by Ann Jenrette-Thomas and Kathleen Ashwill
Take a moment. Close your eyes & observe your thoughts. How many responsibilities are causing you stress right now? That brief? A demanding client? Coordinating a ride for the kids? Oh, and there’s that dinner party this weekend. . .
In this fast-paced world we live in, and particularly in the legal profession, stress is just a given. . . or is it? If you stay quiet for another moment, you may start to attain further detachment from that hamster wheel of stressful thoughts. Maybe you’ll find that the “you” who’s observing your thoughts is at peace, sees them as a little humorous, or perhaps isn’t attached to outcomes. The truth is, we all have the ability to access peace within every single moment of the day! It’s just a matter of training ourselves – gently! – to do so.
Think back to those times in your life when you’ve been most “in the zone” and at peace, when even a seemingly difficult sequence of tasks flowed effortlessly and you felt on top of your game. This often happens when we play sports, an instrument, meditate, gaze at the sunset, or are involved in a meaningful conversation with a friend. Time becomes irrelevant and in our time-obsessed culture, these instances are crucial to prevent burnout! How can YOU integrate a little more of “the zone,” a little more peace into your day?
Though it can seem that the to-do list is never-ending, many resources are available, within you and outside of you that can make stress manageable!
I invite you to reach out to me at Ann@EsquireCoaching.com to set up a coaching session if you want to get proactive about addressing your stress level and implementing the work-life balance that works for you.
I also want to share with you this number for The American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs’s National Helpline for Lawyers: 1-866-LAW-LAPS.
Now let’s look at some tips for stress-management, shall we?
- Time management: It’s tempting to want to tackle the easiest tasks first, but I’m sure you know that prioritizing the most time-consuming, potentially difficult tasks feels better in the long run, and actually gives you energy as you accomplish them and move onto what’s next on the list. Whether it’s a very left-brain oriented itemized list, an intuitive and colorful flow chart on your wall, or pop-up reminders in your phone’s calendar, come up with something that feels good to look at and address daily, a system that feels like your ally. Then, go for it, and the task that’s most like a mountain will quickly seem like a molehill!
- Be aware of your thoughts and emotions: Let’s come back to the exercise we tried at the beginning of this post – observe your thoughts. Use your lawyerly skills to your advantage and refute the ones that don’t support you, inserting more loving and encouraging ones in their place. Becoming a vigilant observer of your thoughts and feelings means you’re behind the wheel, instead of letting old subconscious programming (usually instilled by our parents early in life) steer you into mayhem and stress. Empower yourself, and when you feel things slipping out of your control, lovingly look at what false belief is influencing you. Remember, you’re competent, capable, brilliant, and infinitely adaptable! What are some other supportive concepts and words that can counter the Negative Nancies in your head?
- Practice relaxation techniques: Stretching, deep breathing, a brief walk outside. . . . It’s no surprise that each of these calms you, gives you perspective, and brings you back into the present moment and your body (let’s face it, as lawyers, we tend to be a bit disconnected from our bodies with the exception of our brains!).
- Delegate: Let go of some of that control and let your support team support you. Be communicative and clear, and have confidence in the staff you’ve chosen or have been assigned. You will likely be pleasantly surprised at the weight that you can release by letting others catch you a bit more… and hold you up!
- Have an outlet outside of work: Your job is intense; there’s no doubt about that! What enlivening, energizing, and/or relaxing hobby can match or mitigate that intensity in a positive way? Perhaps you’ve already found that and explore that passion regularly. Good for you! Keep it going. If not, start to brainstorm. Think about how you want to spend your weekends (or better yet, clip images of it and create a vision board!). Give yourself the adventurous and nurturing life out of work that gives you the extra oomph to greet Monday with a smile (or at least not a grimace) and have some good memories & stories to tell while you’re at it!
And now it’s your turn! What is your lifesaver when it comes to stress management? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!