8 Mandates to the Law and Order of Life

 



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NOVEMBER 3, 2014
Morris County Police Academy


 

 
Tuesday
May202014

STRESS,SHIFT WORK, AND WELLNESS

I realized early in my career that maintaining some semblance of wellness was going to be a challenge. Hard research shows that police officers are far more likely to suffer numerous health complications than are members of the general workforce. Why? Well, there are two primary reasons that have been identified as being associated with most of the health issues that we as police officers face: shift work and stress.

Police stress comes from many aspects of police work. A majority of the police force is assigned to shift work, either rotating into and out of night shifts or working them permanently. So what's the problem with shift work?  In a word, sleep.  Everybody needs it, but not everybody gets it. Research shows that people need sleep in the same way in which they need food and water. Police officers are among those who get it the least. Changes in body rhythms from monthly shift rotation, for instance, can reduce productivity. The change from a day to a swing or graveyard shift not only requires biological change but also complicates our personal lives. Role conflicts between the job—enforcing the law, serving the public, and upholding ethical values—and personal responsibilities as spouse, parent, and friend act as stressors. Along with all of these, other stressors in our jobs can include threats to our health and safety, the responsibility of protecting the lives of others, constant exposure to people in distress, the need to control our emotions even when provoked, the presence of a weapon (even during off-duty hours) and the fragmented nature of our jobs; we often aren’t able to follow cases to conclusion or even to get feedback or follow-up information.

“Wellness” is an important issue for us as police officers because studies and research have shown that those in our profession are not very “well.” In fact, the evidence indicates we are less healthy, both emotionally and physically, than the general population. There are, however, things about our lifestyle that we can choose to control in order to be well. Here are a few tips that will help alleviate some of the stress associated with our jobs and address our need for wellness and a healthy life:

 

  • When working shift work, give yourself enough time to get adequate sleep between shifts.
  • Refrain from heavy foods and alcoholic beverages before going to sleep.
  • Decrease your caffeine intake and stay away from caffeine and other stimulants for several hours before you try to sleep.
  • Choose a quiet, dark, cool and comfortable place to sleep, particularly if sleeping during irregular hours.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Start and maintain an exercise routine to reduce stress, improve personal health and help you sleep.
  • If you find that you're having difficulty dealing with the stresses of the job or getting enough sleep, seek out professional medical help as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

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