First responders' duties are stressful under normal operations, but personnel are now faced with working conditions they may never have imagined seeing. As PPE and supplies become difficult to find, coworkers get quarantined or become sick, and the reported numbers climb every day, it is very important to make time to destress and take care of your mental (and physical) health.
The International Public Safety Association (IPSA) provides some great suggestions in its blog post “10 Tips for Emergency Responders, Healthcare Providers for Managing Stress during the COVID-19 Crisis.” The tips include exercise, spending time with pets, catching up on sleep, taking a break from the news cycle, and above all else, talking about everything that is going on.
Talking, either with family, coworkers, friends or a professional therapist is crucial to managing your stress. A recent PoliceOne.org article, “Protecting the Mental Health of First Responders During a Pandemic,” notes that while first responders regularly deal with members of the public out of control or panicky, the levels which we now see are well outside the norm. This only adds to the exhaustion and stress.
The IPSA also has a set of infographics on stress and mental health care that departmental management may consider printing and posting or handing out to staff. It is especially important for leadership to keep tabs on their staff's stress levels and how they are managing and offer any assistance it can.