Welcome back to The Action of Resilience, Part 2. 

In The Action of Resilience, Part 1: Developing a Resilient Law Enforcement Culture for Healthier Employees and Better Community Relations, we began to consider resilience through the lens of action rather than as a passive characteristic. If you missed it, you can check it out here.

In this article we will look at the first factor of our Resilience⁴ formula, where: 

1.    or= Organizational Systems for Resilience

2.    pr = Personal Resilience Capacity Building

3.    rp= Before the Event, Resilience Preparation

4.    rr= After the Event, Resilience Renovation

                        (or) x (pr) x (rp) x (rr) = Resilience

or = Organizational Systems for Resilience

It is no surprise the potential stresses and dangers law enforcement professionals are faced with on a regular basis. It has also been well documented how the demands of the job can keep our nervous system in a state of hypervigilance as our brain and body prepares to respond to any danger that may be present. 

Although the impact that day-to-day stresses and traumatic scenes can have on LE personnel has been understood for a while now, historically the past response to those impacts has been mostly after the fact, after a traumatic incident has happened or the influence of stress has caused an employee professional and/or personal problems.

Fortunately, that is beginning to change as more agencies are bringing in conversations and trainings around mindfulness, meditation, and the power of breathing. The dialogue around officer wellness is accelerating…which is awesome!

Law enforcement leaders are actively looking for ways to support their people in being their healthiest.

What is really exciting is the emerging research in neuroscience, mindset psychology, and resilience studies that are showing how our brain continues to learn and change, how vital the mind/body connection is to mental fitness, and the intentional positive influence we can have in this process. 

Science is telling us our employees can be better equipped to manage these stresses and be more resilient proactively.

So, how do organizations support an environment that is conducive to developing resilient employees?

Danial Coyle, in The Culture Code¹, would say a beginning step would be to create an environment of safety and belonging. Neuroscience would support this noting that neuroplasticity, the changing of the brain, and learning occur when a person feels safe. A brain that does not feel safe is focused on survival…not learning, connecting, or thriving.

“Group performance depends on behavior that communicates one powerful overarching idea: We are safe and connected.” ~Daniel Coyle~

Let’s think about it just from the perspective of hypervigilance. Officers are on high-alert to danger in the field. They expect it. They are ready to respond. And, they work a ten to twelve-hour shift in that mindset. 

Their body is full of stress hormones, catecholamine, cortisol, adrenaline, and 1,400 chemicals, keeping them in this state of hypervigilance for hours if no intervention of returning their system back to normal is put into place.

Many officers return to work without having adequate time for their bodies to shift and reset before their next shift. And, life does not begin with the shift, life happens. The job is not the only thing that brings stress into our lives.

This stress is expected as a part of the job. 

Yet, a recently published article, Negative Affective Responses to Stress Among Urban Police Officers: A General Strain Theory Approach², posits that while there is no denial of the environmental stress officers encounter in the field, the effects and levels of stress experienced at the organizational level is much greater. 

In her book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at it³ Dr. Kelly McGonigal, presents a mindset-blowing perspective of stress and how changing our relationship to it can change our lives in a positive, healing, and growth-promoting way.

“Stress is a biological state designed to help you learn from experience. That means your stress response is extremely receptive to the effects of deliberate practice. Whatever actions you take during stress, you teach your body and brain to do spontaneously.” ~Kelly McGonigal, PhD.~

Imagine if the interior of our organizations modeled an environment of safety and a culture of resilience so employees can begin their “rest and digest” state of mind at the end of their shift. 

Imagine if our employees had the knowledge, tools, and techniques that have a quick impact on shifting their physiology so they can begin to introduce with intention the relaxation chemicals, such as DHEA, endorphins, and oxytocin into their systems to balance the stress hormones.

What would it look like to our organizations and employee wellbeing if we approached the stress and traumatic events from a growth-mindset perspective, as presented by Dr. McGonigal?

This first factor of Resilience⁴ Organizational Systems for Resilience includes creating a culture of safety through proactive resilience-building training that incorporates neuroscience and mindset psychology, and implementable tools based on these sciences. 

Clinical trials have shown EFT to be effective in reducing the emotional impact of memories and triggers, allowing for the body to reset and recover. Studies have shown an hour of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a self-regulatory technique, reduces cortisol by 24%.⁴

The Institute of HeartMath® studies on coherence for over 25 years has demonstrated the effectiveness of Heart-Focused™ breathing, which shifts the physiology of the body to create coherence between the brain and heart, allowing for clearer thinking, better decision-making, faster response, and a quicker return to a place of health-supporting homeostasis.⁵

There is no arguing that the job of law enforcement includes stressful and traumatic events. 

Science is now giving organizations the tools to support our employees to be more resilient, healthy, and stronger throughout their careers. 

And, that is exciting news!

Next time, we will explore the second factor of Resilience⁴: Personal Resilience Capacity Building, and examine how we can actively build our resilience capacity to be healthier and more effective in our lives.

Shannon King, founder-owner of Matter of the Heart Coach, works with people who are being impacted by the stresses and demands of their job to help them build resilience and teach them how to better maintain optimal physiological and mental fitness, allowing them to respond more healthily, recover quicker, and perform more effectively in their professional and personal lives. If you would like to learn more about “Resilience⁴ Rise Up Stronger Resilience Training” program for organizational training or individual coaching, you can contact her here. Visit the ELEVATE Leadership event page for information on Shannon’s annual conference for law enforcement professionals and to learn more about this year’s conference.

[1]Coyle, Daniel. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups . Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[2]Bishopp, Stephen & Leeper Piquero, Nicole & L Worrall, John & Piquero, Alex. (2018). Negative Affective Responses to Stress among Urban Police Officers: A General Strain Theory Approach. Deviant Behavior. 1-20. 10.1080/01639625.2018.1436568.

[3]McGonigal, Kelly. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4]Church, D., Yount, G., & Brooks, A. J. (2012). The effect of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) on stress biochemistry: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 891-896. doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e31826b9fc1

[5]The Science of HeartMath. Retrieved from https://www.heartmath.com/science/. July 18, 2018.