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Six coping skills for correctional officers (and others in high stress positions) to stay mentally

Through her 28 years as a licensed therapist and position as clinical director for the Connecticut correctional systems’ employee assistance program, Dianne Moynihan has become familiar with coping skills that work, and those that don’t.

High on the list for anyone in a stressful position, she said, is having good support systems, and consequently, one of the warning signs for not coping well is isolation. Being isolated and alone takes a toll on everyone, no matter what job they do, Moynihan said.

Being unwilling to seek out or accept help is another behavior that needs improvement for those who want to succeed or thrive in their jobs.

Correctional officers often become desensitized to stress and don’t always recognize when they need extra support. It doesn’t become a problem, Moynihan said, unless they become so desensitized that they don’t accept help when they need it.

In contrast, good coping skills include positive relationships and an understanding that asking for help and support is normal. Nobody is OK 100% of the time, Moyniuhan said.

Here are six behaviors or coping skills that Moynihan believes help correctional system employees succeed and stay mentally healthy.

  • Recognize that it’s OK to not be OK;

  • Have healthy hobbies outside of work;

  • Have good friends and a good social support system;

  • Have a healthy relationship with substances, i.e. drinking alcohol moderately;

  • Have an identity outside of work, and,

  • Have a plan for retirement.

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