Identifying and Managing Your Stress Style
The first time I read about “stress style” I was baffled; I couldn’t believe stress had a style. I knew from personal experience I was affected by stress at various times in my life, but also on a daily basis. I became a police officer at the age of 25, and basically just fell into it. But like many of you, I was not prepared for the daily nonsense associated with our job, and the incredible amount of stress it causes.
Let’s talk about how stress shows up. It’s no secret that stress can kill you. We all know this from hearing it everywhere we go. But that often falls on deaf ears with cops because we are working in a job that — let’s face it — can get us killed. There’s this idea that stress is no big deal, and “I can handle this.” Right?
The 3 Types of Stress Styles. Which One Are YOU?
Stress style is basically identifying what causes you stress and how you handle it.
The first stress style is Mental. If worry and constantly having worrisome thoughts in your head, you are a person that needs to relax the mind. Choosing a way to relax is crucial in dealing with it.
The next stress style is Physical. If you are someone that feels stress in your body, meaning your shoulders feel tight, you get a headache or just feel tense all over, you need something that is going to break it up for you physically.
The third stress style is a combination of the first two. You may be someone who is both a mind and body stress person. In that case, you will need to do something that demands mental rigor.
Regardless which stress style you claim, it’s important to find ways to relieve this stress, before it manifests in our bodies.
How do you relax and make this stress manageable? If you experience stress as invasion of worrisome thoughts, then you can either meditate, read, watch movies or television, knit or sew, get active with your hands, do crossword puzzles or vigorous exercise.*
If you are feeling stress in your body, physical exercise like aerobics, swimming, biking, walking, rowing, or yoga can help! Also, soaking in a hot bathtub can relieve the tension in your body.
The last stress style which is a combination of both mind and body. You can find relief in competitive sports, meditation and either of the ways that I mentioned above.
How do you determine if your stress is being caused by work or your life? One way to figure out what is causing it is watching how you feel either at home or at work. Most of the time, it can be a combination of both. Let’s face it, our jobs are highly stressful, requiring split-second thinking, often times in life or death scenarios.
You can be sitting in your car, laughing, joking or even having your meal, and within seconds, things change. That constant up and down of our blood pressure and adrenaline pumping through our bodies does some damage. Maybe not right away, but trust me, it’s doing something to your mind, body and soul.
How do we start taking better care of ourselves? It takes a daily practice of incorporating something that can naturally make you feel better. How do you choose that? Only, you know what will make you feel better. Only, you know what works. Here are some suggestions to taking steps to feeling better:
Daily meditation. Whether it’s a one-minute meditation or a 20-minute session. Choosing to quiet the mind and center yourself in stillness, will not only lower your blood pressure, but can help you reset and refocus.
A daily self-love practice. I know, I know. It sounds funny but it all starts with you. You are your best cheerleader and caretaker. You have to devote at least five minutes a day to yourself. Start out with scheduling five minutes a day and making it a daily practice. In a month’s time, it will become second nature to you and you won’t even think twice about it. And you will feel so much better knowing that you are taking better care of yourself.
Stop and breathe. As simple as this sounds, we don’t do enough of this, especially when we are stressed out. Taking three deep breaths can release tension in your body, and can help you think clearly and reset. Try it now. Take a deep breath in through your nose, feel it in your stomach and then blow it out. Try these three times and you will feel a sudden feeling of energy.
The negative results of stress can affect you over time. Some of the short-term effects are poor memory, unable to concentrate, poor self-control, low self-esteem. You may become more irritable, experience mood swings and have trouble sleeping. The long-term effects are more serious. Some of the long-term effects can be bouts of depression, coronary disease, ulcers, migraines, strokes, overweight/underweight, overreaction to work pressure or drug abuse.*
Identifying the source of stress and dealing with it early on, can make a world of a difference in our lives. We don’t want to be a statistic after retirement. Studies show most police officers don’t live long after retirement. It’s more than the physicality of it, it’s also what stress did to the inside of our bodies. Let’s work on taking better care of ourselves and identifying our source of stress and tackling it early.
*Anspaugh, D., Hamrick, M., & Rosato, F. (2011). Wellness Concepts & Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2011.
Toni G. has been in law enforcement for over 22 years. She started her career as a patrol officer and after a few years became a juvenile detective. In the detective bureau, she investigated cases involving homicides, child and sex abuse and other criminal cases. Toni will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in health and wellness in May 2019 from Ashford University.
Toni’s specialty has always been to teach and provide tips to make things easier for others but also so they learn the best way possible. She loves connecting with her community and keeping herself involved in helping them. Toni was born and raised in the town that she is currently working as a police sergeant. When Toni was asked what fuels her, she said that she wants to help as many first responders as possible with living a healthier life and managing their stress level. Stress leads to many things including, illness. She wants to make stress management an easy thing to identify and to manage with mindful tips. Toni wants wellness for you, to be about a safe place to learn, grow, learn new things, take a break from a hard day, learn how to manage stress on a daily basis while adding ways to take better care of yourself.