We asked Her Legal Global members about lawyer wellness, what do they do to achieve wellness as they go about their busy lives. For years I thought self-care in law was a side hobby. One that I could fit it in when needed but, for the most part could ignore as I pushed through. Pushing through might be possible for the first five years, maybe even longer but, eventually the toll on our bodies and minds catches up with us. Lawyer health is notoriously fragile when we abuse ourselves.
Let's face it. Law can be a stressful profession for a lot of us so why not invest in the one thing that is constant - you. Your mind and body in optimal shape allows you to thrive in your career.
And here is a secret that isn't widely shared. You are much more productive when you spend the time on you. Valuing you is a long term investment that pays off immediately. Self-care in law isn't a side hustle, it's the main feature.
So you might be thinking who has the time for complicated self care routines? I hear you. But lawyer wellness can start with simple steps. Below you will find how 7 women in law have found wellness answers that work for them.
Before you jump in, there is one more very important point. Wellness is personal; not everybody's wellness choices will resonate with you. And that is okay. It's a journey, a personal one where you are in control and you can choose the best lawyer health practices that work with your life, personality and mindset. But choose to jump in and start. Lawyer wellness means a better life and career. With a small investment you will be happier, more energetic and fulfilled.
7 Women in law share their Lawyer Wellness tips you can start using right now. You might be surprised!
Lawyer Health: Meditation and Yoga
The number one mental activity that I do to maintain my wellness in law is meditation. I started meditating because when I was almost finished articling, I was so stressed out about whether I would land a position as an associate, I started losing my hair. When the bald spot grew from the size of a dime to a quarter, I realized that it was time to enlist the big guns and so I called my mom. She recommended that I start meditating. I initially resisted as I thought it would be really boring. However, my hair told me that I had to do something fast and I decided to give it a try. I bought a copy of Deepak Chopra's "Seven Spiritual Laws of Success" and immediately things started shifting and coming together. For the first time in a long time, I was able to sleep a full night again and that uneasy feeling in my stomach (anxiety) started to subside.
I was offered an interview in a litigation firm downtown Toronto, my home town. I had articled and was living in the small province of Prince Edward Island and the possibility of moving back home was thrilling . When I mentioned the interview to a senior colleague, it turns out that she went to law school with the managing partner and they were still friends. The firm's office was located across the street from my favourite pub. The dots all connected and needless to say I hit it off tremendously well with the managing partner and spent 12 rewarding years at that firm.
In terms of meditation, I started teaching it as well as yoga. I have never looked back since that time and it has never failed me. It has been the one constant in my career to support balance, clarity and rejuvenation and so much more!
Self care in law = Self-awareness and Accountability
The number one activity that I do to maintain my wellness in law is to practice self-awareness and accountability as a consistent discipline. In order to stay out of the workaholic-perfectionist trap (which we so often congratulate one another for), I find it is essential to be able to check in with myself in a moment – no matter how challenging that moment might be.
I have tools and habits I’ve developed which enable me to assess my intentions and motives in a moment, and to be cognizant of when I might be tempted to minimize the consequences of my choices or to rationalize the actions of someone else.
Being aware of where I am at enables me to avoid imposter syndrome, to keep moving through difficult files in a conscientious manner, to have discernment when connecting with colleagues, and it enables me to avoid vicarious trauma (which often accompanies legal work) without shutting down my heart or mind. This practice makes me a better lawyer and increases my satisfaction in my work and in my life, generally.
There are a variety of ways to practice self-awareness and accountability. For me, the most effective (and efficient) tools are ones that I learn through the Time to Heal Treatment & Workshop Facility workshop series.
Funke (Olaogun) Fasunon is a Legal Researcher, writer and Nigerian-Business Law lawyer now in Calgary, Alberta. Currently seeking articles in Calgary as the precursor to qualifying for Law Society of Alberta membership. Articling opportunities or information - contact here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Switching Tasks to Increase Satisfaction and Lessen Anxiety
I deal with anxiety around my professional tasks by achieving little goals while anxious. An example is, when I have a remote legal research task and it gets overwhelming, I switch to an easy legal drafting task and submit to client, then come back to the research task. Succeeding at a smaller task while battling a bigger one, reignites my motivation to complete the bigger one or gives me a needed break and I may have new ideas about that bigger task while productively away from it.
Self-Time, Creative Endeavours & Investing in Community
My number one activity to maintain my wellness in law is to carve out some time every evening before bed to read a bit just for pleasure and to do a few word puzzles. Solving the puzzles is particularly satisfying, and the reading takes my mind off my work –bedtime stories work for everyone, even lawyers!
In addition (although definitely not daily), I enjoy crocheting and knitting. The repetitive motion is soothing, and it is very gratifying to see tangible progress (which often eludes us in our work). I have knit blankets for Auberge Shalom (a local Jewish women's shelter), crocheted preemie hats for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, and I am currently participating in the Warm Hands Knitting Club of Federation CJA making hats and scarves to be donated to vulnerable and isolated members of the Montreal Jewish community. Contributing to my community makes me feel so good that it qualifies as self-care.
Prioritize Physical and Mental Health for Lawyer Wellness
I have been passionate about wellness for many years, but integrating more raw food, exercise and mindfulness regularly has been a challenge. I lacked the discipline and was busy with family and work. But last year I started going to the gym every other day and the rewards have been amazing, both for my new level of energy and clarity.
Thanks to incredible life coaches, I reframed my way of thinking and put my physical and mental health as a priority. No more excuses. But no guilt! So I practice mindfulness everyday with the Smiling Mind app, I explore different techniques like Qi Gong and learn from others’ experiences. Many resources are available online so we can exercise from home during COVID.
The level of stress is high in the legal profession and lawyers care a lot about doing the best for their clients. I now truly think that it’s only when we feel good enough about ourselves that we can serve and help others as best as we can. And it’s never too early or too late to start that journey!
Angelika Grodna-Pantera is a dual-qualified lawyer in Ontario (Canada) and Poland (European Union) who provides practical and business-oriented advice on commercial, IP & IT, and privacy law (GDPR, PIPEDA). For business inquires contact through LinkedIn.
Lawyer Health: Ultra Runner
For me, it has also been running. It all had started with very short runs every day before my classes at the university. At that time I noticed that I felt better, had more energy and had something done before my day even started. It was my outlet when I felt overwhelmed by combining studies and work.
I have continued this practice for years. At some point, it became my way to deal with various challenges: personal and professional. I added a competitive aspect to it and moved into trail and ultra running. It is my way to bring a little adventure into my everyday life. I do not need to go far to feel free, be truly with myself, be present and to immerse myself in this repetitive motion. For me, it is the essence of mindfulness practice. It brings perspective and helps organize my thoughts. Any negative thoughts are buried underneath positive energy and I am filled with enjoyment.
Self-Care through Food and Hydration
I rely on many wellness practices, and at the top of that list is staying well hydrated. For me that means not only drinking water all day long, but also taking electrolytes and eating hydrating foods (e.g., melon, apples, peaches, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, celery, carrots, soup, etc.) When I'm dehydrated, I feel fatigued and have difficulty focusing. Hydration plays a key role in my cognitive function and stamina.
The Wellness Esquire is shifting legal culture to recognize the connection between wellbeing and success.
Faye Gelb, founder of Her Legal Global is passionate about empowering lawyers to have a career that makes them smile when they wake up in the morning. Lawyer, Entrepreneur, startup cofounder, front end web developer, photographer and business consultant. Her goal is to help you use your law degree and have a career you love, on your own terms, throughout your career.