Policing is stressful. I know that I am preaching to the choir, but at least I know the chorus is listening. We live and breathe the hyper-vigilance roller-coaster. We all experience it in our own ways, and all of us react to the dumps differently. It affects our minds and bodies. The adverse effects can lead us down an unfortunate dark path. Failed relationship after failed relationship. Anger, frustration, rage, depression, anxiety, loss of sleep, lack of energy and motivation. Some will eat themselves to death, some will drink themselves to death, and some will unfortunately place the barrel of a gun in their mouth. We know the symptoms. None of us want to end up that way, so take charge. We are cops. That is what we do.
Eating Right – Everyone’s bodies require a different kind of healthy eating. I am not going to advocate what YOU should be eating. Stay away from the middle of the grocery store and stick to the outer isles: fresh produce, meats, eggs, good fats, and plenty of water. Invest in yourself and your health. Buy a pressure cooker with a timer, and plan out meals. Think ahead. Is it harder to do this? Ya, but it is easier than dying. Do some research on your own and find out what works for you. Talk to a dietitian. Experiment until you find what works. You will feel better. The battle of the mind comes from within, and it starts with the food we put into our bodies. So give yourself a fighting chance and fuel correctly.
Exercise – For some of us, Exercise is a four-letter word. We already work long and unpredictable hours. I know how hard it is to stay the course and get to the gym. Make the time now or lose the time later. It is detrimental to your chosen career to be in shape, and it keeps your mind right. Focused physical activity is as essential for our mental health as anything. We need to be active. We should constantly be moving. So make up for the time spent on your duff in the vehicle or behind a desk. Go pick up heavy things and put them down. Run, swim, or better yet, hike. Throw on a rucksack and combine them all. Push yourself. It will pay off in healthy mental dividends.
Get Outside and Play – I mentioned hiking and rucking earlier. It’s a great way to burn a lot of pent-up energy, and it’s a great endurance and strength exercise. The best part is it takes place outside in the sunshine or under the moonlight. Time spent outdoors really benefits our mental health state. Time spent outdoors allows us to hit the reset button. It gives us peace and stability. Rucking not your thing? Fine, go fishing. I fly fish on the regular. It allows me to do a very focused activity that keeps my brain engaged and my hands constantly moving. That is what works for me. Find what works for you! A few moments of standing in the sun can bring about a lot of change in someone’s mental spirit. Go outside and play. Sit on the ground. Throw some rocks in a pond. Climb a tree. I don’t give a shit. Be a kid. PLAY!
Make Non-Cop Friends – If there were ever a caption for the “Hard Pills to Swallow” meme, it would be that cops need to make non-law enforcement friends. I would even extend that out to fire and medics as well. I am not saying we get rid of our buddies and pals, but I am telling you, you need balance. What do cops do best? Bitch about being cops. Misery loves company, so when you say, “I am going out with the boys,” and you find yourself smoking cigars, drinking whiskey, and bitching about the brass…you aren’t helping yourself. All you are doing is perpetuating the cycle of negativity. It is hard enough to turn off being a cop, but it becomes impossible when you are around nothing but cops. I love my brothers and sisters across the entire spectrum of first responders. However, you all can also be some of the most negative people. It would be best if you had a break from that. So if you find yourself in a circle of friends and the topic is nothing but negativity, how do you think that affects your mental health? Take charge of that. Tell them to shut up and change the subject. Otherwise, you will leap right in and go down that road of negativity that ends with an ulcer, a drinking problem, and your pension snatched up by a trauma nurse. You laughed because it’s funny; it is funny because it is true.
So stop making excuses. We all have to take control over ourselves and our lives before we lose control and end up in a world of hurt. I love you all, and I am tired of seeing good men and women throw away their lives because of a failure to self-regulate their mental health. Most people will go through their lives never experiencing any trauma. We signed up for a daily dose. So please take care of yourselves. Reach out, and ask for help. In the end, you need to expect to self-rescue. Start by following my suggestions, and end with speaking with mental health experts. Take care of yourselves, please.
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