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Wellbeing Jan 2, 2018

When exhaustion hits, it is easy to reach for a caffeinated soda, energy drink, or an aroma-filled cup of joe. While this is exactly what the makers of these products want you to do, there are more effective ways to boost your energy. Get ready to take your full-shift head-on with these 5 alternatives.


Why do dispatchers need healthy energy alternatives?

In Compassion Fatigue and 9-1-1 we shared that compassion fatigue affects as many as eight out of ten 911 dispatchers. Repeated exposure to second hand trauma while fielding emergency calls takes a toll on mental, emotional, and physical health. It is critical to prioritize your general health.   Reaching for a caffeinated pick me up on a taxing shift masks symptoms AND may contribute to the core problems. Easy to grab, caffeinated beverages and energy drinks with additive pick-me-ups do more harm than good.

Reset your system starting with these 5 healthy alternatives.


1) An apple a day...

One of the best options is to eat an apple, a green one if you can find one. Research indicates that the nutrients in apples provide fiber, natural sugar, and vitamins crucial for both short-term and long-term energy. Apples won't leave you feeling drained 20 minutes or so later the way energy drinks and soda does.

2) Let's get physical!

Sitting at a desk and staring at a computer can sometimes make you feel like you're on autopilot; this is counter-productive especially for dispatchers who shift between active dispatch and focused watchfulness. A sedentary body typically has a lower metabolism which can contribute to lost mental focus.

Additionally, staring at a computer screen for hours can make your eyes hurt. Sometimes it's because the screen is too bright. And, often, because you are blinking less often - which results in dry eye.

Getting up from your desk periodically to use the restroom or even standing up to do a few jumping jacks with your eyes closed will wake your body up, boost your heart rate, and help you feel refreshed.

3) Sleeping Beauty

I bet you have read the studies that recommend eight hours of sleep each night. You might also know that this can be tough to consistently attain; family obligations and overnight shifts can make sleep schedules challenging to maintain.

These challenges are ever present. However, creating a meaningful change in this area can positively impact your energy, focus, and relationships.

Start with your days off and create a routine to settle into meaningful and lengthy rest:

  • Commit to a bed time.
  • Leave your phone on the kitchen counter.
  • Pick up a book, instead of watching TV before sleeping.
  • Take 5 minutes at the beginning and/or end of your day to reflect, meditate, or pray.

4) Frequent small meals

Maintaining steady blood sugar reduces brain fog and is especially critical for 911 dispatchers. Large meals, spaced hours apart may be contributing to a roller-coaster of energy spikes and crashes.

Instead of eating two or three large meals during the day, space your food intake out throughout your day. This will help stabilize your metabolism. Your body will digest and integrate nutrients more efficiently.


5) Hydrate!

It can be easy to forget to drink water, especially because those who sit at desks often do not go to a water cooler or water fountain. And, it's tempting to be fooled into thinking all beverages count as hydration. Don't be fooled. Drinks containing caffeine work against your body, actually dehydrating you.

A second effect of dehydration can be a spike in feeling hungry. Doctors who specialize in metabolism indicate that the body will signal hunger when de-hydrated. You may be consuming extra calories even when you don't need them; a glass of water can suffice!

water bottles 2

Some comm centers recommend not keeping liquids at the desk because they fear computer equipment being damaged or documents being spilled. However, there are many spill-proof bottles on the market. Local grocery stores and big box stores often have sales on these products and make them easy to find for anyone, in all different sizes and colors.

Focusing on staying hydrated will actually increase hydration, exercise, and giving your eyes a break from the screen! That's a triple win!

What now?

We know coffee, pop and packaged, sweet snacks are tempting to grab when you're feeling tired. With a little planning, you can successfully shift gears. Here are a few tactics for success:

  • Start with 1 of the caffeine alternatives we introduced. Once you have established a dependable habit, add another.
  • Set your timer OR use scheduled break times as a cue to add some extra movement.
  • Take advantage of the sit-to-stand function on your console workstation.
  • Create a pot-luck commissary stocked with fresh apples, packaged nuts and other nutrient rich snacks.
  • Make caffeine reduction a friendly competition! Sign your team members up for a move-a-thon or "dehydration annihilation" - who can drink the most water this shift?

The community, at large, relies on you in their times of distress. Your daily health is equally important! Be at your best by making simple changes to boost your focus and stabilize your blood sugar.


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