8 Self-Care Tips for Trying Times
You might be so busy taking care of others during this pandemic – family members, clients, co-workers – that you’re neglecting to take care of yourself.
That would be a mistake.
Good risk management starts with self-care. It’s essential – especially in these stressful times – to being a strong and effective lawyer.
“We have a duty to take care of our mental, physical, and emotional health so that we can be competent attorneys,” says attorney and well-being writer Jeena Cho in this blogpost. “Just like excelling at law takes practice, self-care requires practice too. It’s not something you can do once and check off your list. It requires consistent effort and dedication.”
Here’s an easy form of self-care: get professional liability coverage from Lawyers Mutual. We know about working through hard times. We were created in the midst of a financial and insurance crisis for the legal profession more than 40 years ago. We’ve been helping North Carolina lawyers ever since.
8 Suggestions for Self-Care
- Know what it’s not. Practicing self-care is not being lazy, selfish or self-indulgent. It’s also not the same as self-esteem, which requires a subjective evaluation of your individual worth. Self-care, by contrast, is about showing yourself the same sort of compassion you show your clients and family. “Self-compassion emphasizes connection with others, based on a shared experience of suffering and struggle that we all face,” writes Anisa Purbasari Horton for FastCompany.
- Watch for signs of burnout. Recognize the precursors, writes Rachel Casper in this blogpost for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers in Massachusetts: overcommitting, excessive workload, too little recognition, lack of validation of work stress and difficult, perfectionism, excessive conscientiousness, workaholism. “Warning signs include feeling that every day is a bad day, caring about tasks seems pointless, finding it more difficult to complete tasks, having trouble focusing or feeling more distracted, pessimism about your abilities, lacking excitement or interest, and feeling physically unwell or exhausted,” she writes.
- Set boundaries. Commit to only working a certain number of hours in the day and turning your devices off at night. Don’t multitask or say yes when you should say no. Guard your downtime jealously. Delegate. Use automation when possible.
- Revisit activities that bring you joy. “Brainstorm five activities you once loved or have wanted to try,” Casper suggests. “Pick one and commit to it, schedule in your calendar for one hour each week, and call or meet with a friend and share about your activity.”
- Return to basic principles. Get outside. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are crucial when sheltering in place. Other basics: eat healthy foods, stay in touch with friends and family, manage your time wisely, take a few moments for deep breathing.
- Be mindful. “For me, practicing daily mindfulness and meditation is the cornerstone of self-care and wellness,” says Cho. “If you aren’t paying attention to yourself and the world around you mindfully, how do you know what adjustments or changes you need to make? Without mindfulness, how do you recognize when you need to pivot, push harder, or back away? How do you find the balance between caring about your clients and caring about yourself, your family, your friends?”
- Go for a hike. Helen Gulgun Bukulmez started the group Hiking Lawyers. “Hiking does not solve your problems,” she writes on LinkedIn. “In fact, it first highlights them. It makes you aware of every single, annoyingly present, and stress-inducing detail of your problems as you begin to hike. If you stick with regular hikes, however, hiking slowly brings your awareness to a taller, higher place where you still know about the problems but see them from a mountain top, where they are placed in their own relatively smaller places in the puzzle we call life.”
- Get plenty of sleep. This is perhaps the most essential building block for self-care – and it’s one that too many lawyers overlook.
A final tip: if you want free, confidential help for anything from substance use to insomnia, contact the NC State Bar Lawyer Assistance Program.
Lawyers Mutual is the only legal professional liability insurance company that has been protecting North Carolina lawyers continuously since 1977. Our motto, “Here Today, Here Tomorrow,” is more than a tagline. It’s our commitment to the lawyers in this state.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create a saner, more successful Law Life. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441.