Choosing to Cope or to Thrive?

I was once again asked to write a 400 word piece for Star News, a publication for Law Enforcement Personnel. Here is my latest piece dealing with stress.

We work in a world of extremes. So much so that we are sometimes genuinely surprised, albeit rare, by a day when nothing happens. We need those days. The reality of this job however, is that it can be stressful. Very stressful. Not just for those in the field but for all. How you deal with that stress can determine your ability to cope as well as your longevity. It is interesting how many of us have said that our goal is to make it home. Very few of us have ever said we want to finish well. The first has a forward-looking vision of ten hours, the later looks to the life we will have beyond the career.

If you think about stress management in terms of coping (short term) and longevity (long term) certain important factors become apparent. If you are trying to “cope” you can deal with the temporary effects of stress in harmful ways. If you are looking to last, stress must be handled in productive ways. We must make every effort to deal with our stressors in a way that both helps us cope and builds strength, health and longevity.

Here’s what I mean. Look at the coping factors. Each of them might help you deal with the stresses in the immediate but will have a detrimental effect on the long term.

Short term, harmful, coping mechanisms may include: Overeating (or non-nutritional), alcohol, smoking, extreme activities, or other forms of binging.

These will help you cope, but they will not help you finish well. Consider dealing with stress in positive ways that do both; help you cope and help you last.

Long term, helpful, coping mechanisms may include: Healthy eating, exercise, prayer and meditation, a hobby, and music.

I know one individual that began attending religious services with his wife. He had always thought, “that’s her thing” but soon realized that the comfort, life truths and family unity that he found there did more to curtail his stress than any prior practice. Besides, he became a better person.

Why settle for something to get you through a day when you have the ability to chose something that will get you through life.

As I write, I think of a starving man, frustrated by the fact that he has been living at the side of a lake full of fish but has failed to catch a single one. He is nearly dead from starvation. Meanwhile, a man approaches offering him either a fish, or a fishing pole. With the desperation that only a starving man could understand, he chooses the fish.

HINT: Choose the pole!