Once upon a time a Department executive told me a story. This executive said, “Sergeants and lieutenants are like a can of beer. You reach into the fridge, grab a fresh one, pop it open and drink it up. You drink it until it gets warm or you have sucked nearly everything out of it. Once you’re done, you toss it and grab fresh one.” I share this with you as a reminder that there is always another beer in the fridge — or as it relates to you and me, a replacement in the wings.
By now, the shock and awe of the change in administration should have dissipated. We have members who have found themselves suddenly taking a career detour to “check the boxes.” Others have found themselves suddenly in play for or in positions at their rank or significantly beyond their immediate past rank, for which they may have had little or no preparation. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.
As with any sudden change, it can take time to process. I have heard from many members, both sergeants and lieutenants, who are struggling to stay motivated. Sergeants and lieutenants who used to take work home with them have stopped. Other members view their positions as dead ends or feel their careers are over. Some simply watch the clock and pass time. For others, they have found themselves recruited into positions for which they had no prior experience, training or preparation. All these things certainly can cause added stress and anxiety.
If you have found yourself struggling with any of these feelings, there is hope. If you want to start winning again, ask yourself: What’s Important Now? If you were someone who lived to work and suddenly find yourself working to live, it is time to reevaluate what’s important.
Many of us in the law enforcement profession tend to focus intently on our careers and often neglect the things that should matter most. How are your relationships with your spouse, family, children and friends? How is your health and diet? Are you exercising? Do you have a hobby? Is there something you loved doing before and have stopped doing because of work? Is there an opportunity for you to pursue something, such as education, traveling or sports, to which you just haven’t gotten around?
It is important you are aware of your coping mechanisms. Being mindful of how you cope with anxiety or stress can help you successfully navigate these situations. Common adaptive (good) coping mechanisms are seeking support, relaxation, problem-solving, humor and physical activity. Common maladaptive (bad) coping mechanisms are escaping, unhealthy self-soothing, numbing, compulsions and risk-taking and self-harm. Taking time off to relax or getting into a regular workout routine can greatly help you cope with anxiety or stress. On the other hand, stress eating, alcohol and isolation can further aggravate stress and anxiety.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Get control of your day before your day gets control of you. One of my professors once said, “What we often like to do least is probably what we need to do the most.” I wrote this article thinking of the well-being of the many men and women of PPOA. I am hopeful the Department will keep in mind its core values when making decisions involving personnel. In the meanwhile, before turning the page, ask yourself, “What’s important now?”