Do you give more of yourself than you have to offer? Are you feeling rundown, neglected, or taken for granted? Well, you are not alone. Many officers report feeling this way at some point in their careers. Oftentimes, this give/take relationship feels more like “you give” and “they take,” resulting in hurt feelings and disappointment. The problem with constantly feeling unappreciated and taken for granted is that it can lead to burnout (Warner, 2012).
So why does this matter? It matters, because officers suffering from burnout are less productive, they are at greater risk for injury and illness, and often have more negative public encounters (PSF, 2008). These are telltale signs that your caregivers are stressed out and have no more to give. Burnout in essence, increases departmental and individual liability; it wears on the body and mind, and it can contribute to declining mental health.
Officer burnout must be dealt with proactively. Reactively addressing officer burnout not only exacerbates the issue, but can contribute to issues in the home (e.g., relationship issues, breakdowns in communication, resentment, self-medication with drugs and/or alcohol, and even violence) (Waters & Ussery, 2007). That being said, it is very important to remember that the two leading contributors to law enforcement suicide are relationship issues and substance abuse. It is easy to see how overextending one’s self each and every day can lead to burnout, but it doesn’t have to.
Do not allow others to control your happiness or your emotions. It is just a fact of life that others will take advantage of you and oftentimes, without even realizing it. You may be guilty of this as well and that is okay. It is just time to make sense of these things so you don’t constantly repeat them. Learn to identify what is contributing to your burnout (i.e., what are you complaining about all the time?). It is also important to realize that just because you are feeling unappreciated or taken for granted, does not mean that you are. This may just be your perception. However, your needs are not being met in some way, and in order to bring back the balance, this issue(s) have to be resolved.
How do we get back the balance? We regain balance by recognizing what causes our stress, how stress affects each of us personally, and how to reduce stress in our lives. By making a conscience effort to address our stressors everyday, we significantly decrease our chances for burnout.
Stress manifests itself in many ways. Be able to identify how it manifests itself in you and be able to recognize it early. Once you are able to actively recognize your stressors, make a game plan to begin reducing your stress. Make a plan that includes being able to escape, and one, which does not allow you to leave. For example: if you are getting ready to leave work, go for a run, go to the gym, or go home and regroup. If however, you are mandated to work overtime and are unable to leave, make a plan for reducing your stress right where you are. This could include deep breathing, positive self-talk, taking a few minutes to revive yourself, or even making a quick call to vent to someone.
We have to realize that we cannot always escape from our stress. Sometimes it follows us. However, we can feel empowered knowing that we are prepared to head it off before it has a chance to lead to imbalance and burnout.
Learn more about this article here:
National Police Suicide Foundation. (2008). Introduction: Understanding the problem
is key. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Warner, S. (2012). Feeling chronically unappreciated can lead to burnout. Retrieved
February 22, 2013, from: http://health-information.advanceweb.com/Features
Waters, J.A., & Ussery, W. (2007). Police stress: History, contributing factors,
symptoms, and interventions. Policing: An International Journal of Police
Strategies & Management, 30(2), 168-88.
Dr. Olivia Johnson holds a master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri, St. Louis and a doctorate in Organizational Leadership Management from the University of Phoenix – School of Advanced Studies. Perseverance in raising awareness to officer wellness resulted in her being named the Illinois State Representative for the National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation. This role led to her being invited to speak at the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s 2010 – Beyond Survival Toward Officer Wellness (BeSTOW) Symposium. Dr. Johnson is a veteran of the United States Air Force and a former police officer and collaborates with several journals regarding law enforcement issues. Her services are contracted out by Crisis Systems Management to train military personnel worldwide on Critical Incident Peer Support (CIPS).