If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to live a healthier lifestyle, you’re not alone. Eating healthier and exercising typically tops the list for most people.
However, it’s important that you pay attention to both your physical health and your mental health. They are equally essential, yet people tend to mostly focus on the physical—they aim to, say, lose weight—rather than on what’s impacting their emotional outlook. And this is critical for lawyers. Stress in the legal profession is well-documented and can take a significant toll on a lawyer’s well-being given the long hours, heavy workloads, and overall adversarial nature of the industry.
Here are some tips on how to make 2018 your most holistic health year yet:
One might say the burgeoning mantra for 2018 is mindfulness. But what is mindfulness exactly? Psychology Today defines mindfulness as “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.”
Stress and anxiety are typically heightened when we are focused on the past or the future. When we focus on the present and stay in the moment, we can eliminate the overwhelming noise that according to Naomi Titleman Colla, founder of Collaborativity Leadership Advisory, a Toronto-based consultancy focused on driving progressive talent strategy, leads to unproductive and often irrational and negative thoughts about what we “should have done,” or things that “may happen.”
Lawyers Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford share their insight into how practicing mindfulness reduced anxiety, improved focus and clarity and enriched overall quality of life in the book The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation. Check it out. It can help you really stay in the present in 2018 and beyond.
Get More Sleep
Experts recommend that you try to get seven to nine hours of deep, restful sleep each night. “Quality sleep is a key component to overall health and even weight management, as sleep is the only opportunity the body has to detoxify and heal,” explains Farrah Minnich, a certified nutritional therapy practitioner and wellness coach in Connecticut.
So, even if you’re going to the gym on a regular basis, you won’t get the results you want if you’re not getting enough sleep. Even worse, sleep deprivation can put you at risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also increase stress and anxiety.
To increase your chances of a good night’s sleep, avoid caffeinated drinks late in the day, turn off bright screens within 1-2 hours of bedtime, and keep your bedroom cool and dark. The National Sleep Foundation offers other helpful tips.
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but most of us aren’t drinking enough water. It’s time to drink up! “My first piece of advice to clients is always to focus on getting hydrated,” says Minnich. “That tends to reduce a lot of their physical complaints and ailments, help manage hunger, and even address stress and anxiety.”
Staying hydrated can have a significant impact on your overall health, from more energy, clearer skin, and increased productivity at work. With so many quality water bottles on the market, it’s easy to chug some water from wherever you are.
Be Kind to Yourself
While we’re taught to be kind to others from the very beginning, few of us were ever taught the critical life skill of self-compassion. Why is it we are able to encourage others after making a mistake, yet we defer to self-flagellation when we make our own mistakes? “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend,” explains Kristin Neff, Ph.D, a leading expert on self-compassion and author of the book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.
Research has shown that self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. And as Jim Dwyer, a personal injury lawyer in Portland, writes in his blog, “The more we practice being compassionate with ourselves as we would with others, the happier and better functioning we will be, which helps us in every area of our lives— including being a better attorney for our clients.”
Kristin Johnson is an executive and corporate communications professional, and founder of KSJ Communications, a communications and public relations firm. She consults with a diverse roster of clients spanning the technology, professional services, financial services, public sector, consumer, and healthcare industries. In addition to Rocket Matter, Johnson writes for various other publications as well.