Accessed July 3, 2016).
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Jack Murphy
Jack Murphy is a licensed firefighter, EMT and EMS Instructor in Michigan and California, holds a JD in real estate law and BA in History as well as numerous industry related certifications. These days Jack teaches a Hybrid EMT program at a small College in the Los Angeles area.

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