Practising Wellness for a Better Practice


Practising Wellness for a Better Practice

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine — and shadows will fall behind you.” — Walt Whitman

It was March 2020 as the world headed into a global pandemic; court rooms were closed; I was sent to work from home. I found myself home without the distractions of changing court room times, commuting, and interruptions expected in a normal working day. Like many people I’ve talked to, I found myself reflecting on not only how my work environment had suddenly changed but how other aspects of my life had changed over time. I took stalk of my days and realized a big part of my physical well-being had become less of a priority over the past five years as I navigated new roles in my career as a lawyer, being on several committees and boards. My days of morning commutes, drive throughs, rush eating between trials, and travel to board meetings had come to a halt. This became an opportunity to think back to what it was like when my mental and physical health were more balanced. What did it look like before I prioritized one over the other?

Though working as a lawyer is mentally stimulating and being mentally stimulated can positively impact health, the profession itself can lead one to at times prioritize work instead of balancing physical and mental well-being. Like training for a marathon to be successful, a balanced holistic approach is required for long-term well-being and success.

The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework envisions health holistically, approaching individual health as interrelated to broad systemic factors. While the framework focuses on systemic factors that impact Indigenous peoples health, the same principle can be applied considering the health of lawyers in the context of health in the profession and a culture that promotes prioritizing work over health.

There was a time where I was more balanced in my life. I was once part of Spirit Runners, a family and friend weekly running group where we entered marathons and spent many weekends cooking and eating meals together, planning teams, and travel. I also thought about my traditional knowledge base around wellness. I began to see how I could work toward a more balanced lifestyle.

During COVID, grocery shopping meant having to take the time to plan meals so that I could limit my time in the store. In turn, my plans became more focused on making quality whole foods. As a result of changing my nutrition, I improved my mental clarity, which made work more enjoyable and rewarding despite zoom fatigue and missing my day to day.

COVID lockdown contributed to many of the lifestyle changes I set out to make — the goal of returning to running a full marathon. I initially set a goal for 30-minute walks on the track but, I could only do an 8-minute walk. As the weather got colder and stay at home orders increased, I purchased a recumbent bicycle so I could exercise at home. After a few months my time increased to 60 minutes, with half hour walks, then incorporating Pilates and High Intensity Interval Training. My running increased from 3 km to 5 km runs. I found new locations to challenge myself and increase distance and pace. I gained increased energy and connection to the land.

In October 2021, I ran the Victoria half marathon. My time was 1:34 placing me within a local competitive category. Running also provided a means of community whereby I started to run with other lawyers, setting common goals for team running. Now the plan is to qualify for the Boston Marathon 2024.

Being a lawyer is like running a marathon, both require hard work, long days, and many challenges to meet the physical and mental demands presented. By creating balance, I enjoy a greater appreciation for the ancillary parts of my profession such as giving back to community through board work and committees. A bonus is, as lawyers create space in the legal system for balancing mental health, the greater possibility exists for systemic change across all areas of law.