I'm tired. I've had a long day. I stayed up too late last night to start with, and got up too early today. Worked for a few hours, and then, right when I got home, thinking I'd get a nap- isn't this how it always happens?- called to a structure fire. This is twice in a row now when I've had that same sequence of events: late night, early morning, hours of work, and just when it was time to rest... nope.
Being a volunteer, it's not possible to predict when we'll get one of the kinds of calls that require extra energy, extra alertness, extra everything. Except, naturally, it tends to happen right when I'd rather it didn't, as if getting that tired conjures up disaster for someone else.
Years ago, I told someone I worked with that she looked tired, and she snapped at me. She said that you should never tell anyone they "look tired" because it's basically saying they look like crap, and who needs to hear that? How does that help anything? If anything, if the person really is exhausted, it will only make them feel worse.
My thoughts at the moment, such as they are, are about what to do when exhaustion runs smack into having to keep going, maybe even up your game.
I'm not talking about caffeine, although there are certainly times when it seems to help.
What else can you do? What can you do to keep yourself going, to stay awake, to keep your partner going? A quick dozen jumping jacks? A spate of terrible attempts at humor? Singing along with the radio really loudly? (The music kind, not the emergency services kind, although singing along with your dispatcher might very well wake some folks up.)
I have some CDs in the car of music that is loud, fairly obnoxious, and that I don't actually like, but that keeps me awake. I try to keep a little "emergency chocolate" on hand. Maybe even some actual food to combat dropping blood sugar. Jumping jacks can help sometimes, but generally only early on in the cycle. Wait too long, and I don't have enough energy to get them going, or a good enough mood to want to.
We're accustomed to going to calls, having been woken up in the wee hours by the pager, so we're fairly good at covering each other by reminding someone of anything they blank on. We'll talk on the way to the call, go over protocols, as much to keep from getting distracted and fog-brained as to remember the information.
We're also learning when to bow out, when we really are too trashed to be of any use on scene. A hard choice to make, but occasionally necessary.
Sad to say, but as I get older (ouch!) it takes me longer to recover from true exhaustion, so if I get close to that point, I have to adjust everything to "catch back up." I'll schedule in a couple of naps, and if I can, days when I don't have to do much.
Some of it, though, is sheer will power. I keep going because I have to. So far, I haven't really tripped myself up, but I haven't been doing this that long.
And of course, eat better, and stay hydrated, goes without saying.
Unfortunately, it also often goes without doing. :-(
Any other great ideas out there?
I could use a few before I fall asleep right here on my keyboard.
I need to stay awake long enough to see the end of the football game!