Dedicating time to focus on your health and wellness is important, but it can also be challenging for corrections officers to set time aside to keep a healthy mind and body. Our top wellness tip? Start small and stay consistent.
But we know you’ll need more as you continue to strive to ensure you’re always at your best – both on and off duty. Below, we’ve rounded up 23 wellness tips for you to concentrate on this year.
[Complete the “Get Access to Corrections1 Resources” box on this page to download a one-page sheet of the top tips in this article.]
Family and home
1. You spend long shifts away from your family. Instead of going to the gym to workout, go home and exercise with your family. Get creative in the activities you do together – like completing a yoga challenge or even playing a dancing video game.
2. Spend time in nature. On your next day off, take that hike you’ve been wanting to tackle with a friend, neighbor, spouse, family member or dog. Being outside not only boosts your mood and mental health, but it also reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
3. Practice daily meditation. Regular practice can help improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease, and can improve sleep quality. Bonus points if you include a spouse or significant other in your meditation practice.
4. Start journaling. This could be as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. Be specific and write them down at night. Or you could even journal in the morning to start the day off right.
5. Connect with your spouse, children or family members. Maybe this looks like a regularly scheduled date night where you don’t talk about work or the kids. Or perhaps grilling or cooking your favorite meal for your loved ones helps ease the stress from the day. After all, there’s nothing like a summer BBQ with good friends and family.
6. Talk about your day, your stresses and your feelings. Don’t bottle them up. Talking things out – whether that’s with a mental health professional, spouse, family member, friend or colleague – helps your body and mind release tension. This isn’t a sign of weakness. Rather, it’s a sign of strength to take charge of your well-being.
7. Listen to a friend. If you open up, it could encourage others to do the same. You may have similar problems and can help each other come up with ideas on how to tackle certain difficulties. This makes others feel more supported and less alone.
8. Check in on your strong friends. We all have that one person in our life who seems to have it all together and is ready at a moment’s notice to lend a listening ear. But is their emotional wellness being forgotten or overlooked? Ask your strongest friends, family members or colleagues how they’re doing and really listen to their answer. Don’t forget to check in on the people who support you. They likely need you just as much as you need them.
9. Ditch the texts and make a phone call. It’s easier to text someone you’re doing great than call them and let them hear your tone that indicates you’re not OK. Maybe after shift, you go home to an empty house. It’s quiet. You have a lot of time on your hands to think, analyze and pick apart your day. Pick up the phone and talk to someone. You don’t have to talk for hours. You don’t even have to talk about work. Touching base can help you feel more connected to others outside of law enforcement.
10. Create and maintain healthy boundaries. Do you have a difficult time saying “no” to things because you don’t want to let people down? We get it. But it’s vital for you to understand when too much is just simply too much. Setting boundaries and communicating this with others will save you added stress and allow you to spend your time the way you want to (especially off duty). It’s OK to say no – with no guilt attached.
Hobbies and interests
11. You probably find yourself missing a lot of important events like holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. And while some of those things are unavoidable with your schedule, pick one day each month to reconnect with your family or friends. Did you miss family movie night last Friday? Look at your schedule, pick out another movie night and make sure the next one happens with you there.
12. Pursue a hobby outside of law enforcement to give your mind and body a much-deserved breather. Some examples: hunting, fishing, bird watching, painting, knitting, singing, playing instruments or dancing. The options are endless.
13. Read a book. Reading for just six minutes a day can improve your sleep quality and reduce stress. Reading can even relax your body enough to lower your heart rate and ease muscle tension. Mental health professionals even use books – recognized as bibliotherapy – to help support someone with mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression or complicated grief.
14. Dance like nobody is watching. When you dance, you release endorphins into your body that reduce your stress and improve your mood. It’s also a great social activity and helps with emotional expression.
15. Learn a new language. This not only will help you communicate better with people in your community as a police officer, but it will literally make your brain stronger. When you learn a new language, you’re increasing the white matter of your brain. In turn, people who speak more than one language have better cognitive functions, leading to a greater ability to concentrate, multitask, manage conflict and recall events.
16. Plan and book a vacation. We know you’re busy, but we also know you probably have a lot of hoarded vacation time. Use it, especially if you’re feeling burned out. Traveling has been linked to stress reduction and you’re likely to experience a mood lift from the break in shift work.
17. Schedule a massage. A massage can help ease tension in your muscles, improve circulation in your body, reduce pain and even improve your sleep.
18. Try acupuncture. This is especially beneficial for officers since many deal with chronic stress. Acupuncture helps improve your mood, emotional regulation, blood pressure and heart rate.
19. Unplug from social media. Stop the doomscrolling – all it does is take a negative toll on your mind and emotions. In turn, this could lead to loss of sleep, appetite or motivation. You don’t need to disconnect completely but consider turning on the “downtime” setting on your smartphone. With “downtime” turned on, only the apps you’ve selected and phone calls will be available. They will turn back on according to the scheduled time you’ve chosen in your phone’s settings.
20. Take care of your body by eating nourishing foods. The food you consume directly affects your mood and ability to focus. Stick to a diet of nutrient-rich foods instead of processed foods.
21. Start a workout routine. You don’t have to work out 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Focus on working out smarter, not harder. Try doing two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts. You don’t need to do them consecutively; you can break them up throughout your day.
22. Get involved in Jiu-Jitsu. There’s an obvious physical health element of Jiu-Jitsu training, but there’s also a mental wellness aspect of this type of exercise. Don’t be surprised if you notice your mind becomes clearer and your stress levels lessen while training on the mat.
23. Try yoga. Law enforcement officers are prone to tight hip and lower back muscles. Aside from the flexibility benefits, yoga can also increase your ability to focus and problem solve, as well as aid in your situational awareness while on duty. Here are five reasons to change your mind about yoga and take it seriously.
Mental wellness resources for corrections officers
- 5 things to know about wellness rooms
- Benefits of therapy for first responder families
- Correctional officer mental health: A call for change
- Old habits die hard: First responder steps to building healthy habits
- 30 days to a new you: Take Corrections1’s better health challenge
Complete the “Get Access to Corrections1 Resources” box on this page to download a one-page sheet of the top tips in this article.