Monday, February 18th, 2013 by Mark St. Hilaire
Be Happy and Healthy in 2013
So, now it’s February, what are you waiting for?
Right after the New Year many of us as police officers and other law enforcement professionals take this time to self-access our fitness, our lives and our well being. Sometimes, however we procrastinate, so I want to give you a little kick start to get you going with positive commitments for this coming year.
Law enforcement career survival takes a plan and a concerted effort. Let’s discuss some ideas to help you put together your wellness plan for 2013.
Over the last year we have witnessed many good things and many tragedies. Some things are beyond our immediate control but you and I have the ability to take control of our own fitness, our own emotional and spiritual well being. This balance is the key to a productive and more positive lifestyle both on and off duty as a law enforcement professional.
As a Law Enforcement Officer and there are many of us with different titles and responsibilities who are tasked with maintaining public order, public safety and enforcing the laws and regulations of our jurisdictions. We also uphold the public’s rights and freedoms under the U.S. Constitution. We are the Honorable Profession, one that the public entrusts us to uphold our justice system and provide assistance to many in need every day.
As members of this honorable profession we need to be emotionally and physically fit.
We must uphold our professional behavior within difficult situations and with the challenging… individuals we encounter, many of whom are not criminals.
We need to continually train to develop and improve our communication skills. We must treat everyone (inside and outside of our agency) with courtesy, dignity and respect. The modern technology available today means there are cameras everywhere so our profession interpersonal communication skills and behavior is the key to avoid being the next social media video that goes viral.
We need to be physically fit to perform this demanding job. We must have the endurance and strength to keep going and work on our self-defense tactics while constantly training to be proficient with our weapons and equipment.
We need to eat right by avoiding fast foods which do not provide the proper nutrition and, we are learning, that may have links to depression. We will get the vitamins and nutrients we need by eating a well-balanced meal, that we pack in our on-duty cooler bag, that provides the optimal energy needed for police work.
We also need to keep a refillable water bottle with us every day. By constantly drinking water throughout the day, every day all year long, we will stay hydrated and effective throughout our long shifts.
We may want to reassess our sleep patterns as many LEOs find themselves tired and severely fatigued. As the 2011 Brigham and Women Hospital study has indicated that 40% of law enforcement officers in North America are suffering from sleep disorders.
This is a dangerous safety issue for all of us on and off duty. It affects our health, our job performance, and our relationships. We need to take this issue of officer fatigue seriously without succumbing to the habits of self-medicating to get to sleep.
We need to be aware and work to prevent the hazards of Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Burnout in Law Enforcement. This is the crucial part of our self-assessment as we try to identify any opportunities for improvement in our careers and our lives.
• Are you over committed at work or at home?
• Do you need to seek out your own additional training to improve your job performance or a hobby?
• Are you taking care of your own needs and stress management?
• Are you taking quiet time to regroup?
• Are you willing to prepare for another assignment or advance into a higher leadership position in your agency?
We need to be totally focused when we are working while being aware of our surroundings at all times. The reports are showing that LEO deaths are dropping but some of the recent deaths are disturbing especially the ambush shootings and vehicle collisions. We are so distracted today as a society but also in our roles as an law enforcement professional. If you want to survive your career then you need to identify what is important now: Staying alert and focused!
As you plan for your year in 2013, take a moment to schedule a physical exam with your primary care physician. Go visit your dentist, the eye doctor, a chiropractor or a podiatrist. This is preventative maintenance for your body.
Emotional health challenges and mental illness affect many LEOs due to the tragedy and trauma that we witness. Schedule a visit with a professional clinician who understands the law enforcement lifestyle. Ask a peer or your chaplain for a referral. Going to see a professional is strength not weakness.
Please enter this telephone number for Safe Call Now into your cell phone right now: 206-459-3020. Safe Call Now is a nationwide 24/ 7 public safety hotline to assist any member of the public safety professions in emotional distress. They provide assistance with substance abuse issues. It is a confidential call. Check them out at their website at: www.safecallnow.org
Many programs are available to police professionals to address the issues that we mentioned. It takes action by us individually to implement these positive lifestyle changes that are needed to succeed in our careers and off duty as well.
My best wishes to you and your family for a safe and healthy year.
REMEMBER: WE ARE THE HONORABLE PROFESSION!
Stay safe and be well!
Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 27 year veteran police officer who works in a Metrowest suburb on Boston, Massachusetts. He is volunteer police peer assistant to a regional CISM team. You can reach him by confidential email by CLICKING HERE
Follow Mark on Linked-In or Twitter: @NPD3306.
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