Oftentimes, as a police officer, the holidays may mean nothing more than a regular workday or overtime for you. However, over the course of the year you are subjected to increased levels of stress. Unfortunately, the holiday season may increase levels of stress ever further. Your stress comes not only from work but from both personal and work relationships. As everyone scrambles around trying to make the “perfect” holiday season, you may feel pressure to do so as well.

Some common work stressors are:

  • Cancelled holidays
  • Cancelled vacation
  • Mandatory overtime
  • Constant exposure to death, injury, assaults
  • Dealing with the public
  • Workplace dynamics
  • Co-worker relationships

Some common personal stressors are:

  • Missing family time
  • Dealing with relatives
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Financial issues
  • Divorce
  • Illness
  • Death in the family

You don’t have to let the holidays or any other time of the year get the best of you. Here are some useful tips to prevent holiday stress and depression.

  1. Talk – Yes, it’s that simple. Talk with those you trust. Start with a good friend or your spouse or partner, but involve them. You can’t carry the weight all by yourself.
  2. Accept your limitations – You are not invincible, you, just like every other human can and will make mistakes. You need to rest, recharge, and center yourself.
  3. Meditate – Even taking two minutes of quiet time can make a big difference in helping you to stop and take a step back. Other options include Yoga and deep breathing too!
  4. Work It Out – Hit the gym, pump some iron, run on the treadmill, hit the heavy bag, whatever but get out there and burn off some steam in a healthy way. If you don’t have the time, make time and take a brisk 20-minute walk. Even 5 minutes walking outside your cruiser could be beneficial.
  5. Sleep – Easier said than done, but sleep is restorative and promotes both physical and mental health. Ideally, you should try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
  6. Hydrate – That means cutting back on the high caffeine power drinks and weight gaining sodas. Water is an optimal choice and you can flavor it with sliced fruit, cucumbers, or even some non-caffeinated drink additives. Just read the labels!
  7. Moderation – The holidays are a time for celebration, but this often means overindulgence. As you should do all year, enjoy in moderation – that goes for drinking and eating especially. Don’t forget to set a budget to avoid overspending.
  8. Reduce the Toxicity – There are some family members in our lives who cause us grief, shame, anger, you name it. Reducing your exposure to these individuals is a healthy way to reduce stress. In some instances, setting limits on visits and interactions is much healthier than having to endure increased stress.
  9. The power of pets – Research has consistently shown that the mere act of petting an animal can reduce stress levels, blood pressure, and help a person’s mood.
  10. Talk to Someone – If you find yourself unable to talk with friends or family or simply want to seek out greater peace in your life, make an appointment with a trained therapist.

Nicholas Greco, M.S., BCETS, CATSM, FAAETS