Ryan Dedmon, 911 Training Institute
I used to be one of those law enforcement professionals who wore my cell phone on a belt-clip on my hip. It was always with me, no matter where I went. Respond to an email from Detective Smith about a burglary report I wrote last week; waiting for a phone call from Principal Fielder at Washington Elementary School about a 9-1-1 assembly we have scheduled for tomorrow; receive a text message from a supervisor for emergency call-out on the graveyard shift tonight due to staffing shortage; receive an email from a Crime Prevention Specialist asking if I am available to make an appearance at a neighborhood watch meeting later in the week. It was a never-ending stream of constant communication. And all of that was on top of the stress of my primary duty of answering 9-1-1 calls.
Last week, we posted an article on our Blog recommending Dispatchers Must Find a "Happy Place" for Emotional Survival. It is vital to their mental health and overall well-being to find a place where they can escape the information overload and let their hearts and minds rest in peace to recharge.
Admittedly, finding that "happy place" can be quite challenging when you have a career in emergency communications. Public-safety dispatch centers operate 24/7/365, regardless of holidays or day-time/night-time hours. Public-safety takes no breaks, and often times, neither do the dispatchers that staff those communication centers. Thus, the paradox: how do dispatchers find time to escape to their happy place when they have a job that demands they be on-call and ready to respond to work 24/7?
There is no simple answer to that question. In fact, I suspect the answer will differ greatly from person-to-person. The fine arts and performing arts have inspirational impacts on different people, but so do different geographical places in the world. One person might feel better to escape to a mountain cabin far from the city, while another person might feel more at home in the middle of a busy subway. So I can only speak for my own experiences, and maybe in sharing them they might help you find your own happy place…
I was born and raised in Southern California in the heart of Orange County. It seems like a never-ending suburban sprawl that spreads between Los Angeles and San Diego. Life in itself always feels busy here because there are more people than there is space for all of us to comfortably live in such close proximity. However, the one thing you absolutely cannot trade here is the weather. It is sunny and 75, even in the middle of winter. And that weather makes the beaches in Southern California wonderful places to visit.
There is something majestically indescribable about the feeling of sand between my toes, a cool ocean breeze blowing, the fresh air filling my lungs, and the warmth of the sun as it seems to hug me. I like to wade out in the water several yards until I am shoulder-deep because I find the cool temperatures of the Pacific to be refreshing, and that is where the magic happens…
I like to stand out far enough where the swells come in, but before they break into waves. As I am standing there and the swells approach, the water lifts me off the ocean floor as I rise with it momentarily until it quickly passes and then breaks into a wave before hitting the shore. And in that very brief instant when the water gently elevates me I feel a sweet freedom that seems ever so elusive in our non-stop, information-driven, and performance-based society. I am free from phone calls, text messages, emails, project deadlines, and all things that distract me from just being me.
The three-time Grammy award-winning Zac Brown Band, sum it up perfectly for me in their hit song Knee Deep:
"I’m knee deep in the water somewhere
Got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my hair,
Only worry in the world is the tide gonna reach my chair.
Sunrise there’s a fire in the sky
Never been so happy, never felt so high
And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise."
Finding your own happy place for emotional survival might be far from the beach. You might hate the beach, and that is okay. But what I encourage you to do is find that special place, wherever it may be for you, where no one cares about your occupation or job-performance. Leave the stress and anxiety behind. Go to that happy place with the people you love to escape the worries of this world, the overwhelming stress of your job in public-safety, and re-experience the freedom of just being you.