6 ways to beat burnout in a police officer
Teaching yourself to recognize and manage burnout is imperative to the overall happiness and stability in your job and life — teaching others in law enforcement is key to the success of the profession
In our experience, the term “burnout” has a particularly negative connotation in the law enforcement profession. Yet in other professions — especially those where you become a professional caretaker of others — burnout is widely accepted as a reality.
As LEOs, you are also caretakers since you are protectors of justice, civil rights, and the public who depend on you. It is your responsibility to provide service to those who directly or indirectly call upon your help and assistance. You help and, as in any helping profession, are highly susceptible to burnout.
Your biggest risk of burnout is the near constant exposure to the “flight or fight response” inherent to the job (running code, engaging and managing the agitated, angry, and irrational, or any other of your responsibilities that can cause you to become hypervigilant). Add the very real tension of the politics and stresses inside the office and a dangerous mix is formed. The pressures and demands of your job can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing and quality of life and burnout will often follow.
What is Burnout (and How Does it Occur)?
Burnout leaves someone emotionally exhausted and, among workers who do “people work” reduces or completely eliminates enjoyment or any sense of accomplishment. Perversely, the pain of professional burnout usually bleeds into other aspects of living.
Being exposed to repetitive stress leads to changes in the brain chemistry and density that affect emotional and physical health. Most are familiar with the idea of PTSD and understand a LEO’s exposure to trauma can lead to it, but it is a myth that one big traumatic event is usually the precipitator of PTSD. In reality it is repetitive stressful events that cause burnout, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Repetitive stress in the workplace can be:
• A lack of control in your personal life because of the inability to choose desired shifts or work hours and missing family events, holidays, and social opportunities repeatedly.
With the return of our current veterans, more studies are being done on PTSD and medical researchers are finding severe burnout may be a precursor. Most people believe PTSD results from a single emotionally overwhelming trauma but, while this does happen, it is as likely or more likely that the exposure to repetitive stress leads to PTSD.
Science is learning PTSD is an actual injury in the amygdala and other structures of the brain caused by the release of stress hormones. Knowing this, it is imperative officers be trained on the signs and causes of burnout, how to recognize it, and how to implement self-care techniques in order to reduce its occurrence.
1.) Play harder than you work, making sure pleasurable events in your life are just as intense as the seriousness of your job. Create time for laughter, fun, and excitement.
Teaching yourself to recognize and manage burnout is imperative to the overall happiness and stability in your job and life. Teaching others in law enforcement is key to the best success of the profession.
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