Five Tips

For maintaining a healthy sense of balance while practising law

Five Tips

Being a lawyer is stressful. The challenging workloads and adversarial nature of the profession can lead to a life that is completely out of balance.

The following techniques are designed to help decrease stress and to help you along the path to balance.

Get in touch with your values

Values are simply what is important. They are an internal set of beliefs that influence life at a subconscious level. They can include qualities such as honesty, integrity, fairness, loyalty and perseverance.

Lawyer’s must regularly make value judgments and process conflicting points of view without getting lost or losing perspective.1 When a lawyer’s actions are in-line with their core values it provides a feeling of congruence and a sense of “making a difference.” Because they know what is important to them, they are more resilient and less likely to experience depression, anxiety and burnout.2

Making a list of what values are really important to you will help you to determine the life you wish to create. You can then begin to take actions that will assure greater balance and well-being.

Maintain Healthy boundaries

Boundaries are limits that determine where one person ends and the world at large begins. They are essential to living a healthy and anxiety-free life. Identify what demands you are willing to accept from your work, friends and home life and don’t allow anyone to persuade you to compromise on those limits. “No,” is a complete sentence.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation (“MM”) cultivates awareness, insight, compassion and mental focus.3 In MM a lawyer learns to be aware – without judgment – of what sensations, sounds or thoughts that pass through his or her awareness.4 The practice has helped many lawyers to become more resilient, reduce stress, and to promote psychological health.5 Mindfulness Meditation has been embraced by many in the legal profession in response to an increasingly antagonistic professional environment “and increasing rates of substance abuse, mental illness and depression within the profession.”6 Major law firms in the US, as well as universities such as Harvard Law School and USC Berkley, have begun promoting MM as a means to promote psychological health and well-being in the practice of law.

Challenge your negative beliefs

Many people have destructive belief systems they are not aware of. They may feel like an impostor or otherwise unworthy so they constantly defer to others’ expectations. Or they worry about what others will think, feel guilty for saying no, experience perfectionism or let other people make important decisions for them. These are all symptoms of negative belief systems that steal vital energy and foster resentment and despair. Challenge these negative beliefs by asking and following what it is you really want. Get help from a professional if needed.

Practice the 4-4-4 breath technique

Sit down with your feet on the floor – eyes open or closed. Inhale deeply (the abdomen rather than chest should expand) and count slowly to four. Hold your breath. Then exhale to the count of four. Repeat this at least four times. This technique can be done with the eyes open or closed. It is a great quick stress reducer.

Practising any one of the above consistently will put you on your way to being a happier and more balanced lawyer.

  5. Ibid, at p. 46 
  6. Orenstein, Supra, note 3 

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