Coping with the Holiday Blues

The countdown to the most celebrated holiday around our country is upon us.  While most of the country will be sitting down at tables to a huge feast or surrounded by family and friends, police officers will be working around the clock, keeping a watchful eye on our communities to help keep us safe.  And while sometimes the holidays are not so celebrated by some people for various reasons, law enforcement can also experience a downside as well and develop the holiday blues.

The pressures of society and working during family celebrations can be discouraging.  Crime and assaults also go up during the holidays, posing as traumatic reminders that can trigger memories and unwanted feelings which can also be a challenge for law enforcement.  Perhaps you experienced a death in the family of someone who can no longer be there to celebrate the holidays, or perhaps personal problems such as financial or relationship are eating away at your holiday spirits.

If you find the holiday blues creeping up on you, here are a few tips offered by Dr. Beverly Anderson of the Metropolitan Police Employee Assistance Program designed especially for law enforcement:

• If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, give yourself permission to grieve. It’s normal. Don’t expect yourself to put on a “happy face.”
• Find someone you trust to talk to about your feelings. Talking about your feelings has a
healing effect similar to that of taking a heavy load off your shoulders. It doesn’t make   you a weak person.
• Tell family and friends what you need. Don’t keep it to yourself and expect them to “read
your mind.” That just leads to resentment. Use “I” messages to express how you feel.
• Engage in strenuous physical exercise. It’s a proven stress reliever and it increases your body’s  immune system and metabolism. Don’t wait until you feel motivated to exercise. Take action and do the opposite of what you’re feeling.
• Be realistic about the holiday season. All the TV “hype” is not going to ward off feelings of
loneliness; nor is it going to solve all past problems.
• Establish a spending limit and stick to it! Look for ways to show people that you care without spending lots of money that you don’t have.
• Take time for yourself…even if it’s just to relax.
• Set limits and priorities. Make a “To Do” list to arrange your priorities.
• Volunteer to work for an officer who has young children at home if you have no one to spend  the holidays with. He or she will always remember that act of kindness.
• Don’t use alcohol or food to sooth your feelings of loneliness or sadness. They’re just
temporary fixes.
• Remember that “policing” is a unique profession that is meant for only the most resilient  of people. You have been chosen for law enforcement because you care about others. Celebrate your profession. Being exposed to trauma impacts you; but it doesn’t mean that you are diminished because of it.
• Be grateful for your health and for the good people in your life.

Taking notice of the emotional and mental well-being around this time of the year is important to ensure police safety, physically and psychologically.  Concerns regarding police privacy are also important should an officer decide to come forward and receive help for what may be underlying depression.  As a police officer, find that trusted person, counselor or assistance program that you can go to if you find the “blues” are more than just the “blues” and you suspect may be depression.  There is help for law enforcement and you do not have to feel alone during this time of year nor be overcome by the holiday blues.

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