There are several signs that the job is affecting you, and as a police office, it must affect you. You cannot see the violence and trauma that you experience and not have it come out in other areas of your life. You will find yourself being potentially more reactive, angrier, more shut off, and you’ll also see more conflict in other areas of your life. You will also find that you will catastrophise many things and, unfortunately, this will impact your relationships. There is also the health detriments to you, which will mean you may well carry more weight, you will get less sleep, you will not eat well, and this will have an effect on your long-term mental and emotional health, and physical health.
What I want you guys to understand is that the job is going to have an effect on you, but you need to take control of it. There are many aspects that you can focus on and take control, so that you can get the results that you need in the job. The signs that things are affecting you is the first roadmap or red flag that comes up for you to recognise what’s happening. A very simple one is when you are driving in the traffic, if you become more and more frustrated at other people’s driving behaviour, then that is a very good sign that your bucket is full and that you are being affected by the job.
The violence and trauma you see will definitely have an accumulative effect as you move through your career, along with the institutional stress of working within a large government organisation and dealing with other people who are stressed themselves and going through tough times. Police end up in such a place of negativity, often because you are looking at every situation for the worst possible outcome, and that definitely has an effect on you.
When you look for the signs that your job is affecting you, the anger, the disconnection, more conflict at home, when you’re losing your temper with your children when you normally wouldn’t, these are all things that will affect you. The best way to find out whether you feel as though these things are occurring is ask the people closest to you. Ask your wife/husband, ask your children, ask your partner, ask your friends. Ask the people that are really close to you, who know you well, and have known you for a period of time, because they’ll be able to tell you if they see that you are different from who you were when you started your career.
Whenever I do my critical stress workshops, which I’ve delivered over 50 of them to more than 1,500 police, w I ask them to put their hand up if they feel as though they’re the same person that walked through the gates of the police academy of their department. Not one person puts their hand up, because the job does change us. Not all of it iss negative, much of it is positive, but I want you to be aware of the signs that the job is affecting you, and the only way you can do that is by being open to look at your life and the things that may be being triggered. Stress, anger, increased reaction, all of these things are things that show you the job is affecting you. These along with gambling, drug addiction, alcohol use, are all signs the job is affecting you.
It is up to you to get the help you need to handle the pressure and stress of your career. We are not built to withstand the violence and trauma you see, let alone to doing day in and day out for years.
Recognise the signs, and look after yourself, and you can live a long happy life in a career that you love.