Contributing Author: Wendy L. Patrick, Deputy District Attorney, San Diego County (CA)
Prosecution work is characterized by stress and unpredictability — both of which can lead to negative emotions, which in turn can lead to interpersonal difficulties and unhealthy methods of coping. Wouldn´t it be great if there was a way to counteract the emotional toll suffered by working under constant stress and improve your attitude? Good news: research shows that for many people, improving your mood can be as simple as changing your routine.
Remember those clever rings that many of us grew up with that changed colors, supposedly depending on our moods? Although fashionable at the time, the reality is that we do not need trendy gadgets to reveal how we are feeling. We glow and beam our way through good days, and suffer through bad ones, often taking coworkers down with us when we wear our negative emotions on our sleeve.
Strategies to improve mood are vitally important to both physical and emotional health and well-being, as well as our relationships. Obviously, some mood disorders will benefit the most from pharmaceutical and professional intervention. But for many people, research reveals behavioral considerations that can improve emotional quality of life.
Moonlight Shifts Impact Mood Swinging
Do you live to work or work to live? If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Most of us, however, are not so fortunate. Sure we enjoy our career. Prosecuting criminals and keeping our communities safe. But the income is important too, in order to provide for our families and ourselves. Many prosecutors endure the stress and anxiety of long days in trial on a regular basis in order to pay off student loans, put kids through college, and otherwise make ends meet.
What distinguishes a career as a prosecutor from many others is the hours. Crime does not sleep and neither do those who prosecute criminals. But, working late hours on a regular basis as your family gets to bed much earlier is not a sustainable recipe for life satisfaction.
Unfortunately but perhaps not surprisingly, research shows that people who have daytime work schedules are happier than those who work nights or weekends. Think about why this might be true. Arriving home exhausted from work and ready to go to bed when everyone else is getting up for the day is not conducive to settling in for a shift of sleep. Many late night workers never warm up to the hours. Instead, when they get home, they become irritable and cranky.
Unfortunately, many prosecutors do not have the option of choosing their hours, especially when they are in trial. To counterbalance this reality, given the stressors and level of work-life balance disruption inherent in such a schedule, consider another method of mood improvement. The bedroom phone ban.
Bedroom Phone Ban
If you have to work late at night, there is a way to actually end your working shift: literally unplugging.
Many prosecutors sleep with their smartphones, especially when they are on search warrant duty, in a 24/7 trial unit, or otherwise expecting to be contacted within the course of an ongoing investigation. When the opportunity presents itself, however, such as a legitimate day off, research indicates we can improve our mood by designating the bedroom as a device-free zone.
In an article aptly named “Sleeping with the frenemy,” (2018), Nicola Hughes and Jolanta Bruke recognized that cell phone use is a mixed bag. They recognized positive outcomes as including those associated with “social capital and engagement,” and negative impacts as those that can result from compulsive usage as well as the stress associated with being “always on.”
There may, however, be a way to manage mood through controlling communication. Hughes and Burke found that abstaining from overnight smartphone use in the bedroom for one week increased well-being, although the impact was relatively small. Regarding specific benefits, participants reported that abstaining from bedroom smartphone use resulted in an increase in both the quality and quantity of sleep, less time wasted, enhanced feeling of calm, and improved personal relationships.
Speculating as to why the results were not more dramatic, Hughes and Burke acknowledge the benefits of smartphone use. They provide a source of social interaction and connectedness, which can decrease negative emotions, and facilitate relaxation and escapism, which can promote positive emotions. But dramatic or not, many prosecutors would enjoy any positive consequences to counterbalance an otherwise busy, stressful schedule.
So, if you do not have the luxury of clocking off work at 5pm and disengaging digitally, committing to a bedroom phone ban when you actually do have the chance to retire at a reasonable hour can have proven benefits. And improving your mood improves your quality of life both personally and professionally.
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