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Managing stress in public safety

The job of first responders can be rewarding, but it can also be difficult; learn how to combat stress on the job

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Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. And Today’s Tip is for all of my friends in public safety.

Your chosen profession can be amazingly rewarding. Simultaneously, it can also be amazingly stressful. We all deal with stress in different ways. When you encounter incidents that trigger your stress, what do you do?

I have some suggestions to combat stress. First, take a couple of deep breaths between calls. Stretch out your back and shoulders. Let go of that last call before you head to the next one. It doesn’t help to compound your stress.

Lean on your family and close friends. Don’t block them out. It’s important to share if you had a terrible day. Accept hugs and comfort. Don’t keep the misery bottled up inside. While you don’t need to give your spouse, partner or others the upsetting details of what you saw on your shift, talking does help relieve stress and it releases pressure.

Exercise regularly. Exercise reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

Eat right and avoid heavy meals while on-duty. Try taking a small ice chest with healthy snacks to work.

Here’s a big one: Drink plenty of water and avoid too much soda or other caffeinated drinks like coffee. And only drink alcohol in moderation. Caffeine and alcohol can both interfere with your sleep.

Speaking of sleep, please don’t skimp on it. We all handle stress and the rigors of the job better when we’re well rested.

Lastly, let some stressors go. If shiftwork means that your yard looks a little scruffy, pay a teenager to mow it for you. If coaching your daughter’s softball team is adding to your stress, skip a season and cheer from the bleachers. Take control of your stressors and pare them down. After all, your family is depending on you to have a long, healthy life well into retirement!

And that’s Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Gordon Graham signing off.

Gordon Graham has been actively involved in law enforcement since 1973. He spent nearly 10 years as a very active motorcycle officer while also attending Cal State Long Beach to achieve his teaching credential, USC to do his graduate work in Safety and Systems Management with an emphasis on Risk Management, and Western State University to obtain his law degree. In 1982 he was promoted to sergeant and also admitted to the California State Bar and immediately opened his law offices in Los Angeles.