Devotional by Chaplain Susan Detweiler, BCCFBC
Stress in the workplace.
Did you know the American Institute of Stress opens its online article on stress with this paragraph?
Numerous studies show that job stress is by far the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. Increased levels of job stress as assessed by the perception of having little control but lots of demands have been demonstrated to be associated with increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, and other disorders. In New York, Los Angeles and other municipalities, the relationship between job stress and heart attacks is so well acknowledged, that any police officer who suffers a coronary event on or off the job is assumed to have a work-related injury and is compensated accordingly (including heart attack sustained while fishing on vacation or gambling in Las Vegas).
This is a very big topic of discussion in so many work places, but I think even more in the law enforcement community. Everything else being equal, police officers have a stressful job.
What is to be done? That’s the million-dollar question isn’t it? How do I lose the stress and move on to my regular life outside my job? I offer a few ideas that may just help. Choose at least one and work it for a month. See if it doesn’t help your stress level.
1. Read the Bible and pray. I know, I know, you have been told that over and over and since I am a chaplain that is the first thing I HAVE to say, right? No, I could say anything I want but I say it because it works. Don’t know where to start? Try the book of John. John is in the New Testament and I am not referring to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd John books toward Revelations. This is the book that is the 4th book in the New Testament. It is a love letter. Try it. a. Now for this praying stuff. For some it comes naturally for others it is hard. So just like going out to the range to practice your shooting skills, praying takes practice too. Isn’t it a requirement for you to go to the range and put in some time shooting? What do you gain? Muscle memory, skills, technique, and style, right? You get the same if you require yourself to practice praying. You don’t have to say anything fancy, God will know right off that you are not talking like you usually do. God wants to be your friend. Talk to Him as a friend. Share your joys and sorrows, worries, and plans. You may find that your days become easier and easier. Don’t pray for 15minutes, or 10 or 5. Try to start with 30 seconds. Then work your way up to 1 minute and DON’T forget to listen. That’s important too. You have many opportunities to speak with God every day. Take advantage of a few.
2. Relax. I am not a naturally relaxed person. I am busy, busy, busy almost all the time. I had to learn how to relax. This took work on my part. I had to learn how to stop, mentally go from my head to my feet making my muscles relax the sticking there for a short time. You might be amazed how much this will help. Try it following an exceptionally tough day. Repeat, then repeat it again. Practice, remember the muscle memory from the range? You have to develop this muscle too. Develop it to relax.
3. The key is to recognize stress when it comes on. When do you get the most stressed? (Answer this question to yourself now) On your way to work, during the shift, when that radio call goes out, when you head home and start to relax. Stress is a mean enemy. It sneaks up on us at the strangest times. Usually when we should be the most relaxed, that stress just climbs up our backs and jumps up and down on our head. This ruins relationships, makes others and uneasy, and causes more stress. So, find someone to talk to. Secrets are terrible things to keep and police officers have many to keep up with. Find someone you can speak with. One of the chaplains would be happy to counsel with you and everything is confidential. Your clergy person from your own church or temple. A counselor provided by the department. A good trusted friend.
I kept the list short and I hope you will find some help there. It is easy to read and agree with some words on a page but very hard to execute them. But what worth doing is easy? If it is worth doing it is worth the work to make it happen.