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Stressful Job – Laugh More
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 07/09/2012

Laugh d There are various jobs out there that make the top of the “most stressful job” list but everyone of them share commonalities that makes you think that yours is the most stressful of them all. Attempting to identify the “most stressful” job comes down to personal opinions and perceptions as there is no scientific way to evaluate the difference of stress between an airline pilot and a police officer or a bomb disposal expert in the military. There is also the concept that there are the “least most stressful jobs” out there and again, the opinion is that of those who answer these questions on-line web polls that attempt to find out which job should be on the top of the list.

Since this article is focused on law enforcement and correctional professionals it would be beneficial to see what elements of the job makes it so stressful. First let me make this clear, this job as correctional officer is no less or no more stressful than being a fireman, police officer, or any other occupation that works in the public’s eye and subject to criticism and scrutiny. They all share ‘emergency” functions and expectations thus hard to compare since their work environments differs so much. However, for the sake of representing the correctional officer we shall review their traits and conditions.

Traditionally, blue collar jobs top the high-stress list. These polls conducted to glean the most stressful use factors like travel or mobility required; deadlines or uncontrolled timeframes to work under; public scrutiny or criticism; competitiveness or conflict or potential aggression or violence and of course whether or not your own life or someone else’s is at risk. Most of all, it takes into consideration the levels of training and liability involved in doing these tasks assigned or performed. Correctional officers would have to have one of the most thankless and difficult jobs on the planet Earth, always cleaning up the mess made by others e.g. the communities and criminal justice system that disposes their unwanted into the arms of correctional officers that need to deal or manage these convicted felons thus willing to do a job that is both unpopular but necessary. Regardless, this job is dangerous.

As it can be imagined, many medical experts say some jobs are more likely to make you more depressed than others. These include jobs in law enforcement such as prison work. One factor that compounds the stress is the salary paid for such a job. One would think these officers are compensated fairly for the job at hand but that’s not the case in many situations. Correctional officers are not that well paid and do the job for the most part for the benefits of the job and eventual retirement benefits. If that is the case, stress will likely be a main factor and the best way to deal with stress is to laugh it off.

First let me make this perfectly clear, stress is no joke, but it can be handled through effective stress management that allows you to improve your mind, your health and your attitude. First step is to accept the fact you have chosen a potentially dangerous occupation. That’s the reality check in this matter.

Second, you must be aware that stress can weaken your immune system and may likely be the reason for going to the doctor most of the time since it has a direct association with the job performed. Eating healthy, exercising and staying healthy is the key to lower medical problems.

Third, getting back to the reality check and look at the truth of where you are at all times getting some perspective on the conditions imposed or surrounded with inside these tough beats you walk every day of your work week and on every shift. Avoid getting frustrated easily and deal with these environmental “annoyances” at a minimized level rather than blowing it out of proportions by exaggeration or exploitation of the problem. Control your attitude. Realize the difference between this “annoyance” and a “life threatening situation” to deal with it effectively and keeping it in perspective for what it is.

Fourth step is to inject some form of humor into your situation and “laugh it off” to the point of a witty expression that is real but positive in nature identifying the best case “scenario” out of a “bad situation.” Don’t let the incident ruin your ability to see the positivity of the matter and deal with it accordingly with some sense of humor. Obviously there are limitations on this matter and should be used with discretion. If you are too stressed at the moment, wait awhile until you are relaxed a bit and then let the humor show. Remember the adrenalin rush has taken over and will control your mind for the moments after a serious incident.

Remember humor should not be a mockery of the event or events. There is a difference and you must be aware of those conditions that can bring humiliation into the matter if your timing or place is inappropriately done. In other words, don’t act like a clown if the matter doesn’t require the presence of a “jester” and although humor is still the best medicine around for dealing with stress, remember the basic rule is “time and place” so that you are not caught in that awkward moment when a “joke” can make that situation worse rather than better for you and those around you. Sometimes, all you can do is smile and stop the negativity from reaching your brain, thus combating those mood altering impacts or effects of stress. Be safe.

Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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  4. Fred Davis on 08/11/2012:

    I kind of like to look at prison as a microcosm of society. In a sense when socialism is involved, the womb is the tomb and prison is the epitome of the outer part of the system. In a culture the political scum rises to the top, but in a civilization the noble rule. One only has to spend some time in prison to see how the system really works. "Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine 1756-1809. No matter what kind of system a country has, one thing is for sure. The collective gets what it deserves. This is a law that cannot be refuted.

  5. Fred Davis on 07/12/2012:

    Life is too serious to take serious. Humor heals.

  6. Fred Davis on 07/12/2012:

    Stress can be "used" to make one sick or it can make one well if the responses are good without being emotionally based. The mind can make one well or make one sick. Others can project their anger through being "nice" (enabling the wrong) or "mean" (planting the seed of anger through causing another to react in a wrong way). It is healthy to realize that we should be in control of our own behavior. Remember that the original etymological term of "nice" is "ignorant-being a fool." Cowards create bullies and the coward is "more responsible" than the tyrant.

  7. jamestown0509 on 07/10/2012:

    Hi Carl. I enjoy reading your posts on Linked-in as well. It's difficult to be lighthearted in a jail environment as you are well aware. Stress for corrections officers is much different than that of police officers. I have told countless COs that if you want to be a cop, leave corrections and go do what makes you happy. A correction officer just can't leave the tier, dorm or floor by itself, go into a patrol car somewhere for coffee or soft drink to relax. Over the years I learned the hard way that stress was sometimes overwhelming not only from the inmates but staff and management as well. One of the things I did was to write down incidents that happened over the years in the jail that were humorous to myself and other officers. In fact, I have quite a few of them typed up on my PC that I hand out to friends. I also think that COs need to walk out the door at the end of the shift every day and FORGET you work there. Otherwise you take all that stress home to your wife, kids or girlfriend, etc. Getting involved in physical recreation, fishing, hunting, bowling, visiting friends, going for a boat ride with the family are all things that separate your job from your home life. Good article.

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