Earlier this summer I read a book entitled: Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D. It is excellent. It contains good principles for anybody engaged in a people helping profession. The author coins a term that I have given a lot of thought to since reading the book. He uses the phrase “Usta Syndrome” to refer to police officers that have given up on important facets of their lives outside of their chosen profession.
Gilmartin says that over time the officer’s identity becomes tied only to the police role. Consequently they start saying: I “usta” play golf. I “usta” have strong social ties. I “usta” to go to church services regularly. The stress and hyper-viligence associated with the job ends up edging all of those healthy activities out.
I have seen that process unfold with police officers over the years. I just did not what to call it. What is striking to me is that all of us can allow the stress of life to edge out the very things that keep us healthy. Today I was reminded of that very fact.
I took off a day from work today (that I didn’t think I had time to take off) to play in a charity golf tournament. At one point during our round, I was standing on the tee box on a hole that overlooks the city. It is actually a great view! It just hit me as I observed the beauty of this part of Texas that I don’t take enough time to enjoy the outdoors like I did at one point in my life. When was the last time I went camping? How much golf have I played this summer? When was last time we went on a simple picnic? It hurt my feelings, because I knew right then that I I am suffering from "Usta Syndrome.”
What did you “usta” do? What are healthy pursuits that you really enjoy that have been relegated to the back burner of your life? In my case, outdoor activities top the list. But it could be that you “usta” have meaningful friendships.
Or you “usta” be involved in spiritual activities in your life that were enriching. Don’t waste time. Reorient your schedule to such good things. “Usta Syndrome” is not something you ever want to be diagnosed with!