How to Manage Mental Health While in Law Enforcement
You carry the wellbeing of your community on your shoulders, so you deserve everyone’s respect. And you probably put on a brave face while performing your duties in law enforcement. Chances are, no one knows the challenges that often keep you up at night.
For law enforcement workers it’s vital to use resources, such as the police association, along with personal boundaries and good habits. It’s the only way you’ll maintain good physical and mental wellbeing. And that’s essential to continue doing the job you love.
Plan and Take Breaks
Even a job you enjoy fully can put you under emotional strain, so you must implement practical ways to avoid it consuming you. For work that entails trauma and difficult situations—often on a daily basis—this is even more important. At times you need a break from your regular schedule so the stressors won’t seem to take over your life.
For this reason, be diligent in taking breaks from your work throughout the year. Use all the leave you’re eligible to take, so you can give your body and mind a rest.
This is also time you can focus on other aspects of your life, such as family and hobbies. It all will help to cultivate a healthier state of mind.
Prioritise Selfcare and Other Interest
Building on your new priority of taking a break from your regular routine, plan well for upcoming holidays and weekends. Having lazy days at home will help towards feeling more rested and it’s a great start. However, truly feeling recharged comes from intentional selfcare.
Studies have shown that selfcare can help individuals deal with stress, lower anxiety levels and increase feelings of happiness. Selfcare will look different for each person, but common activities that help are:
- Pursuing hobbies and other activities you love, to relax and boost your mood
- Doing general exercises to improve physical health
- Sticking to a healthy sleep routine, to ensure proper rest, in order for the body to rejuvenate naturally
- Using healthy ingredients in your meal plan
- Spending time in nature
- Arranging activities with family and friends
Based on your personality type and personal preferences, identify selfcare routines that will help you recover from fatigue and stress.
Be Proactive About Building Resilience
Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that bad things may happen to you or you’ll observe horrible things, all as part of your work. To manage how this impacts your life, it’s possible to make yourself more resilient. Can you be more intentional about the following, or find courses to help you improve these skills?
- Being adaptable in various kinds of situations
- Seeing a challenge as a learning opportunity
- Skills in problem solving
A more resilient law enforcement worker is more likely to bounce back quickly after a setback, and have it affect them less.
Be Intentional About Dealing with Trauma
After traumatic events, many people—also those in law enforcement—have the capacity to push aside any thoughts or emotions related to the matter. However, you may live in denial about how much you’re actually affected by it. In the long term, if you don’t do something about it, it can be detrimental to your mental health.
Be cognisant of how you’re affected by these events. You may realise your general mood has changed or your reactions to situations are different than before. Acquire assistance if you realise it’s necessary. You may simply need to talk to an understanding colleague but if you aren’t coping you can also seek professional help.
In some scenarios you may even have to ask your superiors to limit your exposure to certain situations, until you’ve received the help you need.
Utilise Available Resources
From the above it’s clear that no law enforcement officer should feel they need to face their challenges alone. It’s key to identify your support structure and request their assistance when necessary, especially when you realise you have challenges related to mental health.
Talking to loved ones can be helpful to maintain general wellbeing throughout your career, as it serves to process certain stressful events. There are also official and professional role players that should form part of your support network. Have you identified a therapist or counsellor to help when you can’t cope? Local police entities like the Queensland Police Union may also have valuable resources for you to consider.
Aspects like inherent danger associated with law enforcement create stress for many of our country’s police officers. If you’re one of them, apart from thanking you for your sacrifices, we do want to encourage you to review your approach to managing your mental health.
The decision you make today, whether it’s acquiring a better support structure or talking to your superiors, can go a long way to maintaining your health and general wellbeing.