Posts Tagged ‘naugle counseling’

Stress Management for Emergency Services Professionals

     Emergency services are a vital part of any community. Some communities have paid personnel for fire and ambulance protection but for most smaller towns (like Shippensburg, PA) most work other “paid” jobs and volunteer their time for those in need. The amount of time they commit to their companies is huge. Not only are they there for the communities time of need (emergencies) they are constantly involved in training exercises, and fundraising to raise the necessary funds to continue to do what they do. These men and women in our communities are Extraordinary! When asked why they do what they do some will state, ” Its just in my blood to help others” or ” I can’t imagine not volunteering and running calls, I like helping others in their time of need”. Credit needs to be given to these saints as well as the younger people in our communities that are becoming involved in these volunteer organizations. 

     I had the privilege this week to give a presentation to my local EMS (Emergency Medical Services) on dealing with stress within the emergency services profession. Not only do these saints deal with everyday stress like everyone else they are also subject to additional stressors and triggers, if you will, in responding to calls on a daily basis. They unlike most in the community are witness to life’s tragedies firsthand. Sometimes they are the last person to interact with a victim before they die, other times they are the one keeping the victim alive, and still others they are the ones that act quickly in life saving measures to enable the victim to live. 

     Working in this environment can and often does take it’s toll. 20 to 30 years ago, those who became upset over a “bad call” were told to deal with it, man-up, its part of the job-get used to it, etc. Many of those in the EMS services at that time tried those strategies and continued to wonder what was going on with them because they couldn’t just “deal with it”. Stress in the EMS service and all Emergencies services can be classified into three specific categories.

Critical Incident Stress: Occurs when you experience an unusual or extreme emotional reaction after exposure to an event that is overwhelming to you. This is subjective based on each individual’s life experience and belief system. What is overwhelming to one person may not be overwhelming to another person.

Delayed Stress:  In some cases stress reactions to an overwhelming event do not occur until days, weeks, months or even years later. The reactions are just as debilitating and impacting as a recent event. Delayed stress can occur when people go into shock after an event, refuse to acknowledge the impact of the event, or when exposure to an event is prolonged. This type of stress can also be referred to as PTSD.

Cumulative Stress: Is the most common and can be the most damaging. It occurs when a person’s normal coping mechanism are continuously overwhelmed. It can also occur when you don’t build in daily self care activities that are regenerative and stress reducing. Cumulative stress reactions are very debilitating. People begin to believe that frequent headaches, acid stomach, irritability, poor concentration, are normal. This produces further stress which can lead to serious physical and emotional illnesses. 

All three of the above mentioned types of stress can manifest themselves into a clinical mental health diagnosis. Becoming aware of the signs of stress (emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally) can help in identifying the triggers and reduce recovery time. It is important to note that after developing any of these types of symptoms, it can be especially helpful to talk to a professional counselor. 

Emotional Stress will appear in the following ways: Denial, Fear, Depression, Grief, Anger, Worry, Uncertainty, Hopelessness, Helplessness, Feeling lost, Wishing to Hide, Anxiety, Panic, and Inappropriate Emotions.

Cognitive Signs and Symptoms: Difficulty Making Decisions, Confusion, Difficulty Naming Familiar Items, Poor Concentration, Blaming Others, Memory Problems, and Replaying Events Over and Over. 

Behavioral Signs of Stress: Withdrawal, Suspiciousness, Excessive Humor or Silence, Increased Smoking, Alcohol or Food, Change in Activity Level, Angry Outbursts, and Crying Spells. 

Stress management skills make it easier for your body, mind and emotions to return to normal more quickly after a stressful event. Stress management skills include: Developing a balanced lifestyle, Daily relaxation routines, Developing a Positive Mental Attitude, Balancing life’s activities so not to become stressed, and working for a lifestyle of Peak Performance.

     Being an emergency responder is rewarding work, but as with most stressful professions or volunteer services the demands can lead to abnormal levels of stress. Thank you for your services. Please don’t be afraid to ask for additional professional help if you can identify with many of the symptoms listed above. Some companies have funds set aside to help with the costs of mental health counseling for support. 

Until Next Time,

Lory

Ways to Cherish Each Day by Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC

It happened again this week, someone from our community had died unexpectedly. Some have had health issues such as diabetes or high blood pressure, sometimes it is found out later that they had a heart defect, whatever the reason it is still a shock to family and friends. Unexpected deaths can also be the result of traffic accidents or other types of “freak” accidents. No matter how the person died it bring the subject of death and dying to the forefront. We all die someday. Most of us don’t want to think about dying but honestly living and dying go hand in hand.

There are many songs written about living and dying such as Tim McGraw’s, ”Live like you are Dying” or Daughtry’s “Home”. The message in both of these songs is to live life to the fullest each day because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. 

For those of us that live with anxiety and worry, I’m not trying to make you more anxious just the opposite by not focusing on the future but on the gifts of  today.  As I am writing this entry the sun is out, the spring flowers and trees are blooming and the birds are singing.  Spring is finally here and no matter what other worries or problems I am dealing with they don’t matter at this moment, I am taking in all the scenery. Here are some of the ways that I try to live each day to the fullest:

#1 Be Happy and Laugh at Life – Each day is a gift, begin each day by being grateful for the people and relationships you have in your life. Smile and see that your glass is half full and not half empty. When you begin to focus on the positives in your life it will radiate all around you. People are drawn to positive people. Have you ever been around someone who was so negative all the time, it sucks the energy right out of you, but on the other hand being around someone who is positive, despite the problems they are dealing with,  makes you feel good. Laughter should be an everyday part of life. One of my constant sources of laughter is just laughing at myself. Whoever said that if you learn to laugh at yourself, you’ll always have something to laugh about, was absolutely correct. There is always a reason to laugh it is something that you purposefully choose to do. Begin today to choose to be happy, smile and laugh.

#2. Forgive Others and Yourself- Revenge and hatred always keep people from living life to its fullest. They are like poison that spill over into every aspect of a person’s life.People who are unforgiving create their own captivity, a type of horible prison they made for themselves. All the good emotions, joy, peace, hope, and dreams are buried under the unwillingness to forgive. Forgiveness is an incredible thing, not only being forgiven by others for our wrongs, but to forgive others who have wronged us. Forgiveness is a choice and then an action. Forgiveness is true freedom. God sent his only son to die for our sin debt on a cross. If we are forgiven for our sins through Jesus Christ surely you can make the choice to forgive others.

#3 Tell Others What They Mean to You Each Day – This is something that I have begun to practice in my own life. Relationships are what life is all about. Your family and friends are your most precious possessions. Nothing in this life can match their existence. No matter where you are or in what position, small gestures of love, acceptance, and respect can give real meaning to your life. Life is a journey, make sure you express yourself to those who are sharing this journey with you each day, for we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

#4 Be Flexible-This is easier for some than others. We never know how the day is going to unfold. Some people are so set in their ways and schedules that when something unexpected arises and believe me it will, it “throws” them into a tizzy for the rest of the day. Unexpected things come up. Some are good and some are bad, that’s just life. Some of my most memorable times with friends and my husband have happened on the “spur of the moment”. Yes, I could have been doing laundry, yard work, or housework but guess what those things got done anyway.

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we don’t get a ”do over” or second chance at life. Carpe diem – Seize the Day- make the most out of everyday and start living life to its fullest.

Until Next Time,

Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC

July 2014
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