Your Learning Journal
A Callused Heart
By Jen Hart
Senior PO, San Diego County Probation Department
How is your heart today?
I am not talking about to the muscular organ at the center of your chest that pumps blood throughout your body. I am referring to the vital core of your being, the place where emotions, feelings and intuition are felt. It’s the space where you truly connect with another human being and find the courage to be vulnerable. It is the root of love, compassion, empathy and heartache.
So, I ask you again, how is your heart?
Today, my heart is full, vibrant and alive! But, a few years ago, I realized a large callus had formed around my heart. And one of the greatest contributors to this has been my job in law enforcement for the past 19 years. I absolutely LOVE this honorable profession, but it is also incredibly emotionally taxing.
The challenge in this field begins even before you get hired. To be a desirable candidate, you must be emotionally and mentally sound, able to make difficult decisions in stressful, rapidly evolving environments, be smart, confident, analytical, brave, honest, loyal and true. Then pass a series of tests to ensure you are telling the truth about who you are.
And if you are going to be a peace officer, you must be extremely physically fit, able to scale walls, chase after suspects, and be able to learn defensive tactics, should you need to use your fist or another weapon to protect a life.
If you are lucky enough to be hired, you take an oath, vowing to do whatever it takes to protect and serve, regardless of the circumstances.
On the job, the stress begins! You respond to calls of violence, abuse, drugs, theft, accidents and death. There is constant exposure to traumatic and negative events, and the cumulative trauma of this environment, coupled with the constant pressure to excel, can truly create a monster. This impoverished environment can turn vibrant, healthy, passionate officers into jaded, apathetic, disconnected and unbalanced people.
My coping mechanism? I created an alter ego “Jen Wayne”. She was tough, strong, domineering and sharp. In order to shield myself from the constant stress or the possibility of looking weak, I remained Jen Wayne, even after doffing my uniform. What I didn’t realize, was I was closing myself off from the people who meant the most to me. I was losing the true “Jen”, my playfulness, femininity, compassion, and vulnerability.
One day, my sister and best friend, asked me why I hugged my acquaintances and not her. It was like a dagger straight to my heart. So I hugged her, and the first of many layers of my callus disappeared.
At that moment, I had had ENOUGH – of the pushing, the expectations, the desire to be somebody else. I began to put aside my “Jen Wayne” and return to being authentically ME.
I started by allowing myself to feel – ALL of the feelings, not just the good ones, and let it ride. Surprisingly, I never felt better! I felt empowered, peaceful, invigorated, and alive. I returned to being connected, playful, and vulnerable. I said “NO”, set boundaries and took care of myself in every dimension. I embraced my feminine side and allowed myself to be gentle, nurturing, and deeply compassionate. With each and every action I took, another layer was peeled back. It was as if authenticity and self love was the cure to my callused heart…because it was!
And to this day, I remain in law enforcement, but with a heart that is full, vibrant and alive. Jen Wayne…she is still in there. But I only take her out for special occasions, like natural disasters or…Halloween.
The Fierce Urgency of Now
We all have but one life to live. Though we hope that our lives provide numerous years of experiences, emotions, and life lessons, time refuses to stand still. The procrastinations and pushing things aside until we have more time, energy, or inspiration can help to make life easier — however, when these things we procrastinate on involve our passions and are significant to our lives, we must not wait or time will keep ticking by quickly. We must have a fierce urgency of NOW to reach for the stars, to make a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us…before it is too late! Watch this short video on the Fierce Urgency of Now.
Feeding the Mind
10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story
by Dan Harris
Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable – meditation.
After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out.
We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in. Eventually, Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness.
Key Learnings from the Book (and why you should read it):
- 10% Happier gives skeptics an easy “in” to meditation, by taking a very non-fluffy approach to the science behind this mindfulness practice.
- Your ego gets in the way of your happiness by constantly wanting more.
- Why letting go of your ego won’t make you a pushover.
- Meditation makes you more mindful and compassionate by giving you a fourth habitual response – observing, without judging!
To purchase this book, click here.
Each month, we will present information and recommendations that could effectively enhance your way of thinking, behaving, and feeling.
Feeling stressed…who isn’t? April is stress awareness month, so here’s a few facts and tips on stress that you may find helpful.
Do you often feel tired, feel irritable or angry, have a headache, feel nervous, have an upset stomach, experience muscle tension, have lack of energy, a change in appetite, grind your teeth, have had a change in sex drive, or feel dizzy? These are all symptoms of stress. 73% of us regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress, and 77% of us experience physical symptoms.
Interesting Statistics from 2014 – 2017:
Top causes in 2014
- Job Pressure
- Poor Nutrition
- Media Overload
- Sleep Deprivation
Top causes in 2017
- The future of our nation
- Political Climate
- Violence/ Crime
We spend $300 billion a year in the US on stress related healthcare and missed work. These types of stresses are called Chronic Stress or Distress.
If you are overwhelmed by stress, the suggestion is to ask for help from a health care professional. But not all stress is bad, and there are things you can do to combat it. Stress can be a motivator to prepare or preform, like you would for a test or an interview. It also can be helpful in life saving situations, as in fight or flight circumstances. Your breathing increases and oxygen shoots to the brain and survival functions kick in. This is called Acute Stress.
If we can manage the stress, we can live healthier lives. Here are some things that you can try:
- Recognize the signs
- Talk to your Doctor or health care provider
- Get regular exercise** (this can be your secret weapon!)
- Try a relaxing activity
- Set goals and priorities
- Stay connected to friends and family for support
- Consider a Clinical Trial for stress management
The last type of stress is Eustress, with positive connotations. This includes things like planning a wedding, having a baby, marriage, promotions, new friends, a graduation.
While there are many new pressures that arise every day, if we can change our mindset to take it in and process with more positivity than negativity, our stress levels will continue to go down and we will live longer, healthier lives.
Statistic Brain: www.statisticbrain.com/stress-statistics/
Resource on managing stress:
destressifying: The Real-World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Lasting Fulfillment, and Peace of Mind
“destressifying is our ability to easily adapt to stressful situations and to adversity without experiencing the physical and emotional negative repercussions of stress. The most recent science has confirmed that those who deal with daily stresses as challenges rather than threats grow from them and can also more easily manage major crises with greater courage, clarity, strength, and grace.”
To purchase davidji’s “destressifying” book, click here.
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