Helping Law Enforcement Combat Stress

Law and StressWhile the general public as a whole struggles with a variety of life stressors, law enforcement personnel often have more extreme stressors to combat. While local citizens might worry about their career, family, and finances on a regular basis, people who choose a career in law enforcement take on additional stressors. According to a 2014 study on police personnel and stress resilience training, these additional stressors may include psychological stressors connected with the mission, extended duty cycles, and exposure to horrific scenes of death and injury. (1)

If you are a police officer, military personnel, or another form of law enforcement with an overabundance of stress, this article is for you. To help you battle not only criminals, but also stress- Here are a few tips for helping combat stress.

  1. Recognize. As with most things you must work to overcome, recognizing the problem is the first step. Take the time to assess your personal stress levels regularly. By keeping a close watch you can begin to sense trigger stressors before they build and get out of hand.
  2. Lead a healthy lifestyle. Though the hours of those who have careers in law enforcement can be demanding, it’s important to prioritize good health in your life. Do your best to maintain a regular sleeping schedule, eat healthy foods, and stay active.
  3. Take time away. Don’t be afraid to take a step away from the field whenever you need it. Small vacations away or extra time spent at home relaxing with loved ones can be just what the doctor ordered to help eliminate on-the-job stress.
  4. Prioritize. Law enforcement personnel have a rather important job, but never more important than your family or loved ones. Be sure to prioritize and bring things into perspective regularly to help ward off unneeded stress.
  5. Invest in a hobby. When you’re off the clock, choose to invest in a hobby. Weather its model cars, an instrument, or even sports by learning something new or engaging in an activity you enjoy you can naturally melt away stress and reenergize your body for another day on the job.
  6. Seek help. If you find yourself carrying a heavy weight of stress on your shoulders wherever you go, take the step toward seeking professional help. Confiding in a professional can help you receive the necessary help required to tackle your stress.

While everyone struggles with stress at one point in their life or another, people in law enforcement often have additional stressors. Combat unwanted stress on the job by learning to recognize stress in your life, leading a healthy lifestyle, taking time away, prioritizing, investing in a hobby, and of course- seeking help when you need it most. By doing so you can not only battle criminals but also stress.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation

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Sources:

  1. Police Department Personnel Stress Resilience Training: An Institutional Case Study, Potential law enforcement stressors, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24808985

Sports and Mental Health: What’s the Connection?

Sports and mental healthTeam sports have long been a popular activity for people of all ages. While some people play just for fun, there are many others who play at an extremely competitive level. No matter your reason, however, there are benefits and dangers of playing sports.

Benefits

  1. Mental. Any type of physical activity can be beneficial to a person’s mental health, from walking to aerobics to sports. For people at risk of mental illness, exercise can be preventative; in those who already suffer from mental illness, activity can be used as a form of treatment. Exercise has been proven to lessen depression and decrease the number of psychotic episodes in other illnesses – and this is true for males and females of all ages. The more physical activity, the greater the improvement in mental health will be, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) (1).
  2. Emotional. One of the biggest areas of emotional well-being is self-esteem. Belonging to a team, having people depend on you, and knowing that you are needed can all help a person have a positive view of themselves (2).
  3. Social. Someone who struggles socially can greatly benefit from team sports. A team usually consists of a people of a common age and interest, so you already have something in common with everyone. What a great start to form new friendships.
  4. Familial. So many mental health issues are worsened or even partly caused by a person’s home situation; this is especially true in children with mental disorders. Playing team sports can give a family a chance to spend time together and give a parent the chance to encourage the child.
  5. Physical. Playing sports has many physical benefits. Being in good shape does not just aid in sports performance but also in the performance of your body’s systems. Physical activity is good for the heart, the respiratory system, and the circulatory system among others. The healthier your body is, the healthier your mind will be.

Dangers

  1. Mental. If the athlete has obsessive tendencies or an addictive personality, sports and exercise can actually become detrimental to their mental health. Being so reliant upon physical activity for mental well-being, it could cause problems if you were to become injured or unable to continue for other reasons. Make sure that there are other treatment options in place.
  2. Emotional. There are times that a person playing sports can have a lowered self-esteem due to poor performance or inability to contribute to the team. Choose a sport in which you know you can be successful.
  3. Physical. Competitive teams really emphasize training, and with good reason. However, it is possible to injure yourself if the body is over-exerted. To avoid this, pay attention to your body’s signals of needing a break.

As long as you are aware of the dangers and do everything you can to avoid them, most psychologists will greatly encourage team sports to enhance your mental health.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

 

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Sources:

  1. Exercise Helps Keep Your Psyche Fit, Exercise and mental health, 2004, http://www.apa.org/research/action/fit.aspx
  2. Benefits of Sports, Emotional benefits, 2015, http://www.muhealth.org/services/pediatrics/conditions/adolescent-medicine/benefits-of-sports/
  3. The Benefits of Playing Sports Aren’t Just Physical! Social benefits, 2012, http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/blog/post/the-benefits-of-playing-sports-arent-just-physical!.aspx
  4. Exercise and Mental Health, Dangers, 1990, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2192422

Why Men Don’t Want Help

Even though they may not like to admit it, men suffer from mental illness almost as much as women. However, the general characteristics of a man often leads to his handling mental illness in a way that is detrimental to his health.

Men and mental illness

man and depressionThe most common mental illness in men is depression. While this is often caused by post-traumatic stress disorder after serving time in the armed forces, many men suffer from depression for genetic, psychological, and stress related reasons (1). In fact, studies showed that over 6 million men in America suffer from depression. Their reaction to depression is usually substance or alcohol abuse, anger (sometimes abusive), and even suicide (2).

Men and Suicide

Only about half as many men suffer from depression as women do, and yet the suicide rate for men is four times that of women. How can this be true? There are a few reasons to consider (3).

  1. Men have a higher attempt to suicide ratio, meaning that they are more likely to succeed in killing themselves than women.
  2. Females are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, but men are more likely to follow through on theirs.
  3. Men most often use firearms when attempting suicide while women usually try to take something orally – it is much easier to save women in an attempt like this.

Men and Seeking Treatment

When it comes to mental illness, men are much less likely to get help for the following reasons (among others):

  1. Pride. It is very hard for most men to admit that something is wrong. They like to pretend that they have everything under control and don’t need help from anyone. Sometimes their pride causes them to overlook the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist or that it is just a coincidence. Other times, men are aware that something is wrong with them but their pride convinces them that they can hand it on their own (1).
  2. Responsibility. The majority of men have innate desire to provide and care for a family. If they are unable to do so because of a mental impairment, it can lead to a feeling of worthlessness and therefore worsen the condition. Because they feel this overwhelming responsibility, they tend to ignore the problem or even immerse themselves in more work.
  3. Selfishness. A man plays many roles in life, but he most likely still enjoys hobbies like working out, fishing, building cars, playing games, etc. If he is spending time and money on getting treated for a mental condition, he may have to give up certain things that he enjoys in life. This selfishness can negatively affect not only the man himself, but also his family and friends.

If a man is honest with himself, he knows whether or not there is something wrong with him. If he is able to get over his pride and selfishness and get help, he can use his overall competitive and determined nature to succeed in overcoming the effects of mental illness.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

 

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Sources:

  1. Men and Mental Illness, Mental disorders common in men, 2015, https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4565
  2. Men: A Different Depression, Depression in men, 2015, http://www.apa.org/research/action/men.aspx

Suicide: Facts at a Glance, Men and suicide, 2012, http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_DataSheet-a.pdf

Inmates + Pet Therapy = Healthy Relationships

pets; relationship therapyFamilies all around the world embrace animals such as cats, dogs, fish, and gerbils- just to name a few. They welcome these small or large critters into their home because they make them happy and offer companionship. They teach children responsibility and friendship. But did you know pets can also do the same for inmates?

According to a 2015 study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “When pet therapy is used in prisons a symbolic relationship develops between pets and prison inmates.” (1) Through pet therapy, inmates at a correctional institution were able to develop good relationships and promote healthy development and cultivate reciprocal empathy. Pets offer people so much more than something soft and cuddly to play with. Here’s a look at what your pet is teaching you about healthy relationships without you even realizing it.

  1. Be yourself. No matter what species your pet stems from, one things for sure- it’s teaching you to be yourself. There is no need to put on a show for guests. 100 percent of the time, your pet acts exactly like himself, no matter who’s watching. You should be too! Embrace the person you are and be yourself in all your relationships.
  2. Forgive mistakes. No one forgives mistakes like pets do. They truly forgive and forget. While forgetting may be something of its own challenge, certainly focus on forgiving. Learning to forgive in the same way your pet does can help you overcome obstacles that take place in relationships.
  3. Embrace silence. Silence is not always a negative thing. Your pet understands this! Embrace silence in your life and in each of your relationships. Often times silence allows us to breathe, rest, and regroup for whatever is next.
  4. Show love. Like a dog who greets his owner with a sloppy, wet kiss so too should you show your love in relationships. Take the time to regularly demonstrate your affection for family and friends. In return, they are likely to do the same back.
  5. Be active. Most pets tend to be active in life and we should strive to be too. Take it from your pet, and get active. Weather you choose to join a team sport, attend a gym regularly, or simply take a daily walk around the block, being active can help improve not only your relationships with others but also your relationship with yourself.
  6. Let loose. Your pet certainly doesn’t allow stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions to control their relationship with you. You shouldn’t either. Don’t be afraid to let loose every now and again like your pet and enjoy socializing with others.

Because good relationships promote growth and healthy development, (2) it’s time to take a cue from your pet. Like with inmates who benefit from pet therapy, so should families of pet owners. Embrace the relationship lessons your furry (or scaly) friend is teaching you and better connect with others.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

 

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Sources:

Pet Therapy in Correctional Institutions: A Perspective from Relational-Cultural Theory, Relationships develop, 2015, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26083555

Helping Children Cope with Tragedy

Cope with TragedyIt’s unfortunate today, how tragedy has become such a routine part of our lives. Whether on a small scale, such as the death of a loved one or on a national scale with the influx of terrorism, tragedy is hitting home far more frequently than ever before in our history. We would be gullible to believe these tragedies aren’t affecting our children too.

Helping children understand, cope, and live through tragedy can be challenging but it’s important they know they are not alone. Teaching them how to move forward in a positive manner is key to them living a successful adult life as a member of society. To better equip you, here’s how to help children cope with tragedy.

  • Recognize. The first step in helping a child cope with tragedy is being able to recognize the signs of disaster-related stress. According to FEMA, these signs could include difficulty communicating thoughts, difficulty sleeping, limited attention span, headaches/stomach problems, colds or flu-like symptoms, depression, fear, or overwhelming guilt. (1)
  • Communicate. While it may be difficult at first, it’s important to keep communication open between you and your child. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings about the tragedy including how it made them feel. And answer any questions they may have honestly. Maintaining a calm persona will help them feel at ease.
  • Listen. As your child shares their feelings about the incident with you it’s important that you listen intently. “It’s also key to listen closely to your child for misinformation, misconceptions, and underlying fears,” according to the Mayo Clinic. (2) Turning an ear to these details can better help you correct any misinterpretations and reassure them of any concerns of new fears they may have.
  • Limit. For coping with large, media-based tragedies, it may be best to limit your child’s time spent listening or watching media. This allows you to control exactly what your child sees and hears about the event.
  • Seek help. Parents should never be afraid to seek help for their child. By finding a professional to speak to you can better help your child cope with the tragedies happening around them. A professional will also be able to direct you and provide additional tips for assisting your child.

Tragedies happen almost on a daily basis it seems. No matter how small or large a tragedy may be, it’s important to take the time to help your child cope. They are likely fearful, sad, and unsure. By recognizing these stress signs, opening up communication and listening, limiting their media exposure, and seeking help you can offer your child the loving support they need.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation

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Sources:

  1. Coping With Disaster, Disaster-related stress signs, 2015, https://www.fema.gov/coping-disaster
  2. Helping Children Cope, Listen closely quote, 2012, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/helping-children-cope/art-20047029

 

 

 

 

Sweat Away the Stress

Stress ReductionMost people experience stress on a daily basis.  For some it is mild and easily controlled, but for others it can be serious and begin to affect their everyday lives.  There are many ways to manage stress, but exercise is one that can assist in stress management as well as provide many other health and mental benefits.

1. Increase Energy. Your daily routine can be physically and mentally draining.  You may think that you cannot possibly squeeze one more thing into your schedule; however, finding time to exercise on a regular basis has been shown to give you even more energy to achieve those everyday tasks.  It may seem strange that exercise, which can be exhausting, can actually replenish your energy levels.  Not only can your energy be restored, but your ability to concentrate can be increased as can your overall brain function (1).  In order to fully utilize this energy, working out in the morning is a great option.

runStress22. Encourage Stability. Having a consistent routine as well as a goal to be attained can shift the focus of a person’s mind.  Even if the stress factors in his life have not been removed, the stability offered by a proper exercise regimen can allow him to concentrate on something other than those stress factors.  If you are in need of some consistency in your everyday schedule, make exercise part of your daily routine, not just something that you do if you have time.  The best way to accomplish this is to join a specific class that meets at a specified time or to work out with a friend; if someone is relying on you to be there, you are less likely to make excuses.

3. Release Tension. Exercise is a science.  There are many chemicals that can be released and many nerves that can be stimulated through physical activity.  Endorphins are released during physical activity, and these chemicals offer a person relief from stress as well as a chance to get a better night’s sleep (2).  Many people who are trying to do exercise specifically for stress relief choose yoga since it also requires that you concentrate and control your breathing.

4. Balance Emotions. The body and the brain go hand in hand.  What affects one will naturally affect the other.  When your body is stronger, so is your mind.  One of the greatest benefits of exercise is that it allows all the systems of the body to work together.  This includes the brain function, which then allows the body to handle stress more efficiently (3).  One of the best exercises to accomplish this is running since it works the muscular, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.  Only a strong and focused mind will be able to balance all these functions properly.

Using exercise as a weapon against stress has been shown to be successful for many people (4).  Whether physical activity actually reduces stress or simply lessens the effects of it, there is no question that it is a great outlet for stressed people.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

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Sources:
1. Physical Activity Reduces Stress, Benefits of exercise on energy levels, 2015, http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
2. Exercise for Stress and Anxiety, Endorphins released during exercise, 2015, http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety
3. Exercise Fuels the Brain’s Stress Buffers, Body systems, 2015, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx
4. Exercise Fuels the Brain’s Stress Buffers, Body systems, 2015, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx

When Anger is a Positive

There are many misconceptions about the emotion of anger. One of those misconceptions is that anger is a negative thing and that being happy is its opposite. Another misconception is that, when people become angry, violence will most likely ensue. While these thoughts are sometimes true, they are also missing the other aspect of anger – the positive side.anger management

There is a way to display anger in a proper manner that is actually helpful rather than hurtful. While constructive anger has no exact definition since it varies from one situation to another, there are some common elements (1).

  • Constructive anger is controlled. Instead of immediately expressing anger when first instigated, take time to think about the situation and determine whether your anger is appropriate (2). Thinking about your response first will help you avoid destructive anger.
  • Constructive anger is justified. Do you actually have a reason to be as angry as you feel, or could you be overreacting to the situation? Did you do anything that could have contributed to the problem? Is the level of anger you feel proportional to the situation? Considering these questions will help you avoid regretting your anger later.
  • Constructive anger is shared (3). If you are expressing your anger and the object of your anger isn’t even present, you are wasting your breath and most likely just working yourself up. If you have a legitimate reason to be angry, it should be discussed face to face with the person. In addition, the other person should be given a chance to explain, share his perspective, and eventually apologize without being attacked further.

anger managementNot only can constructive anger help an immediate relationship or situation, it can have positive effects on the future as well. Studies have shown the repressed anger is more likely to result in violence than immediately expressed anger (3). The following are a few of the positive aspects of anger.

  • Resolves. Constructive anger results in a situation being resolved, which in turn strengthens the relationship rather than hurting it.
  • Motivates. Anger is an excellent motivator. If you feel wronged about something, it can motivate you to do something about it. This can work to your advantage in the workplace, politics, health and fitness, etc. (1)
  • Helps. Constructive anger can help you learn something about yourself and the other party that you may have never known before. It has been said that, in conflict, you will see a person’s true colors. This is true for others as well as yourself. In a relationship, learning these intimate details about each other can bring you even closer together (3).

Although anger can be difficult to control, especially for people who have long-term anger issues, anger can be used constructively to benefit you and your relationships rather than harm them.

Mark D. Parisi, Psy.D. & Associates, P.C. provides counseling, psychological testing, and psychotropic medication management in Mount Prospect and Chicago – serving surrounding Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties. They accept most insurance and offer extremely affordable sliding scale rates. Call (847) 909-9858 for a free, no-obligation telephone consultation.

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Sources:

  1. When Anger’s a Plus, Aspects of constructive anger, 2003, http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar03/whenanger.aspx
  2. Anger – How It Affects People, Characteristics of constructive anger, 2014, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Anger_how_it_affects_people
  3. The Upside of Anger, Benefits of constructive anger, 2015, http://www.spring.org.uk/2012/03/the-upside-of-anger-6-psychological-benefits-of-getting-mad.php