The Importance of Mental Resilience in Law Enforcement
by Claire Williams, YogaFaith Ambassador and R-YFT
This year’s national police week started on May 9th and will run through May 15th. In 1962 President Kennedy made May 15th National Peace Officers Memorial Day. Agencies around the nation take time to honor their fallen on this day and throughout the week. It takes a brave man or woman to tirelessly serve their community. Often, they spend a lot of time away from their families and give their physical body to their job.
Did you know that a police officer’s duty belt weighs roughly around fifteen pounds? According to a published report by the NCJRS many officers’ belts slide down the hips, and often press on sensitive areas in the back. The report states that over time, many officers develop physical issues stemming directly from wearing the duty belt. In addition to giving their physical body to their job, they must stay mentally resilient in order to keep themselves safe and in some situations alive.
The Coopers Color code was created by a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel and is taught in many law enforcement and military agencies. The color code includes five levels of mental awareness.
- White: unaware of danger or immediate threat
- Yellow: aware of potential threat, no action being taken
- Orange: aware of potential threat, preparing to take action
- Red: on high alert, engaged in self-preservation or protection of others
- Black: break down of physical and mental response causing inability to perform the task at hand
It is especially important for an officer to remain in code orange or red. When a law enforcement officer is thrown into code black, this can mean the worst possible outcome for themself and others and could indeed lead to injury or even death. Their resting heart rate increases, causing blood to rush to the core and away from extremities. When this happens, the officer could potentially lose hand dexterity resulting in an inaccurate shot or inability to reload their weapon properly. PTSD has a potential to occur when an officer walks into a situation in the white zone. Officers also need the ability to transition between these zones effectively. Issues in transitioning well from zone to zone can lead to hyper vigilance. In high stress situations the officer needs the ability to smoothly transition from one color to the next. This transition ultimately protects the lives of others and themselves.
The million-dollar question is this: how could a regular yoga practice benefit an officer? The physical postures practiced could help an officer combat any muscle issues stemming directly from their job. It would also benefit their mobility and range of motion. A regular practice could potentially create a symbiotic mind/body connection. This could help give the officer the ability to shift easily through the Cooper’s Color Code. When a practitioner connects with their breath, magic happens in their bodily systems. The parasympathetic system is turned on, overriding the sympathetic system. Blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate all decrease drastically. Stress hormones start to nosedive. It’s amazing how being able to control the breath could potentially benefit an officer.
Here is a simple breath technique called ratio breathing. If it feels good, give it a try!
- When you are ready eyes can remain open or feel free to close them if it feels good.
- Inhale to a count of 4, and exhale to a longer count of 8.
This ratio breath technique can be practiced for as long as you would like! Maybe try and shoot for two minutes if you have it available.
In addition to breath techniques, yoga classes can be found just about anywhere these days! Find a local studio or YMCA. There is a wonderful program that’s used in connection with Crossfit programs. It’s called ROMWOD and features quick 20-minute stretching sessions and similar to Yin yoga which includes breathing techniques in their on-demand programming.
I love how there are many different yoga programs and classes out there today! I encourage you to try one soon!
Be well. Be safe. Thank you for your service.
Lord, I ask for courage,
Courage to face and conquer my own fears,
Courage to take me where others will not go.
I ask for strength,
Strength of body to protect others,
Strength of spirit to lead others.
I ask for dedication,
Dedication to my job to do it well,
Dedication to my community to keep it safe.
Give me Lord, concern,
For all those who trust me,
And compassion for those who need me.
And please, Lord, through it all,
be at my side.
See the YogaFaith Directory for a class nearby.