Familiar with training? Of course you are! It’s a regular part of the job, sometimes repeated ad nauseam, it seems. It started the moment you walked into the Academy, providing basic skills needed to become an effective deputy. On to Custody, more training. Out to Patrol, even more! And so it goes. Boring sometimes? Sure. Nevertheless, you knew it was absolutely necessary and critical, not only for your job, but perhaps even to preserve your life. However, I have found there is one kind of training we often neglect. Not shooting quals, weight training or perishable skills — I am talking about self-care.
Most people do not reach out to me until there is a serious need or a critical incident. When talking about the healing process or helping prepare for potentially challenging, stressful or traumatic events in the future, I have learned, unfortunately, that very little time has been spent on training or preparation for emotional well-being. In fact, most people are a little surprised when a chaplain even asks these questions.
I always discuss the importance of a well-balanced life. This includes regular training in spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical well-being. What is easy to overlook is that proper preparation for well-being can reduce the stress and negative impact of any situation. It has subtle but real benefits every day.
Have you armored yourself spiritually? Taken time, even just a few minutes, for prayer or meditation? Or how about practicing mindfulness — for example, focusing simply on your breathing now and then, on being in the “now” rather than regretting the past or fearing the future?
How about emotionally? If you have a chance, I would recommend that you dip into Kevin Gilmartin’s book, Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. It is short, sweet, easy to read and to the point — full of helpful tips for increasing happiness and peace of mind. Psychological self-care is crucial. Cultivate a life outside of law enforcement. Plan activities with family and friends. Take the “long view” of life. Stressing out over small things will only make these years seem much longer — or shorten your career.
Finally, physical well-being speaks for itself. Nothing gives you a boost, more energy or a fresh outlook like a good release of well-earned endorphins! Eat well, exercise and get a decent amount of sleep. All benefit both body and mind. As Dan Fish wrote for Lexipol, “Self-care is … a conscious process of considering our needs and seeking out activities and habits that replenish our energy — so that we can do our jobs better. This last part is often difficult to understand. Our Type A personalities often lead us to believe that we do our best when we commit all our resources to something, working ourselves harder and harder. But that’s simply not true.”
We have all heard the old adage, “You don’t rise to the occasion, you fall back to your level of training.” That applies not only to your skills, but to your soul as well.
How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their units of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau (PSB) at (213) 738-3500.
Note: The Chaplain’s Notebook article in the September 2018 issue inadvertently omitted: “Credit to Meditation: 1 Samuel. The Word Among Us. January 17, 2018.”