HOLDING THE LINE- Improving outlook builds resilience
July 20, 2016 By Michelle Vincent
761 words – MR
Improving outlook builds resilience
I still feel amazed that they pay me to do this job, even after 14 years of policing. I truly love being a police officer. How many people get to experience the adrenalin and excitement we do, or know what really happened on a call others see only on the news?
That’s not to say there are not challenges. Calls that strike a chord deep within our being, for example, or being denied that promotion we had counted on and worked so many hours of overtime to earn. There are many reasons we can become disenchanted in both our professional and personal lives.
Police officers are exposed to horrible experiences that can strike a chord and make us vulnerable to PTSD.
This has been discussed, researched and continues to be a work in progress in most organizations now that they are mandated to find ways to minimize this potential “injury.” Yes, PTSD is now recognized as a form of “operational stress injury” because the trauma actually injures the brain.
This can affect the perceptual lens through which we experience life. From work to family life, our perceptual lens translates our experiences and how we perceive life. When we experience mental health issues, our perceptual lens becomes tainted. Add in the exhaustion of shift work, overtime and court between night shifts and that perceptual lens becomes even more foggier!
Experiences that normally may not affect us all of a sudden become monumental issues that we need to immediately fix. You hear a lot of hype about self-care, which really is essential and supports a healthy perceptual lens. Most of us have likely heard of essential self-care elements such as healthy eating and exercise, however working the perceptual lens muscle is also very important… and yes, it is a muscle!
By practicing some extra steps in our daily routines, not only can we work that perceptual clearing lens muscle, we help improve our outlook on our life journey. It takes some practice to work this perceptual lens muscle but you can start off very simply.
Consider this scenario. You walk in the door after an exhausting shift and long commute home and are greeted with a request from your spouse/partner to take your son to his swimming lessons. I consider myself to be literally “out of order” after finishing a shift – wiped and not very useful!
Your thought process would work something like this. Ask yourself what would be good about taking little Johnny to his swimming lesson? The first thing that might come to mind is having an hour of peace and quiet while he is in the lesson. You get to see him progress toward his goal of learning to swim and being safe in the water. You will have the opportunity to spend quality time with him. You may have a chance to meet other parents and will play an integral role in your son’s learning experience.
If even one of these aspects resonates, flesh it out. For example, if spending some alone time while your son takes his lesson resonates, think what you might do to make that extra special. Perhaps you could take along a book to read – that book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t had a chance because things have been so hectic.
You might pick up a coffee first, read outside where you can enjoy the sun or stay in the car for some peace and quiet. It takes a little practice and some imagination but if you put your mind to it, you will be surprised at how exciting it can be to complete tasks you once considered tedious, especially after a block of shifts!
We can use these same tools when dealing with challenging and/or tedius aspects of work. For example, the next time paperwork takes you off the road, look at the bright side. It’s a break from heading to the next call, offers an opportunity to focus and present your best case and maybe even a chance to grab a bite and use a clean bathroom without the threat of being interrupted by dispatch.
The same thinking can hold true for a challenging call. It’s an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people you’re dealing with, in whatever capacity that might be.
Implementing such practices help us to build resilience with coping mechanisms. Coupling them with a mental health regime may help protect us from further damage caused by OSI we may incur on a shiftly basis!
Print this page