Our Blog

Building Resilience in Our Work and Lives

  Submitted by Fleet Maull, PhD and Robert Ohlemiller

Center for Mindfulness in Public Safety  

Police Academies have long incorporated exercise and physical fitness into their basic training and annual in-service.  This is essential to public safety and for officers to have capacity to do the demanding work of law enforcement.  In the last two decades, and particularly in light of the pandemic and the other stress-elevating challenges of the past year or so, the way fitness is defined has begun to evolve and expand.

There is greater emphasis on tapping into the innate abilities of officers through training in cognitive and emotional fitness. Lt. Richard Goerling (Hillsdale, Oregon PD-retired) calls it building “resiliency in hand, heart and mind.”  He says “building resiliency in police officers is our goal and changing our relationship to stress, not changing stress.  So, I can control me. I can’t control the level of crime in my city. I can’t control how other people are going to behave, but I can control how I can behave and I can control my relationship with those around me”.  Speaking of Resiliency Training, he adds, “it’s a powerful, powerful thing”.[1]

Resiliency Training has several components as outlined in the accompanying graphic (Resilience- The 4 Keys to Self-Care ©Center for Mindfulness in Public Safety) While formal Resiliency Training is ideal and something the Center has been doing for over 12 years with law enforcement and related public safety agencies, there are other steps every officer can take to become more resilient and build overall fitness.  Here’s a few tips:

  • Try Sitting with the Breath– Sit in a relatively erect posture, eyes open or closed. Sit as still as possible and bring your attention to the body, just feeling whatever sensations you can note. Next, pay attention to your breathing – in and out. If your mind wanders, just gently bring it back, again and again without any judgment. Try sitting for at least 5 minutes per day. While 20 minutes would be a good aspiration, one may well see benefit with briefer periods of practice in as little as 2 weeks.

We can also bring this kind of attentiveness and focus, in an intentional way, into various daily activities like walking, driving, eating, brushing teeth, doing laundry, etc. As we integrate these practices into our life, we will also begin to experience moments of spontaneous attentiveness, focus and awareness. We will begin to notice the contrast between being fully present and being distracted by our thinking, noises, etc.[2]

  • If you have new healthy habits you want to establish such as drinking more water or daily meditation, try “Habit-Stacking”. This is a process of allowing current activities which are part of your daily life such as tooth brushing or brewing your morning coffee, to become reminders of your intention to do some particular thing. For more on this, visit Habit Stacking – Build a Habit Routine to Help Your Personal Development or James Clear.
  • Find a supportive community or accountability partner that shares your goals and resiliency-building interests. Readers of this blog are invited to join the Indiana Public Safety Community’s virtual conference every Wednesday evening at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on Zoom. For more information and the link contact ohlemiller@att.net. The call offers opportunities to practice guided mindfulness-based wellness and resiliency skills and engage in confidential discussion with fellow professionals. It is sponsored by the Center for MIndfulness in Public Safety.

The practice of mindfulness has been shown to be beneficial in improvement of LEO’s situational awareness, sleep and interpersonal relationships.

Here is some feedback from law enforcement officers who’ve taken CMPS’ Mindfulness-Based Wellness and Resiliency? training:

“This is a much-needed course for our department and all of law enforcement nationwide. The breathing techniques were the most helpful.”

The most beneficial component of  the course was  (giving me) “the ability to identify and recognize the impact stress has on all of us; how we think about it and how to effectively cope with it”.

“There is a way to recharge and get healthy. I wish the class could be longer.”

MBWR  is currently  being offered to  a group  of employees  of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Indianapolis.



Fleet Maull, PhD is  the founder of the Center for Mindfulness  in Public Safety and the director of training and research.  He is the author of Radical Responsibility: How to Move Beyond Blame, Fearlessly Live Your Highest Purpose and Become an Unstoppable Force  for Good (Sounds True, Boulder 2019)

Robert Ohlemiller, a former employee  of the Indiana Department of Correction and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, lives in Indianapolis. He retired after a 43-year career in criminal justice and corrections in 2016 and is the Indiana coordinator for CMPS.

[1] 2015 Engaged Mindfulness Institute training video transcript, Goerling interview with Dr. Maull

[2] For video and audio resources on mindfulness and breath regulation, go to Resilience Video Resources | CMPS (mindfulpublicsafety.org)

Call Now Button