Sometimes it's the job itself that puts it into the category of stressful. Sometimes it's the grueling hours. If you are a paramedic firefighter for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, as Shanti Hall is, it's both the job and the hours that add up to high stress. What does a paramedic firefighter do? Well, actually, what doesn't she do? Along with racing to an emergency situation and trying to save lives, Hall also fights fires. She "responds to every kind of disaster imaginable, big and small, so by the end of my shift I'm usually pretty stressed out." That shift, by the way, is 24 hours long; she works one day and gets two days off, then back to the firehouse and all that smoke.
The best ways she's found to decompress from stress and chill out in Miami.
Out of the home: "Recovery day begins right when I get in my car to drive home. I put in a CD, any CD, just to bypass all the traffic reports, car accidents, local crime, and endless advertising.
"Instead of going to a gym, I prefer to keep in shape with outdoor activities. I especially like to run with my fiancé, who's also a firefighter. We usually drop our kids at school and then head out to the beach at Bal Harbour. There is a beautiful beach path there. Just when you are convinced that there isn't a shred of a breeze left in all of Miami-Dade County, the swaying coconut trees along this path will prove you wrong, even in July. We do some calisthenics and stretching in the sand, and then dive in the water to cool off. Sometimes we bring surfboards. On several occasions I think I've actually seen my worries float away on the outgoing tide....
"Afterward we head to Athens, a nearby juice bar on 69th and Collins that has been there since before color TV. They have the best freshly squeezed, ice-cold fruit punch.
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"On the way home is our favorite recovery-day lunch spot, the Daily Bread Bakery on South Dixie, where we have big plates full of excellent Middle Eastern food: pita bread, hummus, pickled salad, and the best tabbouleh I've ever tasted."
In the home: "A little nap. We shower, close the blinds in our room, and jump in bed. We take this time to talk and plan and ... reconnect. We actually do sleep some, too!"
At night "we cuddle up to watch the Weather Channel, a little-known sleeping pill with only one known side effect: bad music. We will usually fall asleep waiting for the local surf report and tide information."
On top of all that: Three kids means "homework assignments, after-school activities, laundry, showers, dinner, bedtime stories, and so on. By the time we get them to bed, I can't remember if I come home to relax or go to work to relax."