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Columns : In My Sights

Pass the Blue Crayon, Please

To handle the stresses of your job it's essential that you follow one or more recreational pursuits in your off time, whether it's shooting, running, or coloring.

July 06, 2016  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

In case you just came out of a coma and missed this, coloring books for adults are becoming quite the rage. Designed to allow you to calm down and become "centered," they allow you to color flowers, animals, paisley, abstract shapes, classics, and any of hundreds of styles of pictures; not to mention offering you multiple types, colors, and styles of implements to use. All to help you find your mental "safe space" as you color your way to joy. Don't expect everyone to understand your choice if you decide to take this path to tranquility. My wife, "The Sarge," has refused to put any of my creations on the refrigerator next to my grandson's "masterpieces!" Trust me, I do better …

Seriously, I don't find drawing to be particularly satisfying; I happen to think lines are restricting, and just because my grandson colors within the lines doesn't mean he's better … right? But if coloring, or anything else for that matter, brings you peace then I am all for it.

You see, I think the rising popularity of things like coloring books for adults is just another symptom of the pressures of the current cultural crisis. Uncertainty, fear, anger, frustration, and a sense of sorrow seem to permeate the modern era, and society's peace-keepers are stuck dead center in the maelstrom. Social activists and the modern media seem to perpetually complain about the way law enforcement maintains a civil society (and make no mistake, we do maintain it) and whine about how social hot-button issues are somehow the responsibility of, and need to be cured by, you crime fighters.

That, and all the other pressures of our job, makes taking time to recover and reenergize after work more important than ever. Hans Selye taught us in his book "The Stress of Life" that stressors called distressors often break us down, while others called eustressors build us up ("eu" meaning "good" in Greek.)

All of us have activities that simply make us stronger and better, like working out or fishing or hunting or … coloring! Look, I don't judge (OK, maybe a little). Just find things that you enjoy and help you recover from the stress of your job.

Hold it, some of you are saying you love your job and you find it is all you need? Wrong! If you have given up friends and activities in your life in order to totally immerse yourself in a law enforcement lifestyle, then you are cruising for a bruising. As the great Dr. Kevin Gilmartin has said so many times, he often finds himself treating miserable cops who say "I usta hunt, I usta fish, I usta bowl, I usta camp, I usta be married, I usta be happy!" He calls these activities "the ustas," and they just happen to be the very things that give us joy, recreation, and healing … eustress.

Now, more than ever, you need to conduct an inventory of your activities and make sure you are making time for positive stress activities. Most experts believe the traits of these things are motivating, short-term, within our coping abilities, exciting, and performance enhancing. Believe me, shooting, fly-fishing, jogging, weight lifting, walking, coaching, bowling, touring on a cycle, and a multitude of other recreations will make us stronger.

Just because you have suffered an injury or illness that restricts you from doing what you "usta" do doesn't mean you can't find another eustressor; in fact, in this case it is more important than ever that you find a new source of renewal, and today there are so many options that you'd really have to work hard to come up with an excuse not to find one.

Tough times require tough crime fighters, and taking time to clean, check, and reload your mind is as important as doing the same for your firearm.

While each generation may find unique ways to recharge, don't get stuck in a rut. Ask others what they do – and consider doing it with them; maybe playing Halo is your cup of tea after all; or doing 20 minutes of TACFIT every other day is your way to reboot. Just experiment until you find the off-duty key to your regeneration.

So, no excuses, get going … oh, and pass the blue crayon, please.

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.


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