This edition of the Sage Tonic blog is a little different: it’s an interview with a Sage Tonic client who has found ways to apply products like our lavender wipes to help his colleagues develop long-term coping strategies for dealing with stress. His name is Jason Newton, a sergeant in the Colorado Springs police department. He’s known by some as “the mindful officer.” He’s been kind enough to share his story about how he came to embrace mindfulness in his own life and how he later became an advocate and teacher of mindfulness techniques in the police academy.
Sage Tonic is enthusiastic about Jason’s work on mindfulness because it tends to a growing crisis among first-responders that remains under-appreciated by the public. In 2017, more police officers and firefighters died by suicide than because of on-the-job hazards (including car accidents!). As a recent article in USA Today points out, while deaths of first-responders in the line of duty grab headlines, the personal dramas faced by police officers and firefighters often remain invisible or under-reported.
When did you first consciously adopt mindfulness as a way to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being?
To tell the truth it was a very gradual process. Thankfully, I have always been interested in finding natural ways of dealing with stress and pain in my life. This made me pretty sensitive to the dangers police officers exposed themselves when they turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with some of the really harrowing crises they often have to face.
One personal story stands out in particular.
In 2014 my life changed dramatically when my wife and I made the decision to try and have a child. We became pregnant quickly and were so excited about the possibility of becoming parents. But all our hopes turned to sadness when the doctor told us that we had a miscarriage. I felt my whole world crash down around me. At the same time, I wasn’t “supposed” to feel this kind of weakness. I was a police officer; I was the one who helped others through crises. We weren’t really supposed to dwell on our own problems.
I recalled sitting down on a Sunday in December of 2014, feeling emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted. I turned on the TV to watch 60 Minutes, one of my favorite TV shows. In this episode, I saw Anderson Cooper talking about mindfulness. He talked about taking a look at his own life and saw how mindfulness could really help change lives in very positive ways. I recall one of the lines he said in the show: "It sounds like I've sort of drunk the Kool Aid, but in a way I have sort of drunk the Kool Aid." I mean who does not like Kool Aid? So, I started to do more research about mindfulness and thought about how I could use it in my own life to help me disconnect from technology and work, which would also help me to re-connect with myself and my wife.
What did you do to cope with stress before adopting mindfulness and self-soothing techniques like those that appear on the Sage Tonic website?
Sadly, I often used the “suck it up” approach. After dealing with some kind of stressor, I would often just move on and not address the stress and hope it would go away. This usually worked briefly. But I soon found at that if you don’t deal with stress that it usually creeps its way back into your life – with a vengeance!
I also used fitness and exercise as a tool. I would go out for a run and find it was great at allowing me time to decompress and clear my thoughts. I found it had some great effects;
I knew that when I was running my mind would settle and I would focus more on breathing and how my body felt. Now I know what that really was: I was practicing mindfulness through exercise.
How did you find out about Sage Tonic?
Over the years, I have been using teas and essential oils as part of my mindfulness routine. I would make my own little concoctions to help me deal with stress at work and home life. I was searching the internet for teas and oils, looking for something new and interesting to try when I came across your web site. I heard a bit about it from some health-conscious people on Instagram and had a moment of joy when I read about Sage Tonic and saw that it offered exactly the type of products I was looking for to aid me as I travel down this road. I am no expert in your products, but I see how beneficial they are in my life and see how they could have positive impacts on the law enforcement profession.
How do you usually introduce mindfulness techniques to other officers?
I take time to talk about all the tools – like teas and essential oils – and how they can help aid their personal journeys to find calm and peace in our lives. I talk with them about the benefits in my work and personal life I have found with different products and encourage them to choose the products that are right for them. My long-term goal would be to create “Officer Survival Kits” (Ex: water, Sage Tonic Wipes, cards with a few short, simple, on-the-go mindfulness techniques) that officers could take with them out on patrol and would help them decompress after a stressful event.
In Part 2 of this topic, we will learn more about Jason’s class on mindfulness that he teaches to his fellow officers.