Time to Look Within?
I am changing gears this month by not focusing on PORAC’s financials but on your personal well-being. Post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is a reality in our profession, and it’s important to evaluate the choices you make that may have an effect on your body and ability to successfully enjoy your retirement. All of us realize 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. This is similar to our military and their tours of duty, but our tours of duty can last about 30 years. I am not comparing our jobs to being in a battle zone, but the effects of PTSD are still ever-present in our field, all the while taking a toll on your emotional and physical well-being. Hence, you need to look within — but this time, not into your financial portfolio but your emotional 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 passed the midpoint in your career, don’t throw in the towel; you still have plenty of reflection time. Be mindful that most of us look at ourselves and quickly conclude, “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 mistakes or identify 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 to your close friends. This should provide you with a clear picture of the status of your emotional portfolio. Remind your family and friends to be bold and honest in their evaluations of you. You may learn you have made some wise and poor decisions on your personal investment choices. Fortunately for you, your family and friends are a lot more forgiving and supportive than the investment world, and are willing to help you reconcile your books and achieve your goals.
The audit process is a perfect start in making positive changes into your emotional account — especially if your family and friends feel you are not taking positive strides toward managing your stress, which in turn will increase theirs. There have been numerous reports on secondhand stress and its negative effects on our family and friends. Depending on how your personal portfolio is doing, there are ways 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 for getting professional advice in diversifying your emotional portfolio — if not for yourself, then as a resource to offer your partners should you realize they are in need. It is incumbent on all of us to back our fellow officers, not only down the valley of the shadow of death, but also in times of emotional need.
Here is a short list of reading material to help you gather more insight on this very important topic:
- Force Under Pressure: How Cops Live and Why They Die and Stoning the Keepers at the Gate: Society’s Relationship With Law Enforcement, by Dr. Lawrence Blum
- Visions of Courage and The Will to Survive, by Dr. Bobby Smith
- Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, by Dr. Kevin Gilmartin
I close with retired Lieutenant Marty VanLierop’s words, “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!”