Anxiety is one of the most important mental health issues in policing. Our research into police injury on duty found that it was the most common reason officers and staff had taken a week or more off work in the past five years. Below Dr Jess Miller, who runs the Trauma Resilience in UK Policing project for the PDT with the University of Cambridge, shares her top tips for dealing with workplace anxiety.
Ground yourself: wake up to what’s going on
Sometimes we get caught up with racing thoughts and forget where we are. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and remind yourself where you are, the task that’s at hand and the greater purpose for what you are doing. Sometimes the passion and energy that pulls us to the service just needs to be given pride of place in our minds.
Listen to your body: it’s talking to you
We can lose touch with our body when our stress responses take over and before we know it, we have racing hearts, tense stomachs, shoulder pain and headaches. Don’t ignore these. They remind us that we need to check-in on how our bodies and allow ourselves a break, or chat with a friend.
Glance sideways to peers: we all feel it sometimes
A significant component of anxiety at work can be feeling that you are on your own. One of the strongest factors for resilience in the modern world is to acknowledge that none of us are completely unique. We all share good days and bad days, and self-doubt. It doesn’t take much; a bit of eye contact, an acknowledgement of a testing time, to feel more connected.
Self-soothe: it’s not selfishness, it’s independence & resilience
Being resilient means listening to what makes us feel better, but this can get lost when we’re stressed and anxious. Take 15 minutes to think about what makes you feel better, soothes your mind and helps you relax.
Decompress and de-drama
Dealing with anxiety in the workplace can be as simple as acknowledging to yourself that right now, when push comes to shove, you are most probably OK. It may not be the best time ever, but it most likely is not the worst either. Sometimes the brain needs a gentle nudge to say, ‘Come on, you’re ok’.
Advice on PTSD has been developed by the mental health charity MIND, which can be found here.
You should also consider contacting your GP who will be able to discuss the options available within your local NHS area.
Support is available from your in-force occupational health team – details will be on your intranet.
You can also contact the local branch of your staff association.
If you notice that behavioural changes are not subsiding or re-appear months after the incident, contact your GP for a clinical trauma assessment.
Mental health charity MIND have produced some leaflets and general advice which can be found here.
The new National initiative, Oscar Kilo, can be used to monitor your mental health wellbeing over time. More information can be found at https://www.oscarkilo.org.uk/.
Dr. Jessica Miller
Neuropsychologist specialising in police trauma and a research fellow at the Police Dependants’ Trust