Police officers are under a lot of stress and pressure. They respond to intense situations, they endure violent encounters, and most of these occurrences are unpredictable. Some officers are on special squads that require elite training, while others perform more “routine” services. Regardless, the job involves domestic abuse, homicides, and run-of-the-mill street crime. Burnout is very high with police officers. Mental health is still not talked about as much as it should be, although that conversation is shifting. Trying some helpful tips can build a better repertoire to help police find support when they feel burnout coming on.
The Law Matters
One of the hardest things for police officers is to deal with the bureaucracy in the department. There is always a little bit of that in any work environment, from internal politics to administrative disputes. Many police departments have different regulations, and trying to keep up with them can be challenging. The same is true of staying on top of the ever-changing legal landscape. Keep up with the law and legal issues to be up-to-date and avoid any problems that come from reprimands or challenges.
Connect with Colleagues
Police officers often form quick bonds with each other because they have to work as a united team. Still, some officers may not want to communicate with co-workers or tell others their stress. People may feel like friends and family will not understand them or their issues. The job makes officers feel vulnerable as they become acutely aware of the risks they face. Police officers often see the most gruesome things on the job, leaving them extra anxiety, worry, and fear for themselves and their families. Staying in contact with others on the job and sharing openly with colleagues can help address issues before they get out of hand.
Physical exercise is often expected of officers because they have to pass physical exams on the job. However, not every officer minds their health, nutrition, and well-being. Self-care is critical, including exercise. Aerobic exercise reduces stress. Keeping yourself physically fit is also essential to avoid injury and boost your mental health.
Nowadays, police officers have access to more social workers and counselors than ever before. Professional help for police officers is a unique space where the therapist or counselor provides direct support. Talking to family can be overwhelming for police officers, but it’s equally painful to go through fear and anxiety alone. It takes a lot of courage to show up on the job and not know what will happen every day. The officer may not know how to reach out and ask for help without worrying about their job or forgoing advancement opportunities. People don’t always see if they are feeling burned out until they talk to someone. Try to seek help as soon as possible.
Keep a Journal
Writing down inner thoughts and feelings helps. These writings don’t have to be written for anybody else but yourself unless you’d prefer the input of others. It may be an online place to post stories anonymously if that helps. Journaling is cathartic and enables you to keep gratitude at the front and center of your life. Seeing so much distress, day in, day out, dampens joy and thankfulness. Each day, write down the things that fill you with gratitude and do your best to unpack any trauma or stress you’re feeling. This will help keep the mind and body clear of lingering negative thoughts. If they persist, it may be time to speak to someone about them and even share the journal in a safe setting.
Get Enough Sleep
Part of being healthy is making sure to get enough sleep. Sleep can be chipped away over time with phones, screens, and work. There is less time for quality sleep with kids and families, as well. It becomes more important than ever to focus on getting enough sleep if you have a demanding career. Sleep tips to consider include:
- Taking time before bed to meditate or rest the mind.
- Writing down any lingering thoughts.
- Noting medication or food that may be keeping rest from coming quickly.
- Setting the scene for quality sleep, whether that is an apartment, bedroom, or entire house. The bedroom should be a sacred, quiet place.
Sleep hygiene is vital for law enforcement officers. PTSD and mental health issues can keep a person from getting quality sleep, as well. Speak to a therapist and counselor about these issues and get treatment before they escalate.
Police officers need a close-knit support group. They need engagement with others who understand their issues and can provide them with useful advice. It is challenging to avoid burnout before it happens, but these tips can help align a person’s mind and body. Even if the job still lingers in your mind, have a plan for self-care to keep these thoughts from overwhelming you. Keep support networks at the ready, on the phone, via email, or however else is most convenient for you.
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