Are You Over-Extended?

Many Law Enforcement Officer’s have commitments that we must meet in our daily lives. Work and family commitments are just starters. Add in some O.T., court appearances, private duty details or a second job. Then some of us factor in our extra community service commitments to our home- town or church, our kid’s sports program or school activities and some of us have been elected to public office. Some of us have a commitment to serve on our unions, F.O.P. or collective bargaining teams.

Once again, I have come to realize that some of us just over-commit. Our mind tells us that we can take on another task and then we become over-extended. Unfortunately, this activity interferes with… our relationships, our relaxation and rest. We start juggling commitments and rearranging our lives only to take on another commitment.

I am coming to the realization that as a police officer I cannot fit a 28 hour day into 24 hours. Emotionally, we become overwhelmed. Some of us do not know when to say, “NO”. Some of us want to continually offer to help, save, change or think of another idea. I call this non-stop problem solving which I place it onto our work performance expectations. Our society expects us to fix things, issues or problems day-in and day-out. We come home and we deal with fixing and resolving issues with our family. We get recruited to help out with projects that affect our home communities, our kid’s school or our church.
Some of our peers know how to say, “NO” while many of us struggle to say, “NO”. Many of us feel bad or guilty when we have to say, “NO”.

Time for our reality check: We are humans, not machines.
Here are some suggestions for law enforcement professionals to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed by setting up a system of priorities for your lives:
• You: Are you living a balanced and healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy diet, exercise, good sleep habits, emotional and spiritual wellness. Are you using your downtime for a hobby and to relax?
• Family: Are you present with your spouse, kids, grandkids or parents? Do you keep a family schedule to be present and give them your full attention?
• Work Obligations: What are the basic expectations of your law enforcement position? Are you facing more police work duties while trying to do 2 jobs in this era of budget reductions?

Starting with these priorities we may discover that our plate is full.
We come into this profession trying to make our society a safe place to live. Our society has changed and so have our policing activities. As I stated above, the budgets cuts are creating a work environment with less personnel and more mandated duties than in the past. It is creating more stress. For me personally it comes down to my desire to serve others which creates a struggle to say, “NO”. Emotionally for me, I want to give back to others the blessings that I have received. My subconscious says to me, “We can do this”. The reality is for me: “NO, I’m over-extended!” Then I struggle with this guilt or a feeling of shame that I’m not good enough.
The truth is that you and I are great, loving and gifted servants. This dilemma is another hazard that we face as a public safety professional and at some point we come to the realization that we cannot save the world.
We have to remember that we must focus on our priorities first:
1. You
2. Family
3. Work Obligations

When we do find the extra time for other service commitments, please set a realistic boundary for you. If it expands, advocate for you to say, “NO”.

Feel good and empowered about your decision.


Stay safe and be well!

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

We will help your agency create the kind of place that supports and protects officers so that they can do their jobs better, safer, longer and survive to tell their grand kids all about it.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond. We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and career. We call this Tactical Wellness planning.

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) works with individuals and organizations to help them create and sustain success in their lives and careers as law enforcement professionals. It is the primary goal of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute to become the preeminent source for training, resources and information about how to create and sustain a happy, healthy and successful life and career while providing superior law enforcement service to your community.

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About Mark St. Hilaire

Sergeant Mark St.Hilaire has 25+ years as a police officer and is currently serving as a Patrol Sergeant in a suburb of Metrowest Boston, Massachusetts. Mark is continually training as a police peer assistant, and serves as a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M. team. He is committed to educating public safety professionals about the benefits of good health,developing our relationships and emotional wellness to improve our quality of life on and off duty.
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  1. thank you for the reminder on how to be more wise on avoiding over-extending. it will really help me on dealing my relationship to other important role in my life.

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