Most of us are grateful that 2021 is over. Between the social disruptions, political upheaval, business chaos, and the endless changes happening in our lives, we have been thinking more in terms of survival than life improvement.
Now is the time of year people usually think about changes they can make to improve their lives – otherwise known as New Year resolutions – but with the uncertainly facing us in 2022, people are just trying to make it day by day.
Family lawyers are facing changes in their law practice, which probably looks far different now than it did two years ago. We have changed over to a virtual world, which may or may not be permanent. January is the time divorce petitions increase; clients are ready to make a change. While most lawyers may welcome more work, some may not be ready for added stress.
Rather than list the changes we could make to our business approach, food intake, or exercise – which are often the top three categories for New Year’s resolutions – here is a list of nine resolutions that can dramatically increase your resilience, lower your stress and anxiety, and catapult you into 2022.
You can choose to implement one, several, or all these resolutions. It simply depends on how much you want to change your life.
9 New Year’s Resolutions to Make for 2022
1. Change Your Perspective.
How we view our world determines our experience of it. For example, choose one word to describe 2021. Did you choose a negative word? If so, you’re not alone. For 2022, choose a different word with positive connotations. Get excited about 2022 and decide that no matter what happens, you will be happy. Happiness is a decision, not a byproduct.
2. Plan Your Week.
Many lawyers have calendars that scarcely leave enough time to go to the bathroom. Sometimes, we unconsciously surround ourselves with chaos because it makes us feel like we are important and busy. However, that only adds stress and anxiety to our day.
We have to prioritize our time and decide where to allocate our resources. We have to learn how to do our work efficiently without sacrificing our lives in the process. When we know what we need to accomplish during the week, this will allow us to see where we may not be efficient. It is not all about billable hours.
It is also important to plan time for family and well-being. We have to hardwire work-life balance into our schedules if we want to build resilience. We have to decide what is a healthy work-life balance and prioritize the “life” part of the equation. If you are not doing that now, this will be the most important resolution for 2022.
3. Reconnect with Colleagues and Friends.
We are hardwired to crave personal relationships. We suffer when we isolate ourselves from others – either because we are stressed, addicted, or because of social restrictions (many imposed by COVID19). Studies of inmates put into solitary confinement show how unhealthy isolating is. Reconnecting with old friends is a good way to avoid isolation, so commit to calling a friend – or better yet, arranging to go for a walk together – or eating lunch (virtually if necessary) with a colleague at least once a week if possible. You will probably be surprised how much this will help.
4. Engage in Team Building.
By cultivating friendships and groups to support each other, you will be giving yourself the gift of support.
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 beneficial. If you have questions about confidentiality, ask.
5. Take Five.
Taking five-minute breaks 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. Breathe Deeply
Many of us are not breathing properly. We breathe too shallowly which decreases oxygen flow to our frontal cortex. This can activate our limbic system, 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 (on your five-minute breaks) that you are inhaling to a count of four, holding to a count of four, exhaling to a count of six, holding to a count of four. This is a variation of the technique known as “Box or Square Breathing,” It will create resilience while activating your vagus nerve and your parasympathetic system. Conscious breathing has a lot of great health benefits including reducing stress and anxiety.
7. Find Inspirational Quotes or Funny Jokes.
Resilience often requires inspiration. Make the last thing you do during your day researching inspirational quotes or jokes for the following day. Being inspired and smiling is contagious. Walking around smiling about a joke you found is highly beneficial. Smiling is a healthy habit that increases the amount of dopamine in your brain (with happy benefits).
8. 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, stressed, and depressed. Long-term stress places huge burdens on our bodies, 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 problems later but also alert us to current medical issues.
9. Seek Out Help – Then Allow Others to Help You.
Unfortunately, lawyers are statistically at a higher risk of stress and burnout than other professions. COVID-19 has not made this any easier. The CDC has found that PTSD symptoms have increased significantly since 2020. The added layer of trauma experienced in 2020 and 2021 due to isolation, business failures, media reports, and increased crime is being felt everywhere. If you are having trouble sleeping, feeling depressed or exhausted, get help. You can call your local Lawyer’s Assistance Programs1 or contact me to get advice on how to cope, increase your resilience and start having more success.
With increased resilience, we can reduce the impact of the emotional rollercoaster many people are on and open ourselves to opportunities. With new thoughts, a new attitude, and positive thoughts and actions we can build a better tomorrow.
Unfortunately, only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are kept. And if you keep on doing what you are doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting in the past.
Implement all or even some of these New Year’s resolutions for a happy new year!
1 Directory of State Lawyer Assistance Programs
1 Directory of Provincial Lawyer Assistance Programs
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