Stress Management Lessons from Prison Officers

Lessons on coping with demanding roles

I have run a number of 'presenting evidence at court' to a HM Prison Officers.  Let's face it, the thought of public speaking freaks a lot of us out, so add in the thought of being in the witness box and subject to 'rigorous cross-examination,'and that's a real recipe for stress!

But it's not the course that has prompted me to write.  John Atha and I run these regularly and get rave reviews.  What has prompted the write is the reflection that some of us do jobs which, let's face it, are often thankless, unrecognised, under-valued and unappreciated.

We do rely on the likes of prison officers to keep secure those who do harm.  They keep us safe.  But how often do we acknowledge this?  It takes a certain character and mindset to cope with the challenges ranging from the mundane to the terrifying and maintain a health mind and body.

What are the key elements of this mind-set?  Well , that could take pages to explain.  But, having now worked with these officers on several occasions, I can spot some key traits which we can all accept as being useful in maintaining health and managing stress levels:

  • They have a strong sense of team and colleague support
  • They have their own sense of humour and laugh regularly
  • They care about the work they do and find meaning in that work
  • They have family and friends outside the workplace and value these highly

When it comes to maintaining strong mental and physical health these factors are not infallible and don't make them bullet-proof, but it really does help.  It's not a job for everyone, but for those that choose to do it, the challenges, stresses and strains can be mitigated by these factors.

For the rest of us?  Well, let's take a leaf out of their book.

Ask yourself, do you have a supportive team at home and at work?  Do you laugh enough?  Can you find meaning in your work?  If there's room for improvement, go for it.  You will be taking significant steps to protecting yourself against the toxic effects of psychological chronic stress.

Keep an eye out for the next blog.

Dave Algeo

Motivational Speaker on resilience and men's mental health.

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