By Ryan Dedmon
I used to be one of those police dispatch professionals who wore my cell phone on a belt-clip on my hip. It was always with me. Phone calls, text messages, emails: It was a never-ending stream of constant communication. And all of that was on top of the stress of my basic duty of answering 911 calls.
It is vital to the mental health and overall well-being of dispatchers 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 takes no breaks, and oftentimes, neither do the dispatchers who staff 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. One person might feel better escaping 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 always feels busy here because there are more people than there is space for all of us to comfortably live in such 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 several yards until I am shoulder-deep in the water 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 and 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 of weightlessness that seems ever so elusive in our nonstop, 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.
Finding your own happy place for emotional survival might be far from the beach. But what we 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.