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Stress and the Unintended Consequences of Our Job
By Bryan Avila, TDCJ Correctional Training Instructor - Sergeant of Correctional Officers
Published: 04/16/2012

Hanging on by a thread We put on our uniforms every day and go to work. The things that we deal with on a daily basis will make the normal person cringe. We raised our hand and volunteered to do this job. We volunteered to deal with the brutality that society has to offer every day. We volunteered….Our families did not.

Stress is an ever present factor in our daily lives. It is an evil that we try to learn how to deal with. I say try because we rarely succeed at it. We have gotten better at it over the years, but it is still a constant struggle for us.

It came as a shock to me, but as I was researching the divorce rates for Law Enforcement and Corrections, I found that the divorce rate for LEO’s was lower than the national average at 14.7% and for corrections is was higher than the national average at 21.3%. The national average is 16.35%. I honestly believed for the longest time that we were at the top of the list (Dancers and choreographers are at the top with 43.05%).

Even though it is great news that we are not at the top of the list, when it comes down to stress, there is no doubt that we have one of the most stressful jobs out there. How we deal with it, and more importantly how our families are affected by it, is what makes all the difference.

How do we normally deal with stress? Since we are supposedly built to show no emotion in the face of adversity, we bottle things up and refuse to talk about our feelings. We don’t need to talk about them, right? Isn’t talking for sissies? We just need to deal with whatever it is and move one. How wrong can we possibly be about this train of thought?

We must learn how to control, and deal, with the stress before it controls us and we loose all control of our lives. When we allow stress to control us, we face the following just to name a few:
  • Increased depression and/or suicidal ideations
  • Use and/or abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Increase in health problems, both physical and mental
  • Increased isolation
  • Increased burnout at work
  • Decreased familial interactions
  • Increase in extramarital activities
  • Decreased communication
  • Inability to get adequate sleep
  • Increased irritability/anger

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t like the way that it makes me feel when the stress starts building up. My back starts knotting up, shoulders start killing me, can’t sleep well and then I get mad at the drop of a hat. Not good at all. Who do we take it out on usually? Our family.

Now there are a few things that we can do in order to deal with the stress and reduce the negative effects of stress:
  • Develop or improve your community relationships. It has been shown that people that involve themselves in the community tend to live happier lifestyles.
  • Take time for yourself. You need to find time to yourself so that you can unwind after a long day at work. It is better to look like a nutcase in your car on the way home by carrying on an argument with yourself and let it all out than it is to have an argument with your loved ones at home. Don’t let the frustration out on them. You chose the job, they didn’t.
  • Get more sleep. If you are finding yourself getting up tired, try going to bed 30 minutes earlier and see if that makes a difference.
  • Get into a nightly routine. Whether it is reading a book, listening to music, taking a bath or taking part in your favorite hobby, this can be a great way to relieve stress and relax. You know what you like to do.
  • Get into a workout routine. 20-30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week not only increases your overall wellness, but it can also help in reducing stress.
  • Forego drinking alcohol when stressed/angry. It may solve your problem at that moment, but the problem will still be there when you are done drinking (and hopefully not made it worse)
  • Learn to communicate better with your family members. Bottling things up never work. It always comes out in the end. How it comes out is up to you though.

I’m sure that you can think of others, and if you may, please pass them on so that others can benefit from them. We need to always look out for each other. ALWAYS…

Editor's note: Corrections.com author Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He is currently a Correctional Training Instructor- Sergeant of Correctional Officers, at the TDCJ Region I Training Academy located in Huntsville, TX.

Other articles by Avila:



Comments:

  1. Angry Rachel on 06/20/2012:

    I think the work-out routine is excellent, because of getting rid of that negative energy that builds-up from the stress. Otherwise, it could get ugly down the line with another person and lead to really bad consequences. If only we could just sweat the small stuff and not let irritating remarks others make to us cause a blow-up or be just plain volatile everyday. This would be perfect advice for a health blog somewhere. In this economy and stressful times, we all need to find a way to behave a like a calm human even when we aren't treated like one at work and sometimes at home.


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