Did you know that the first week in May is Lawyer Wellness Week? When I first heard about that I laughed to myself thinking “now THERE’s an oxymoron!” And then I started to ask myself why I had that reaction. Why does the concept of wellness seem so foreign to many of us lawyers?
Could it be the long work hours that invade our personal and family time (and now space, thanks to COVID)? The constant pressure of getting work done while working from home with all of the distractions that derail our productivity? That nagging feeling of “I should be tending to the business part of my practice?” The perpetual fear of losing clients and income? That it’s all too much and you just want to quit altogether?
It’s no wonder that so many of us don’t have any idea of what wellness looks like. We’re too busy responding to clients who have access to us 24/7, while trying to do whatever we have to do just to get new clients who have access to us 24/7. If we do happen to think about some vague concept of wellness, we simply shrug it off as a dream and accept the stress and overwhelm as part of what we took on when we decided to become lawyers. To some, carrying this burden is even a badge of honor.
Three Steps to get out of “overwhelm”
The truth is we all know that we can’t sustain this hamster wheel lifestyle long term. So how do we take care of ourselves when we’re just trying to get through the week, or even the day? Yoga? Yeah, right. Mindfulness? Not now. Workout? Nope, not happening. How can we even think about taking time out from our “schedule” for anything other than food, sleep and family?
1. NAME and ACKNOWLEDGE the problem. Sounds obvious and simple, right? Not for lawyers! As lawyers we are trained to solve our clients’ problems. Period. To admit we are feeling overwhelmed or that we can’t continue working this way is to appear weak, or worse yet, unable to handle our cases. We are afraid we could lose clients. (Have you ever actually been relieved when a client who makes you pull your hair out decides to fire you and find a different lawyer? I’m raising my hand here.) We’re afraid we won’t get new cases assigned to us. We will be bypassed for new opportunities or promotions.
Here are a few examples: I ADMIT that I put my clients’ needs above mine and that this does not serve either myself or my client. I admit that I work too much and it is affecting my family and private life. I admit that I have a really hard time shutting off my phone at night and I don’t get enough sleep. I admit that I am scared to death of losing clients , losing my position within my organization or even losing my job if I slow down. I admit that I am overwhelmed and don’t know what to do about it.
2. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to feel all of the emotions you are feeling and take the time to address them, even if only for five minutes. Sit with those feelings and accept them as part of being human, trying to be the best lawyer, mom, dad, son or daughter or colleague that you can be. Sounds easy, right? Not for lawyers! (See above.)
You’re only human. It’s ok to be: scared or worried about the future, angry at yourself and/or others, overwhelmed by the demands of work and family life, sad for the loss of life and/or loss of contact with your friends, relatives and colleagues. Again, just a few examples of what you might be feeling.
3. TAKE ONE SMALL STEP to improve your sense of well-being. This is where EFT tapping comes in. Five minutes of EFT can turn things around when you are stuck and “having a moment.”
What is EFT tapping? Often described as a form of “emotional acupuncture”, tapping helps calm the body and mind by sending calming signals to the amygdala, the “fight flight or freeze” center of our brain that is constantly activated by all of the stress we live with. Using EFT, in five minutes, we name the problem and acknowledge the emotion, then focus on the negative emotion as we tap on the meridian tapping points located on head, face and upper body. That’s right, we focus on the negative emotion to acknowledge and then clear it by tapping on the points. (No “positive toxicity” here.) After a few rounds of tapping, we can feel calmer, more relaxed, and therefore more able to think clearly and focus on what we need to be doing.
Lawyer Wellness is not an oxymoron. There are so many effective ways we can take care of ourselves as lawyers. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, regular exercise and a healthy diet really are tools we all should be using on a regular basis. These all take some time, however.
If you are in the moment and can’t focus because you are too stressed out and overwhelmed. EFT tapping can bring down that stress level and get you back to center in a matter of minutes. Once we calm the body and brain with tapping, we can think straight again. And surprise- we actually do feel better!
Tapping is a great way to deal with the daily stresses of work, family and life in general. Deeper issues work best with a qualified, certified EFT practitioner. In depth tapping with a qualified practitioner can be life changing. Our clients, family and friends are depending on us to become masters of our own wellness. It’s time we took our well-being to heart, in every sense of that word and tapping is a small step in the right direction!
Sharon Ames, Esq. is a practicing attorney for over 35 years and a certified EFT practitioner with EFT International. She is dedicated to creating inspired lawyers through reducing stress, anxiousness and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of practicing law. She works with clients individually or in groups (workshops and presentations), in-person or via Zoom.