The Top 5 Ways Officers Manage Stress after the Shift Is Over

Stress on the job is unavoidable for law enforcement personnel. With the potential for danger on every single call and unexpected issues that can arise just driving down the street, it is normal for stress levels to run high while on the job. In order to prevent burnout, it is essential to be able to fully decompress after a shift.

Easier said than done? Here are five ways that you can unwind and relieve stress healthfully after a long day — or night — on the job.

1. Hit the gym.

There is nothing like a good workout to vent the irritations and frustrations as well as high stress level of the day. Regularly running, lifting weights, attending exercise classes, or playing sports can help you to keep your mood on a more even keel all the time and contribute to better sleep, which can also help you to feel your best.

2. Avoid the bar.

Even if everyone is headed to the bar after a shift, either skip it entirely or opt for a nonalcoholic beverage. Drinking only makes you feel more tired and frustrated, and it contributes to the development of new problems (e.g., lowered immune system, which means higher chance of cold and flu; problems at home; lesser ability to function well on the job the next day; etc.). Instead, pick a different destination if you want to meet up with coworkers after a shift or start up a club softball or bowling league with other local departments.

3. Refocus your brain.

Checking out mentally and emotionally isn’t always the best way to manage stressors that happen at work, but there is something to be said for taking a step back and letting yourself think about something different for a while. Listen to your favorite music, tune into a podcast or book on tape, or binge watch your favorite show when you get home. Sometimes, it pays to just take a break.

4. Cook something healthy and delicious.

You have to eat, don’t you? Why not put a little effort into making yourself a nice meal even if you’re eating alone? Cooking can be therapeutic in itself, but so too is eating really good food — extra points if it’s flavorful as well as healthy and heavy on the vegetables. Create your own recipes, become an expert at making just one thing, or create a unique meal plan for yourself that maximizes the nutrients you need to look and feel your best.

5. Spend time with positive people.

The more time you spend with people who are enjoying their lives, the more likely it is that you will pick up on that way of life and begin to engage in some of the same practices. It has been said that your personality is an average of the five people you spend the most time with, and if the people you surround yourself with are relaxed, then you will likely feel more relaxed when you are with them.