Many people are grateful that 2020 has come to an end. Between the pandemic, social disruptions, political disruptions, business chaos, and all of the changes happening in our lives, most people are thinking more in terms of survival than life improvement.
Now is the time that most people usually think about what changes they could initiate to make their lives better – aka “New Year’s Resolutions” – but with the uncertainly facing us in 2021, people are just trying to make it day to day.
Making New Year’s Resolutions are a Low Priority for Most Family Lawyers this Year
Lawyers are facing changes in their law practices, which probably look far different now than they did a year ago. We have gone to a virtual world which may or may not be permanent. With so much uncertainly, New Year’s Resolutions are probably the last thing we are thinking about.
New Year’s Resolutions to Consider in 2021
Rather than list changes we can make to our business approach, food intake, or exercise (which are the top three categories for New Year’s Resolutions), here is a list of ten New Year’s Resolutions that can dramatically increase your resilience, lower your stress and anxiety, and catapult you into 2021.
You can choose one or all of them – depending on how much you want to change your life and family law practice.
1. Plan Your Week.
Many lawyers have calendars that don’t leave enough time to go to the bathroom. They have surrounded themselves with chaos because it makes them feel like they are important and busy. It only adds stress and anxiety to their day. We have to prioritize our time and decide where to allocate our resources. If you are finding you don’t have enough time to do your work efficiently, you need to reduce your workload. When you know what you are going to be doing during the week, this will allow you to sleep and get rest.
2. Identify Three Issues with Your Life You Would Like to Resolve.
Prioritize them and start with the simplest and easiest to deal with. It may be a misunderstanding with a colleague, a problem with your health, or something that is missing in your life. Remember that all you have to do is take baby steps, you don’t have to come up with a solution right away. Having a goal to release the stress of personal and professional issues is the first step to resilience.
3. Reconnect with Friends.
We are hardwired to have personal relationships. We suffer when we isolate ourselves, either because we are stressed, addicted or because of social restrictions (COVID-19). Studies of inmates put into solitary confinement show how unhealthy isolating is. Reconnecting with old friends is a good way to avoid isolating. Commit to call one person a week, or whatever is comfortable for you. You will probably be surprised how much this will be appreciated.
4. Try Team Building.
Join or form a group of colleagues (inside or outside your firm) to talk about issues of the day. I call this a “team”. By cultivating friendships and groups to support each other you will be giving yourself the gift of support. Some of us have a misconception that we have to do everything alone because our work is confidential. Building relationships with other lawyers can be hugely successful. If you have questions about confidentiality, ask.
5. Take 5-Minute Breaks.
Taking five minutes every few hours to calm down and center is a great way to relieve stress and increase resilience. Just looking (or going) outside for five minutes, focusing on the view, and taking your mind off of your work can allow your mind to reset and calm down. If you are in meetings all day, do it between meetings. If you are in court, do it during recess.
6. Take a Deep Breath. Now Take Another.
Many of us are not breathing properly. We breathe too shallowly, which decreases oxygen flow to our frontal cortex. This can activate our limbic brain known as fight, flight or freeze. When we breathe deeply and inhale maximum amounts of oxygen, we can reduce stress and employ our rational minds. Check frequently (5-minute breaks) that you are inhaling to a count of 4, holding to a count of 4, exhaling to a count of 6, holding to a count of 4. Not only will this create resilience, it will activate your vagas nerve which has a lot of great health benefits
7. Find Inspirational Quotes or Funny Jokes.
Resilience often takes inspiration. Make the last thing you do at the end of your workday to research on inspirational quotes or jokes for the following day. Better yet, find and subscribe to a website that will send some inspiration and/or humor to your inbox every day. Being inspired and smiling is contagious. Walking around smiling about a joke you found is highly beneficial. Smiling is a healthy habit which increases the amount of dopamine in your brain (with happy benefits).
8. Focus on a Happy Thought or Mantra.
We can only focus on one thought at a time (even if we have thousands of thoughts a day). Focusing on a happy, affirmative thought helps relieve stress and anxiety. “I’ve got this!”, “I am enough!”, or “I love my work” can get you through the stressful times. Resilience takes effort, discipline, and repetition. We are our thoughts. Make them good ones.
9. Get a Blood Test.
A lot of us would rather suffer in silence than take a proactive approach and find out if we have any medical issues. Sometimes there is a medical reason we feel exhausted, stress and depressed. Long term stress places huge burdens on our body, and it can cause hormonal and chemical imbalances. Getting a blood test regularly to check hormones, cholesterol, and other important markers can not only give us information to avoid later problems but also alert us to current medical issues.
10. Get Help.
Unfortunately, lawyers are statistically at higher risk of stress and burnout than other professions. COVID-19 has not made this any easier. If you are having trouble sleeping, feeling depressed or exhausted, get help. You can call your local Lawyer’s Assistance Programs (or me) to get advice on how to cope, increase your resilience and start having more success.
Are You Excited About 2021?
I am very excited about 2021. Change is good. With increased resilience, we can ignore the emotional rollercoaster many people are on and watch for opportunities. With new thoughts, a new attitude, and positive thoughts and actions we can build a better tomorrow.
I know that only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are kept – but I also know that if you keep on doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you are getting (is that last part good or bad news for you)?
With new practices, a new attitude, and positive thoughts and actions, you can build a better tomorrow in 2021.
Implement some or all of these New Year’s Resolutions and you will set yourself up to have a Happy New Year!
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