At Garrett Counseling, we know that law enforcement officers endure a great deal of stress due to their jobs. Often, the public only hears a small portion of what these officers and their families endure. We wrote a series of blogs to both help the public understand the stress law enforcement officers face and to help those in law enforcement with the effects of stress. In blog three, our goal is to focus on how law enforcement officers can fight the effects of stress. (Check out blog one on what causes stress in law enforcement here and blog two on the consequences of stress and fatigue in law enforcement here.)
How Can Law Enforcement Officers Fight The Effects Of Stress?
One of the most effective ways for an officer to combat job-related stress is by engaging in self care. While an officer may have little or no control over the administrative stressors (e.g., equipment problems, poor supervisors, etc.), there are many things they can control that have been shown to reduce stress and allow them to be healthier and happier.
A few ideas for taking care of oneself include:
- Physical Activity: Exercise releases endorphins that can contribute to increased happiness levels and reduce the effects of stress. Consider lifting weights, running, walking or participating in some sort of martial arts.
- Take A Vacation: Use your leave time to get away from work occasionally throughout the year. A vacation does not have to be expensive; it can simply be staying home and doing something you enjoy, such as painting, gardening, etc. The important part is to disconnect from work-related discussions and activities and engage in self care.
- Have Friends Outside Of Work: Having friends that are not in law enforcement can help you disconnect from the stresses of being a police officer. When you do hang out with your co-workers while off-duty, avoid work-related discussions. Talk about music, movies, your family…anything but work!
- Maintain A Balanced Diet: Try to make a meal plan for each week and avoid frequent fast food. A balanced diet can help combat many health problems that law enforcement officers are prone to experience.
- Learn Mindfulness: Mindfulness has been proven to help reduce stress. Several smartphone apps can help you learn mindfulness and track your health. If you prefer, some books and websites offer information on mindfulness.
- Get A Yearly Physical: This is a vital step in staying healthy as physicals can catch hypertension, sleep problems, depression, and other health conditions before they become a serious problem. *If at any point you find yourself combating sleep problems, anxiety, irritability, stomach pain, or any other conditions that impact your daily life – don’t wait for your yearly physical, seek help immediately.
- Remember Your Mental Health: When looking for a counselor or therapist, consider someone knowledgeable in the area of public safety mental health. In some cases, departments offer an employee assistance program designed specifically to assist your officers during turbulent times. However, if you do not feel comfortable activating your departmental EAP, find a provider that you can trust to support you.
We know that our law enforcement officers face a great deal of stress. If our mental health counselors counselors in Jacksonville, Boaz, or Huntsville can support you as you combat stress, contact us today at (256) 239-5662 or by clicking here.
This blog was written by Kristin Hurst, a mental health counselor at Garrett Counseling in Jacksonville, AL. Learn more about Kristin here.