Finding balance in the evolving world of community corrections
Self-help strategies to cope with high-pressure caseloads and changing technology
It is easy for an officer in the world of community corrections to find themselves engulfed in their caseload and become prey to the high pressure that comes with time management and deadlines. Some officers will eventually find themselves unhappy with their careers, despite working hard their whole lives in a department. My brothers and sisters, let me be the first to tell you, it’s OK: there is light at the end of this tunnel.
The job itself will always feel like a never-ending cycle of work. It is frustrating, I will admit it. There are times that we as officers can find ourselves engulfed with the job. It is not uncommon to feel a sense of loss, in both your personal life and in your ability to participate in the lives of those around you.
Our identities are highly influenced by our employment and by our agency. If you focus too hard on your career and your caseload needs, you could fall prey to issues such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and loneliness.
It is critical that you check on yourself as often as you can. You need to find some free time each day to stop and smell the roses. Yes, breaks are important, and breaks with friends/coworkers are even more important. Learn to take these 15 minutes to recharge the brain and laugh. I am constantly preaching that we as a profession must learn to help each other. What better help can you get than a helping hand from a coworker?
Dealing with a bad day
I have had many bad days, and I am sure I am not alone. I have learned to deal with them through the years. I am not a phycologist, but I am an officer that works in your line of work. I have found a few things that help.
- Take a long way home and turn up the volume on your favorite song. The happiness from singing along to music makes me forget about the day that just happened. I have found this so useful in the past few months.
- Scream. I have at times, stopped in a parking lot, rolled up the windows and just released my frustration. It is equivalent to someone taking a massive weight off my shoulders. When the day just feels like it has been too much for me to handle, I have found this to be useful in the past 17 years.
- Put the badge away. I love the feeling that comes when I put my badge in a drawer; I feel like Batman taking off the costume. It is like my day has been restored, and I have a full reboot for the day. I started this small custom when I entered the world of administration, and it has proven to be very helpful to me these last 5 years.
Growth is unstoppable
Many probation officers with high-pressure caseloads find themselves working hard their whole careers trying to learn and master their craft. The world is constantly changing and evolving – technology will continue to advance with each passing year, and it is because of this evolution that we as a profession must constantly train.
That is the nature of our profession, there will always be some type of study being conducted in community corrections, and there will always be something new to learn. We just have to wait and see if the research and theory can improve the profession.
Our profession is a non-stop learning mechanism that will continue to evolve and grow with each passing year. The job will continue to be time-driven and difficult at times. You will encounter new documentation methods and new areas of concentration, with each new study that arises. You may master one thing after another, but one thing is for certain, you will have to learn something new again soon. We all must accept this because this is the way our profession works.
Will you ever find peace and happiness in your profession? The answer is yes. My peace came 5 years into my career. I bumped into an ex-client of mine, in a department store. He introduced me to his wife, and he introduced me to his little girl. When he told his little girl, “this is the officer that changed my life,” I almost broke down and cried. An amazing feeling came over me; it was as if all of the bad days had a purpose. It was at that moment, that I knew my profession in life had meaning and importance.
I hope I truly continue to learn and enhance my craft, as my years in the world of community corrections grow. And although I may never fully master my craft because of the evolution of science and theory, I can one day say that I spent my career fighting demons, but I learned to spot the angels, and those are who I helped.
Stress management strategies
High levels of stress can adversely impact an officer’s professional performance and personal life