If you’re a police officer or law enforcement agent, you are exposed to stressful situations on a daily basis. While your training has equipped you to handle most of these circumstances, your body isn’t always prepared to cooperate.
Too much stress can leave you tired, unfocused, and careless. For both yourself and the city you serve, it’s important that you identify ways to manage and relieve work-related stress before it develops dangerous side effects.
The stress issue for police officers
Each yearvarious accredited groups rank the most stressful jobs and occupations in the US, and police officer is nearly always at or near the top of the list. According to arecent survey dated early 2015, serving as a police officer comes in just behind being a firefighter, enlisted military personnel, military general, or airline pilot.
It depends on the circumstances and location, but in most cases the pressure comes down to a combination of working with dangerous criminals and being under constant scrutiny by the public.
Tips for beating stress
While you can’t separate the scrutiny and risk from the rest of the job duties of being a police officer, you can find constructive ways to reduce stress and enhance your overall quality of life.
Here are a few of the best tips for current and former law enforcement agents:
- Exercise regularly. According to a University of Buffalo study, police officers are much likelier to develop metabolic syndrome, which contributes to adult-onset diabetes and heart disease. The work may also entail cancer, emotional health issues, and alcoholism. As a result, it’s incredibly important to get adequate amounts of exercise and physical fitness. For maximum results, this should involve both strength training and aerobic exercise.
- Learn to relax. In addition to rigorous physical activity, you should enjoy the opposite end of the spectrum: uninhibited relaxation. Each day, make it a priority to find a relaxing place and meditate, pray, or just be with your thoughts. You may also want to give progressive muscle relaxation a try; it serves the dual purpose of relaxing your mind and your body.
- Develop coping skills. Over the course of their career, veteran police officers are often exposed to stressful incidents such as hostage crises, shootings, and car chases. Unless you develop good coping skills, you won’t have a long and healthycareer. Learning to identify negative attitudes and replace them with positive thoughts is easier said than done, but it’s crucial.
- Separate work from home. When you finish your shift and clock out for the day, it’s essential to dump work issues at the door. You need time to spend with your family and friends, and brooding about work does nothing but waste your time off.
- Find non-police officer friends. What portion of your friends are police officers? In many cases it may be 75, 90, or 100 percent. While there’s nothing wrong with liking your coworkers, you need more diversity in your life. Make an effort to find friends from other professions and expand your horizons. It’ll show you there’s more to life than being an officer and enable you to discuss non-work related topics.
While technology certainly presents many benefits on the job, it can be especially relaxing to unplug everything when you’re not working. Turn off your phone, log out of your email, shut off the television, and just slow down. Try reading a book or playing a game with the kids. The slower pace of life without technology can be reenergizing and it removes the burden of constantly checking in on things you can’t control.
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