Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by

Understanding and Developing Your Emotional & Spiritual Health

Brass_scales_with_flat_trays_balancedEDITORS NOTE: This is a guest posting from Rev. Keith A. Evans who is a Police Chaplain with the Casper Police Department.

Experiencing a great quality of life involves a balance between your physical, your emotional and your spiritual selves. The well-used analogy of a “‘three-legged stool” can be used as a visual image of what happens when one or two legs of your physical-emotional-spiritual selves are not in balance, or maybe not even present. Many people usually give their physical self the majority of attention and the emotional self receives a very small minority of attention. Leaving, more often than not, the spiritual self totally abandoned and without any intentional nurturing.

As this triad of total holistic health becomes more balanced, each leg’s strength or sphere of influence begins to overlap the others. The greater the overlap, the stronger the triad and a person’s resilience to crisis and… daily cumulative stress.

180px-Tabouret_pour_traire

For the remainder of this discussion, let’s assume your physical self is well established and is the strongest leg of the “three-legged stool” of holistic wellness.
Emotional Health is internally managed and directed. This area involves your ability to process and work through experiences and stress. Your emotional health also refers to your ability to recover (your level of resiliency) from draining and overwhelming experiences in order to be able to respond to stressful situations later in a more appropriate manner. Emotional health is your ability to handle emotional baggage that you pick up while doing your job and living life. When you don’t possess good emotional health, you are more apt to become trapped, helplessly, in dark emotional states. Developing good positive ways to cope is crucial.

EvansDiagramSpiritual Health is externally directed or influenced. This is your big picture perspective of life and how you connect to nature, the divine, crisis and even your own meaning and purpose. Spiritual health gives purpose to your human existence, while guiding and developing your character, morals, integrity and values of life. This area primarily involves with how you interact with an external value system. Your spiritual and religious values shape your decision-making (ethics) and how you base ‘right or wrong’ to be.

Do you act and look at yourself and your work from an external perspective? It is from this external vantage point of higher, absolute values (may be religious or not) which shape your decisions of life, relationships, work integrity, and even the value or sanctity of life itself. Your spiritual health informs and guides the reasons and considerations that go into your daily decisions. People who state that they have a ‘calling’ to do certain type of work have a spiritual perspective for what they do. In fact, they realize that even if they made much more money doing a different job, they wouldn’t be truly happy not doing what they were divinely “called” to do for humanity.

Both emotional and spiritual stressors can create deep scars which, when not appropriately addressed, may even kill (through addictions and suicide). Both law enforcement and healthcare workers have a substantially higher risk for addictions and suicide. How is your emotional self? Your spiritual self?

If emotional health were the only consideration, then most first responders and healthcare providers would probably leave the field. Developing good emotional health is not enough for the fast-paced, cumulative stressors. Your level of emotional health is how you react, manage and decide to cope (positively or negatively) to stress. You might be able to manage for a while, but eventually the stressors will overwhelm you. In order to not become chronically overwhelmed, you much nurture your spirituality. Spiritual health is what inspires you and informs you of why you do what you do for others. The oft ignored spiritual component is the missing link to truly living life to the fullest.

It is when first responders (law enforcement/fire/EMS) and healthcare providers go into their respected fields and develop a deep inner connection (spiritual) to their job and how it can dramatically influence and impacts society, that this spiritual awareness, energy, and inspiration keeps them healthy through a long career of helping others. But without good spiritual health, even you as a great first responder with strong emotional coping strategies might easily burn-out and even consider harming yourself, others and even suicide. It is the spiritual component that generally is the weakness area and serves as the tipping point in the three-legged stool analogy.

Just as physical health is of critical importance for you to do your job well, completing a healthy triad by developing and maintaining a good balance in your physical, emotional and spiritual health is of paramount importance. Don’t become a physical marvel who only possesses an empty, barren soul. Become physically, emotionally and spiritually balanced.

Rev. Keith A. Evans is the Chaplain for the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper Wyoming and is also a Police Chaplain for the Casper Police Department.

References: Kevin Gilmartin PhD, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, 2002; Rabbi Carey Freidman, Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement, 2005.

Photo Credits:
Balanced Scales by Toby Hudson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tabouret ancien (restauré) utilisé pour la traite des vaches.by nerijp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions, ask questions and suggest topics for us in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar that helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to build Tactical Resilience™ and survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE

The concept of “True Blue Valor™” is where one law enforcement officer has to muster the courage to confront a peer who is slipping both professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. It takes a system of organizational support and professional leadership to support and foster the concept of courage and intervention. We will train your trainers to deliver this program to your agency.
To learn more CLICK HERE

Our “Armor Your Agency™: How to Create a Healthy and Supportive Law Enforcement Agency” Program includes critical strategies that you will need to build a system of support and encouragement for a healthy and productive agency. To learn more CLICK HERE

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CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of CopsAlive.com. Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

CopsAlive.com was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence. Thank you for reading!

1 Comment

  • Dr. Edward Blackwelder
    March 15th, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    I am a board certified pastoral counselor and need information relative to counseling law enforcement officers that have been forced to take a life.

    I can discuss this in more detail if you wish to contact me.

    Thanks!

    Dr. Edward Blackwelder, Th.D., BCPC
    Liberty Chaplain Ministries
    518 South Center Avenue
    Piedmont, Alabama 36272
    256 282-8946
    256 447-0019 Fax

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