#TransformationTuesday: THD Edition spotlights members of The Healthy Dispatcher community who have made positive changes to their physical or mental health while working in the demanding field of 9-1-1 telecommunications.
This week, #TransformationTuesday: THD Edition features Melissa L., who works as a fire dispatch supervisor in North Carolina.
What unhealthy (physically or mentally) habits did you used to keep?
One of the biggest unhealthy habits that I used to keep was booking myself every minute that I had free with overtime, any training class I could get my hands on and volunteered for any special events and deployments with our field communication team. I used this tactic as a way to busy my mind so that I wouldn’t focus on my stress and anxiety. I overcommitted myself to the point of exhaustion on many occasions, but I felt it was the only way to forget — even if only temporarily — my anxieties about my job. I will still never forget the first call that made me cry with overwhelming sadness.
When did you notice these habits were negatively impacting your life, at work or at home?
I noticed that my intentional overbooking of my time was negatively impacting my work and personal life when I would overhear my spouse talking to other people about how I was always working, and I couldn’t commit to doing things on my days off with my family because I was always waiting for a work thing to pop up. My spouse and I grew somewhat distant because he was always saying I work to much and I was always defending my actions.
How did you change these habits?
Something had to change. I knew it, but really struggled with anxiety when I had down time or quiet time. I felt like I was spinning out of control. I am a holistic-thinking person with somewhat clean eating habits, no bad habits like drinking or smoking, and definitely not open to the idea of taking prescriptions to get my anxiety in order. I started to look for ways I could try to “heal” myself holistically. I googled healthy ways to heal anxiety and I bought and read every book I could find. I practiced every recommended idea.
I also experimented with what felt right to me. I stayed home more, I wrapped my head around the idea that I must sit with my anxiety and acknowledge it, as uncomfortable as it was. I knew if I didn’t own it, I could never get past it. And lastly I sought professional help. I used my EAP benefits to find an amazing therapist to help guide me through the height of my anxiety.
What are some of the ways you stay healthy now?
Now I have an entire toolbox of things I use to keep my job-related stress and anxiety in check. Some of those things include daily — and I mean every single day — yoga practice, rhythmic breathing techniques several times per day, increased water intake to at least 80 ounces per day, and frequent mediation. I listen only to quiet meditation type music and sounds when I’m in the car. And this one is a big one for me — I take several minutes when I wake up and before I go to sleep and give thanks for each and every single blessing in my life.
I also created a hybrid class that I teach to our new recruits and I will be teaching at the upcoming APCO conference. The class is called The Path to Calm: Holistic Stress Management Techniques. It’s part classroom and part hands-on yoga, meditation and breathing techniques. I hope I can help others overcome stress and anxiety.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed in yourself as a result of these healthy changes?
This biggest change I’ve noticed in myself is how calm I am and how I no longer feel the need to pick up every single overtime shift just to keep busy. The amount of stress free and focused attention my family gets today is a total turnaround from just a few short years ago!