POLICE Magazine

FEB 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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48 POLICE FEBRUARY 2019 PEOPLE WHO CHOOSE A CAREER OF ANY KIND IN PUBLIC SAFETY are necessarily deeply interested in knowing as much as possible about what threatens the health and welfare of American citizens, no matter where they are. Too often, one of the first things those public safety professionals do in their time off is put themselves in front of a screen of some kind, devouring information presented by television news readers and/or posts on social media. ere is certainly benefit to being current on events involving the people you consider family—your broth- ers and sisters across the country with whom you share a special bond—as well as the world at large. However, it's also important—and extremely beneficial—to spend some time completely disconnected from the job. is is a lesson I recently re-learned. Too many times in the past decade, I've been on a family vacation and made the mistake of opening up my laptop within the first hour of arrival at our destination. I'd check email, review my news feed, contemplate a column topic, or conduct some other work- related task. I'd sometimes be online for hours at a time. In essence, I was just doing what I always do every day on the job—only in a dif- ferent time zone and in an unfamiliar loca- tion—while my family went off and had fun. I promised myself and my family that our recent trip to Hawaii would be different. I promised to completely dis- connect. I'd go "unplugged" in something of a Lenten fast from all manner of media. And I did. It was on my flight home that I realized that I was more rested and relaxed than I'd been in years. In a lengthy article in Scientific American, Ferris Jabar wrote that there is an "overwhelming amount of empirical evidence" suggesting that the benefit of giving our brains an occasional break "has become increasingly clear in a diverse collection of new studies…." He wrote, "Downtime replenishes the brain's stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be nec- essary to keep one's moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self." Meanwhile, researchers at Kansas State University said in a study that employees "can have difficulty mentally distancing themselves from work during off-job time due to increasing use of communication technologies." Further, one study concluded that the use of devices emitting the "blue light" of a screen such as an electronic reader before bedtime "has biological effects that may per- petuate sleep deficiency and disrupt circadian rhythms, both of which can have adverse impacts on performance, health, and safety." Essayist, and author of the book We Learn Nothing, Tim Kreider wrote in a New York Times opinion piece, "Idle- ness is not just a vacation, an indulgence, or a vice—it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. e space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done." e act of unplugging is to be present in the moment, al- lowing for daydreaming or simply meditating on nothing, and putting the myriad electronic distractions aside for a period of time. You need only spend an hour of the day unwind- ing to reap the benefits of doing so—and the benefits are manifold. In addition to greatly improving your quality of sleep, unplugging actually strengthens your relationships, espe- cially with friends and family. When the screens are shut down we actually talk with each other! Imagine that. Further, when you shun the screen, there's a strong pos- sibility that you will fill that time with a relaxing hobby or activity. If that activity is hiking, for example, you might soon find that you're in better physical condition and healthier overall. I know that I returned home from my digital respite a happier person. Working any first responder job can be stressful. On any given day, you're exposed to some of the worst things imag- inable. e accumulated stress of any job in public safety can build up sometimes without you even recognizing it. en, when you get home, you turn on the television or lap- top, tablet, or smartphone, and voluntarily subject yourself to being assaulted by millions of relentless pixels, further exacerbating that stress. Consequently, it's important for everyone to conscious- ly completely unplug from "screen time" every so often and get back to your personal center. I know. I just did. Doug Wyllie is contributing web editor for POLICE. It's important to spend some time completely disconnected from the job. DOUG WYLLIE The benefits of unplugging are manifold. UNPLUG AND RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES GUEST EDITORIAL

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