Emergency Responders: Tips for taking care of yourself

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

The below text is reposted from the CDC

Here are some important steps from the CDC that responders can take to ensure they are able to do their job and cope with challenging situations:

Responders experience stress during a crisis. When stress builds up it can cause:

  • Burnout – feelings of extreme exhaustion and being overwhelmed.

  • Secondary traumatic stress – stress reactions and symptoms resulting from exposure to another individual’s traumatic experiences, rather than from exposure directly to a traumatic event.

Coping techniques like taking breaks, eating healthy foods, exercising, and using the buddy system can help prevent and reduce burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Recognize the signs of both of these conditions in yourself and other responders to be sure those who need a break or need help can address these needs.

Signs Of Burnout:

  • Sadness, depression, or apathy

  • Easily frustrated

  • Blaming of others, irritability

  • Lacking feelings, indifferent

  • Isolation or disconnection from others

  • Poor self-care (hygiene)

  • Tired, exhausted or overwhelmed

  • Feeling like:

  • A failure

  • Nothing you can do will help

  • You are not doing your job well

  • You need alcohol/other drugs to cope

Signs of Secondary Traumatic Stress:

  • Excessively worry or fear about something bad happening

  • Easily startled, or “on guard” all of the time

  • Physical signs of stress (e.g. racing heart)

  • Nightmares or recurrent thoughts about the traumatic situation

  • The feeling that others’ trauma is yours

It is important to remind yourself:

  • It is not selfish to take breaks.

  • The needs of survivors are not more important than your own needs and well-being.

  • Working all of the time does not mean you will make your best contribution.

  • There are other people who can help in the response.

Responding to disasters can be both rewarding and stressful. Knowing that you have stress and coping with it as you respond will help you stay well, and this will allow you to keep helping those who are affected.

Read more tips from the CDC here.

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