Time to Look Within?
We are changing gears this month by focusing on ourselves. Last year I discussed the topic of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by evaluating the choices you make that may have an effect on your body and ability to successfully enjoy your retirement. All of us realize that we are in a high-stress career. Along the way, we find various methods to manage our stress — some are healthy, while others may be the cause of additional stress. Similar to our military and their tours of duty, we have a tour of duty that lasts about 30 years, all the while taking a toll on our emotional and physical well-being. Hence, “time to look within.” However, this time it pertains to your emotional portfolio rather than your financial portfolio.
During the early to middle portions of your tour is the perfect time to reflect on how you are managing your emotional portfolio. Nonetheless, if you have gone past the midpoint in your career, don’t think it’s time to throw in the towel. You still have plenty of reflection time. Be mindful that most of us would look at ourselves and quickly think, “I’m doing fine.” This is why in the financial world there are checks and balances. At the end of the fiscal year we look at the numbers and say it was a great year (or maybe not). However, the buck does not stop there; we turn our books over to the auditors and have an independent review to determine where there were possible mistakes or to identify areas where improvements could be made.
Now, you have the opportunity to turn the books over and conduct your own audit. Begin with your family and then move on to your close friends. This should provide you with a clear picture as to the status of your emotional portfolio. Remind your family and friends to be bold and honest in their evaluations of you. You may learn that you have made both wise and poor decisions in your personal investment choices. Fortunately for you, your family and friends are a whole lot more forgiving and supportive than the investment world and are willing to help you along in the process toward reconciling your books and achieving your goals.
The audit process is a perfect start toward making positive changes in your emotional account — especially if your family and friends feel that you are not taking positive strides toward managing your stress, which, in turn, will increase theirs. Lately there have been numerous reports on “second hand” stress and the negative effects it has on our family and friends. Depending on how your personal portfolio is doing, there are remedies out there to improve your situation. Even if you are operating in the positive zone, it does not hurt to have an advisor provide you with some detailed guidelines to keep you on the right track.
Take some time to review your agency’s employee assistance program (EAP) or medical insurance coverage to get professional advice on diversifying your emotional portfolio. If not for yourself, then you have a resource to offer your partners should you realize they are in need. It is incumbent on all of us to not only back our fellow officers in times of danger, but also in times of emotional need.
Here is a short list of some reading material to help you gather more insight on this very important topic.
- Force Under Pressure: How Cops Live and Why They Die by Dr. Lawrence Blum
- Stoning the Keepers at the Gate: Society’s Relationship With Law Enforcement by Dr. Lawrence Blum
- Visions of Courage: The Bobby Smith Story by Dr. Bobby Smith
- The Will to Survive by Dr. Bobby Smith
- Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin
I close with retired Lieutenant Marty Van Lierop’s words: “Remember two things. First, you can’t control the direction of the wind. But you can adjust your sails! And remember your goal. Live long enough and healthy enough to draw retirement benefits for at least the same number of years of service you put into the system!”
Be safe and have fun.