It is not uncommon for emergency communications operators to get together, often with officers, after work for a drink or two (or three or four) at the local bar. Swapping stories, getting follow-up information on calls you've worked and hanging out in an atmosphere where you feel understood and appreciated are all reasons for this socialization. No one seems to think twice about the excessive amount of alcohol consumed during many get-togethers. You could have ten beers and probably no one would notice, and if they do, the chances of them calling you on it are close to none. Even supervisors attend these gatherings, not as management, but as buddies drinking right alongside the rank and file.
The holidays can definitely add to already high levels of stress. Trying to accomplish everything at home while working your shift and often overtime, dealing with the excess of citizen family turmoil, financial strain, as well as the increased celebratory nature of get-togethers with friends and colleagues can fuel a month-long drinking binge. To avoid the costs associated with excessive drinking, including exhaustion, nausea and poor concentration, try incorporating some alternative coping mechanisms into your life. Granted, shift work and overtime often prevent emergency communications operators from attaining alternative coping mechanisms, such as social support, counseling, stress management strategies and exercise. A bar is open at midnight. The psychiatrist is not. Regardless, for the sake of your mental and physical health and your job, helpguide.org recommends trying a few of these:
- Talk to a positive friend
- Play with a pet
- Get a massage
- Listen to music
- Watch a comedy
- Spend time in nature
- Work with your hands: knit, bead or scrapbook
- Take a bath
- Write in your journal
Try to imagine what you would do if alcohol didn't exist. What activities do you enjoy? Whether it's curling up with a movie or hiking the mountain, try incorporating these into your schedule. It's difficult, but considering how much time people spend drinking, a couple of hours a week for healthy activities is not unreasonable. The police culture is immersed in socially-accepted alcohol consumption. That doesn't mean you have to buy into it. You can still go and have a good time. Just have a mocktail. Happy Holidays.