Making time for yourself when there is no time

By Tammy McCoy Arballo
Counseling Team International Clinical Psychologist

Time is unkind.
The days are not long enough to meet the never-ending demands of law enforcement careers and family life. It feels like we have never been busier or more accessible than we are at this point in human history. With the dinging from a text message, our focus automatically shifts from dinner with our family to the sudden demand of a sensitive work matter.
High achievers, (which is to say, 99 percent of the law enforcement officials I’ve ever met) are not comfortable saying No when asked to take on additional duties or see things certain things need to get done right and take on the task for the betterment of the organization.
This can result in feeling overwhelmed at work, reduced time at home with the family and less opportunity to decompress, and have fun.
So, how can we steal a few minutes for ourselves? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use the commute to and from work to your advantage

During the drive, turn off or mute your cell phone during the drive (yes, you can do it for a few minutes.) Make a playlist of your favorite tunes and crank up the music. This gives you a chance to clear your mind and lift your mood.

Listen to podcasts that you love and escape into a great story. This gives you the opportunity to take a mental break and engage in something relaxing and fun. (Fun matters, folks!)

  • Go to the gym first thing in the morning

There is an abundance of scientific data attesting to the physical and mental health benefits of working out regularly, even if it is only for 15 to 20 minutes. A workout will help reduce stress, improve mood and overall health.
You also get the feeling of accomplishment early in the day. It is automatic “me time” that you can spend watching a movie on your phone, listening to music, ESPN podcasts or the like.

  • Sit in your car before you leave the station parking lot or before you walk through the front door of your home

Give yourself five minutes to prepare yourself to re-enter your home after a long and stressful day. The transition from work to home is an important one. We work so hard to provide for our family. Seemingly everything we do is to make the world a little better for the people we love.
Giving yourself a few minutes to switch from law enforcement official to father, mother, husband, wife is a gift to both them and us.
If we walk through the door with the angst of the day still swirling through our minds, we are not going to be able to be present for them and enjoy them. Take a few deep breaths and focus on where you are and why you want to be there.
Remember that we can control how we spend our time. We have the power to decide how we use our time. Life feels more demanding than ever and law enforcement officials are under more stress than ever before. There has never been a more important time to take care of yourself. Please spend your time wisely and invest in yourself at some point during each day.
Be safe and take care

Tammy McCoy-Arballo, Psy.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist. She is in private practice and works at the Counseling Team International in San Bernardino, CA.

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