Relaxed Practice

Are you stressed from people reminding you that the practice of law is stressful? Of course it is — you knew that going in! It turns out that even though we know stress is going to be there, it is our reactions to it that make the difference. “Many of us are in the human suffering business, where clients come to see us with complicated problems, both legal and emotional,” Jeena Cho writes in her blog On Well-being. “It’s a stressful profession where we necessarily place the client’s needs first. The stakes are often high, and there are many demands. Many times we’re asked to deliver nearly impossible results. The litigious nature of our legal system leads to incivility. Yet there’s little discussion about the toll this work takes on our well-being. Lawyers are often taught to ignore their emotional well-being, but that is a mistake both for the lawyer as a person and as an advocate for the client.”

Mindfulness, Meditation Can Help

Cho recommends practicing mindfulness and meditation, and to be aware of our own knee-jerk reactions. This helps open the door to changing our automatic thoughts and behaviors.

Also, just go for a walk. Trite, right? But it really can help clear your mind, cool you down, give you the bigger picture. Changing your environment, even for a short time, can interrupt the patterns of negative thoughts that are often followed by feelings of stress and panic.
Just try it — it’s free!

Aha! Self-Care! “Self-care is defined as any activities that you do for yourself where you take steps to identify your own needs and meet them, Cho writes. “It’s all about understanding your own needs.” That could be anything! Exercise, yoga, healthy eating — these are the ones we hear about a lot. But self-care is personal (it’s your self, after all), so figure out what works for you.

It’s all about balance, this self-care and anxiety-reducing awareness. According to Breathe magazine, to keep from slipping out of balance, do these things:

  • Make a commitment to yourself, whether it’s a particular act of self-care, or just staying present and calm in the face of crisis.
  • Connect with your body and mind by staying aware of what you need.
  • Connect with other people — we need each other!

And that brings us to community. There’s no better group of folks to understand the good and bad of what you are going through than those who are in similar circumstances, day to day. (Hello, lawyers!) Reach out and ask for help if you need it, but also you watch out for others, too. Know the signs for you and them.

“I often reflect back on those brutal moments and wonder why I am still here,” lawyer Brian Cuban recently wrote in the Texas Bar Journal and on his blog. “People did not mind their own business at the right moment for intervention to occur before I completed the act of suicide.” Cuban recounts his years with depression, addiction and near-suicide, crediting family and friends who did not “mind their own business.” Cuban explains that even if you don’t want to get involved, if you suspect someone needs help, you should.

Cuban points out that lawyers are 3.6 times as likely as nonlawyers to suffer from depression, have the highest problem drinking rate, and are in fourth place in dying by suicide. You’ve probably heard similar stats before. So take that to heart. It may be as simple as “pledging to ask someone how he or she is doing.” We can do that little bit, right?

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