Monday, January 19, 2009

Finding Balance

The title of this blog says it all. It is a fact that in this job we deal with a lot of stress. We face people’s traumas and dramas on a daily basis. The last blog discussed stress from within and seemed to hit a couple nerves. How does one (meaning 9-1-1 dispatchers or really anyone in law enforcement) find balance and not get dark when faced with all that negativity?

When I work with new dispatchers and new officers, I lecture them (harsh word but apropos) on the need to find balance. In this job they will face and deal with a lot of dark moments and dark people. They will listen for hour upon hour of pain and anger and scared people calling for help. They will be witness to the worst of human (and that’s a generous term) behavior to other humans.

I call that “The Uglies”. To counter the effect, to find balance, I recommend new dispatchers and new officers find “The Pretties” to survive.

“The Pretties” can be joining and active within a community service organization. Or being a Scout Master. Or volunteering at a hospital or animal shelter. “The Pretties” are your efforts in giving back to your community. And it doesn’t even have to be the same community you work in. “The Pretties” are having the opportunity and ability to see and be part of something positive and good.

Yes, I know, we do a lot of good with our job. But it is still wrapped up within “The Uglies” of our work. By being part of “The Pretties” we find balance and can get a feeling of being whole.

Another important way to find balance in our job is to have a circle of friends and activities that are not work related. I guess this would be for just about any job. But in law enforcement, it is really important to be able to separate yourself from the “shop talk” and have to actually think and talk about other subjects that are not related to your job.

So many people I work with seem to have no life outside of their work. Their circles of friends are co-workers. Their extra curricular activities are being reserve officers or mounted patrol or attending all the functions the different divisions have. Or is a union steward and attends every meeting at every level of the union.

So, dear readers, if you are involved with law enforcement do yourself a big favor. Find an activity that has nothing to do with your job but is actually a positive activity or addition to your community. Create a circle of friends, even if only two or three, that have nothing to do with law enforcement so your conversations can be more entertaining and fun, like talking about politics or religion. Or you can be part of an activity that is not work related but fun, like bronco riding or windsurfing.

It is all a matter of finding balance between “The Uglies” of work and “The Pretties” of the world around us.


Christopher said...

I think it's hard to maintain friendships outside of police work because those friends simply don't understand. They want to go out on weekends... when we work. No one wants to hang on a Tuesday night. They don't get why we turn and look at the door every time someone walks into the restaurant or bar, or why we always want to sit facing the door. They don't understand the humor and the things we find funny, or why the things they find funny, we don't.

That said, you're absolutely right. It's still important to find balance. I'm just wondering how to actually do that.

Scott Pantall said...

Great advice! We definitely need ways to get away from our jobs.

One thing that works for me is having a hobby. Do something at least once a week that takes your complete concentration, so that you can't think about work.

Regardless of how you do it, finding a stress release is VERY important.

-Great blog!

tired.dispatcher said...

Christopher - It isn't easy to maintain friendships outside of work for the reasons you listed. But essential for our mental health we expose ourselves to other facets of life. Have found it worth the effort.

Scott - I too have a couple hobbies which have given me great enjoyment over the years. Even joining a club that is your favorite hobby related grouping can get you away from you job and all its insanity for a few.

The Dispatcher and Her Officer said...

Christopher is right.. I lost count how many times when we finally told new friends that keep saying were awesome and funny what we do for a living (which is pretty rare) the 'friends' disapear or are suddenly always busy! Officer's make normal people nervous! And our sense of humor is all messed up in there eyes.

As for the hobbies, I can hardly wait to get in the garage and build stuff! Nothing like the sound of my air compressor and table saw to drown out all the calls of the day!
The podcasts in my mp3 help also!