“…nothing takes you from 60 to zero as quickly as a drink or a pill.”Lisa F. Smith, attorney and author of “Girl Walks Out of a Bar”
With the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the practice of law as we know it has been turned on its head. The economic and psychological effects of this pandemic will change us forever, as they should, in my opinion. Our current working conditions have exacerbated well known and long-standing pressures in the field that we have chosen to ignore until recent years. The results of a survey conducted by Law.com in its Minds Over Matters project, just released in February of 2020, provide some alarming statistics about the fragile mental state we are in as attorneys.1
From a mental health standpoint, the issues that have plagued the legal profession for years are now facing us front and center. Feelings of stress, being overwhelmed and burned out, sadly accepted by many as part of being a lawyer, are exacerbated as we try to figure out the “new normal “ in a landscape that is changing daily, and sometimes hourly. How are we supposed to maintain a sense of control as we watch our practices take a nosedive financially, wrap our heads around the legal issues related to practicing under these restraints, and put on that show of strength for our loved ones and clients?
This is exactly why as lawyers we must begin to make use of as many tools as possible to take care of ourselves. No one can make any decisions with a clear mind while they are stressed, anxious, fearful and overwhelmed by the news, social isolation, and loss of control.
I can personally attest to the value of the many useful strategies offered out there such as “mindfulness” (which nobody seems to define in specific terms), yoga, meditation and exercise. And while larger firms, state bar associations, Lawyer Assistance Programs and other organizations are improving ways to make mental health services accessible to lawyers, getting that help may not be immediate.
Not only that, many attorneys can’t even think about taking time for mental self care. “Asked if they feel they could take extended leave to address mental health or substance abuse issues, 35% said yes. Of the 65% who said no, 78% said it would hurt their career trajectory, 77% said they fear what the firm would think, and 36% said they fear what clients would think. Respondents could give multiple reasons, and 56% said there’s simply too much work to take an extended leave. “ 2
As you can see, approximately two thirds of the respondents stated that they could not seek help! What we really need is something that we can access in real time in the moment we are feeling the stress, anxiousness, fear anger, or other response that takes us out of our game. One way to get some immediate relief is through EFT, or tapping.
What is the EFT and how does it work?
In a previous blog post, I explained what EFT is and how it works. By tapping on acupressure points located on the head, face and upper body, while expressing a particular concern or problem, we can bring a state of calmness and clarity that allows us to focus, to be good role models for our families and children, and to avoid the physical effects of being under such pressure.
EFT can be done wherever you are, in a matter of minutes, yes, in the same amount of time as that drink or pill takes to bring your stress down to a 0. As a self-help tool, EFT has been shown to reduce cortisol, the hormone produced in the body when we are under stress, or in the “flight, fight or freeze” mode. For deeper issues, working with a skilled EFT practitioner either remotely or in person can have lasting positive effects on one’s sense of wellbeing and state of mind that is frequently reflected in a renewed sense of fulfillment at work.
EFT has been demonstrated to be effective for stress, depression, PTSD, weight loss, food cravings, phobias and addictions. You can read more about the science behind EFT and the ongoing research here.
Tapping has gained acceptance for use in schools, prisons, with law enforcement personnel, veterans, addiction programs and others. Why not bring it to lawyers?
We are in the midst of huge changes in the way we practice law. We can either embrace the fact that our mental health is as important as our physical health, and grow with the changes, or continue to labor (and I say labor because that is just what it is for too many attorneys) under the false idea that suffering under these conditions is just part of being a lawyer.
The numbers don’t lie. We owe it to ourselves and each other to make sure we are mentally balanced. The world needs us to do what we do. Remember those ideals we had in law school about the difference we could make? I know a huge number of attorneys in my field, Immigration, who do amazing and unbelievable work for their clients. They are brilliant, relentless fighters, and they are stressed, overwhelmed, burned out. We need to support each other so that we can all continue to serve.
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.
- McLellan, Lizzy, “Lawyers Reveal the True Depth of Mental Struggles, Law.com, February 19, 2020.