Stress Management in Law Enforcement

What’s one word that can give you a headache just thinking about it? Stress.  It seems like everyone deals with stress in their own way from meditation to squeezing their trusty stress ball.  Stress is a natural part of life and having the tools to cope with it can make a world of difference.  Especially, if you’re in law enforcement like a police officer, where the job puts a person under constant stress.

Stress management is an important way to get a handle on your stress and guide it in a way that works for you.  Every police officer, District Attorney, or Judge has their own stressor.  Dealing with this problem head on or talking to a counselor can help a person make clear and concise decisions needed for our Criminal Justice System.

Eileen A. Piccininni is the counselor in Dominican College.  She is the Prevention and Education Coordinator.  She has extensive knowledge on stress and stress management, she provides individual counseling and has done “intervention for aviation and mass casualty disasters”.  She helped give important information and advice towards both stress and stress management.

Most of us that aren’t in any law enforcement position can only imagine what police officers are exposed to and for those that are can agree that the job like any comes with its pros and cons.  Having to make quick decisions that can affect many people can have an impact on someone’s life.  One big problem in police officer’s life is stress, and can be pushed aside or unacknowledged because of having to worry about the next thing like a new case, which just adds on to the previous stress.  Factors like sleep, diet, overtime, and routing shifts can bring out stress or add to existing stress.  Things like sleep and diet are essential because it gives the body proper nutrition and the ability to function.  Routing shifts and bringing home the job is big problem that can’t easily be resolved but with adjustment and practice these things can be addressed.  Also, if an experience is traumatic like many police officers are exposed to they can develop PTSD.  PTSD is a severe form of stress and should be treated with counseling because it is usually bigger than the person realizes.

Some stress can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Good stress is what helps motivates and drives someone to succeed.  Bad stress pushes back a person from progressing.  Stress management is a great tool to get yourself out of the stress funk.  Looking at the problem and then at what is causing the stress like procrastination, lack or sleep, relationships with people.  Deciding what is fixable and non fixable, what can and can’t a person can take out of their life and then implementing these changes.  Also, meditation and breathing techniques is a huge help with releasing stress.  Researching online “meditation exercises”, pages of tools will pop up.  If the stress is more serious like PTSD, it is advised if a person wait a month to distinguish if it is, because the stress will progress or diminish over the course of one month.  There are programs designed to help those suffering from PTSD like EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) which is a non traditional psychology treatment that is a snapping or tapping uses to treat people with PTSD.  It was used very often to help victims of those in tragic situations.

As a police officer, they are constantly meeting new people and engaging with people who are under stress.  Either for things like tickets or interrogation, stress comes in the tiniest and biggest forms and depending on circumstances, background, or experience there is no telling how a person will react.  It is important as a police officer to understand that people aren’t their true selves under stress and it can take a person over negatively.  Keeping a calm demeanor, talking in a firm but smooth manner because the situation can be escalated.  Understanding that little things can set someone off because stress can hide itself and reappear at any time.  These are important lessons for a police officer to use when interacting with someone who is stressed.