The author practices Qigong in a natural setting. Photo: Amaury Murgado.
Stress is an officer's number one nemesis. During a call, it creates automatic psychological and physiological responses that reduce your effectiveness. Too much stress and it affects your health. We hear conventional wisdom almost every day on how to handle stress and yet we don't use it. We've heard it so much that we are desensitized to the problem.
I'm going to use a different approach and leave conventional wisdom behind. I am going to give you some unconventional wisdom in the form of two options that you probably never considered.
A number of researchers have suggested that law enforcement is the most stressful profession in America. After all, we deal with the underbelly of civilization. The small percentage of the population that everyone else steers clear from, we as officers steer right into and choose to work deep in their midst. We do this every day. But what we don't realize is we do so at a great personal cost.
Stress is a culprit that has many ugly sides. For example, more law enforcement officers die of suicide than of heart attacks. Stress also contributes to alcoholism, drug abuse, and the second highest divorce rate in the nation. We have all seen instances where stress has had a negative impact on our friends, family, and fellow officers. Left unmanaged, stress can ruin your career and destroy your life.
And Yet We Ignore It Anyway
As officers we ignore stress and drive on as if it were part of a crusade. Whether we choose to accept it or not, it's our responsibility as individuals to handle it. Think about how many of us work long hours, hit an off-duty job soon after, and then get up and do it all over again the next day. Most of us sleep very little, eat like crap, and continuously ride an emotionally and adrenaline-filled roller coaster.
When it comes to taking care of ourselves, the only thing we agree upon is that exercise looks really good on cable. Even worse, many of us never break our cycle of denial until we physically crash and get sick. The sad truth is we don't do anyone any good when we go down. Stress isn't the problem, we are.
According to Medicinenet.com, "There is now evidence that points to abnormal stress responses as causing various diseases or conditions. These include anxiety disorders, depression, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, certain gastrointestinal diseases, some cancers, and even the process of aging itself." In other words, the effects of stress on our health are real so just ignoring them won't make them go away. Another reality is that stress chips away at our longevity. Some scientists suggest that human beings could live up to 120 years but the typical police officer doesn't even come close.
Technology Doesn't Help, It Hurts
You'd think today's technology would ease some of our burden. It has made our lives more productive, but to what end? Information flows at the speed of a computer's mouse click. Snail mail is losing its appeal and sending a fax is becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately, there is too much information being passed on and it's coming too fast. The demand on your time has sky rocketed and everybody still wants everything done yesterday.