Feelings of isolation and overwhelm were already common in law school and the legal profession before the pandemic. Focus on the keys to your well-being as we approach an ‘unprecedented’ winter.
While these tips were originally written with law students in mind, they’re helpful at any point in your legal career as well.
1. Challenges are an opportunity to develop and strengthen personal agency. All life experiences can be used in developing resilience and grit that will benefit you now and later in your career.
- Find out how having a growth mindset is key to threat perception and handling stress here.
- Find more on resilience in the legal profession here on our blog and on resilience in general on the APA website here.
- Find a short 30-minute webinar on Psychological Tools for Lawyers to Build Resilience for Prolonged Pandemic Stress here.
2. Living with intention is key to motivation. Being conscious and aware of your choices is an ongoing decision to bring a focused cognitive energy to choices you make. When we tap into our deepest intentions, we are more motivated to stay on course, particularly with regard to professional satisfaction — find more here on how working in alignment with your values improves happiness.
- Ask yourself regularly, “what is my deepest desire for ____” (school/work/relationships). Or “what matters most to me right now?”
- Assess and remind yourself of your intentions and values often. Intentions keep you on track and help you to meet your goals even during these difficult times.
3. Be goal-directed. Identify goals you’ll commit to reaching, and develop discipline that allows you to succeed.
4. Create small changes that become habits. Establishing smaller, consistent changes that you can commit to allowing for achievable benchmarks that reinforce behavior. Find more here on why it’s helpful to start small as you approach goals.
5. Develop a discipline for self-care; pay attention to your body. Make it a priority to create consistency, conscious awareness, and perseverance in diet, exercise, rest, and relaxation. “The body keeps the score” (Bessel Van Derkolk). Our bodies hold stress and trauma even when we are not cognitively aware of the toll stress takes on us. By engaging in healthy mind/body activities including meditation, yoga, exercise, and healthy eating, our body can be key in healing from overwhelming stress as well.
- Find updates on self-care strategies here.
- Find resources on physical well-being here.
- Find tips on sleep hygiene here.
6. Focus on pushing through personal malaise, procrastination, avoidance. Give yourself permission to risk failure, and walk through the fear of “what if???”
- Find more here on overcoming perfectionism and learning from failure.
- Find more here on overcoming procrastination.
7. Embrace change, don’t resist that which you cannot control. Loss and pain are unavoidable, but continuing to suffer is optional and comes from resistance to accepting the change and shifting your focus to what’s in your control. Stress hardiness comes from three key beliefs that help people during adversity, referred to as the three C’s:
- Commitment – remain involved and active in one’s community
- Control – try to influence outcomes rather than staying passive.
- Challenge – seeing change as an opportunity for new learning
8. Successful law students and lawyers seek help, consultation, and assistance, which is available to law students in Massachusetts for free and confidentially through LCL.
- Schedule an individual meeting with one of our experienced mental health clinicians and/or law practice advisors
- Participate in any of our discussion/support groups
- Find resources on topics related to mental health & well-being as well as practice management & career development in the legal profession.
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Written by Barbara Bowe, LICSW