Police officers have one of the world’s toughest jobs. In fact, our job is also rated as one of the world’s most stressful. Heart attacks, alcohol abuse, and other results of long-term stress run rampant through every police department nationwide.
Despite this, ask a cop and he or she will tell you they have the best job in the world. We know we’re the lucky ones to have such wonderful careers, where things change every day and routine gets chucked out the window as soon as the patrol boots go on. However, we must protect ourselves from stress and job-related tension, the two silent killers of any police force. We wear our vests and practice safety precautions for just about every scenario we can encounter on the street. Why not take a minute to make sure we can enjoy our nice pensions, and live beyond the average life expectancy for police officers nationwide, which is only 57 years old?
If that age took you by surprise, consider this: The average life of a criminal is 64. Yes, on average the bad guys outlive the good guys. In the spirit of our own well being (and to even out the odds with the criminal community lifespan) here are some easy reminders to help vent some of that stress, and keep you operating at 100 percent.
Keep Work Separate From Your Home Life
Too many of us bring work home every day without realizing it. Sure, there will be times this can’t be helped, such as being on call, but for the great majority of the time this can be held in check. If you want to tell your family about your day, try doing it when you first get home, then forget about it. Don’t bring cases home with you to work on or finish writing. If you blur the line between your off time and your on time, you’ll be stressed all of the time. Keep work at the PD, and enjoy your time off, which brings us to the next tip.
Keep Your Family First Over Your Job
We’ve all heard the saying “You’re a cop 24-7,” right? As true as this may be, you’re also a husband, wife, father, mother or family member the entire time, too. Many officers say their family comes first, but when confronted with seemingly easy choices, they show otherwise by choosing work. When’s the last time you turned down a voluntary overtime day to stay home with the family? Do you remember when you last took a day off to go on a trip, or family event? You can be sure your family remembers that time. Make them your priority, and show it. This will help keep you grounded and remind you that your job is just that: only a job. You’ll stop stressing about the little things when you realize what’s really important, your family. Remember, when your police career is all said and done, it will make a great shadowbox on your wall, while your family will still be there for you to enjoy. Keep them rightfully prioritized over your job, and show them they are!
Have Non-Cop Friends
Don’t buy into the “Only cops understand me” talk. Many officers love to use that as an excuse as to why they only hang out with other cops. Remember, we see the worst of the world every day, all day long. We can’t help having a jaded view on people in general. Having friends who aren’t exposed to this daily grind keeps you in the correct perspective. Non-cop friends don’t immediately see the worst in people as we often do. This is not to say we shouldn’t have any friends in the police ranks. We all certainly will, but it’s important to keep some outside the walls of the law enforcement community to keep your perspective in tune with the rest of the world.
Enjoy Your Hobbies
If you read this and said to yourself, “What hobbies?” then you’ve just identified your first step in creating a less stressful life. Get a hobby! Whatever it is you like to do, dive into it. Take up photography or get outdoors a bit by hiking, backpacking or camping. Buy a dirt bike or take up a sport. Get involved with your church or coach a youth sports team. Pick anything you like that takes you away from work. Hobbies are immediate stress relief, and they keep your mind outside of police work while you’re enjoying them.
These are a few techniques that can greatly increase your chances of beating the odds and having a much less stressful career and life outside work. Remember, we have the best job in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t enjoy your golden years. Happy stress reducing!