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“Yes, And…”: How a little Improv can help manage stress and anxiety

Stress management is a big industry these days. Whether its relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, mindfulness or therapy, there are many options for how we can better manage our stress and anxiety in life. When lawyers come to talk with me about how to manage their anxiety and stress more effectively, they often expect to be told to practice some mindfulness or deep breathing technique (which are great by the way, so yes, please do them). But for some types of stress and anxiety, a different approach can be more effective, and more fun.

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The Need for Constant Distraction

As high achieving professionals, lawyers are genuinely busy people. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. But what if the busyness that most of us busy people face on a daily basis is not due to pursuing some professional or personal goal but instead a distraction from something else? What if we are busy but not productive? I often tell people that as human beings we are motivated by two basic drives: to pursue pleasure and to avoid pain. And avoiding pain is stronger. Given this fact, we can understand a lot about why we do what we do by understanding what we find painful, or uncomfortable, and how we typically respond to that discomfort.

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The Problem with Lawyers and Self-Care

Lawyers are not unique in their struggle to prioritize their health and well-being. Many in the helping professions focus on those they aim to help at the cost of neglecting their own needs. It takes time and effort to learn how to prioritize one’s own well-being as an essential element in being an effective helping to others. For those looking for reasons to avoid addressing issues with their own well-being, lawyers can turn to their legal training to help provide justification for their avoidance of self-care.

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The Secret to Maintaining Boundaries

One of the best uses of your time and energy, in service of your mental health, is to create and maintain healthy boundaries in all aspects of your life. Many of us are guilty of living our lives (professionally and personally, in whole or in part) within the confines of limitations. Limitations are the point at which you cannot do more or an external restriction prevents you from doing more. For example, you’re working late into the night and falling asleep at your computer (biological limitations), your neighbor asks for your help carrying a heavy box upstairs but you are not home, a client wants to schedule an urgent meeting but you are scheduled to be in court at that time.

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Recovery in Law School – An interview with SK. (Part 2)

We continue our interview with SK, a 3L law student in the greater Boston area. Part 1 of the interview can be found here. She graciously agreed to share some of her story with us and to tell us more about Refuge Recovery, a Buddhist path to addiction recovery.

LCL: What is Refuge Recovery and how did you come to be aware of it? How has Refuge Recovery helped you? Do you apply Buddhist principles in all aspects of your life? How have Buddhist principles influenced your life in general, your experience of law school, your future goals as a lawyer?

SK: Refuge Recovery is a Buddhist-based approach to recovery from addiction, founded by a man named Noah Levine*. [*Noah Levine is under investigation for sexual misconduct. Read further at the bottom of this post.] There are meetings all over the U.S. and the world. It’s open to anyone, at any stage of dealing with or recovering from any type of addiction, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, gambling, codependency, shopping, you name it. I discovered it through a sort of sister-group called Dharma Punx, which is a Buddhist meditation group that also has meetings in Boston. As a nice twist of fate, my sponsor who I met through twelve step is also involved in Refuge Recovery. I spent my first six months of sobriety crafting my own recovery program which consisted mostly of podcasts, books, yoga and meditation, and a diet overhaul. But I was really craving being able to commiserate with other people about what I was going through, so I began going to twelve step meetings and Refuge Recovery meetings and I am so, so glad I did. I wish I hadn’t waited!

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Recovery in Law School – An interview with SK. (Part 1)

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is every bit as concerned for law students — it just didn’t fit in our name. All law students in Massachusetts are entitled to use our free and confidential services, and are welcomed at all of our Recovery Meetings across the state. Find our Law Student FAQ here, further Resources here, and a 3-Step Survival Guide here.

SK is a 3L law student in the greater Boston area. She graciously agreed to share some of her story with us and to tell us more about Refuge Recovery, a Buddhist path to addiction recovery.

LCL: You have shared with me that you have been in recovery for just over a year. Can you tell us about your journey toward sobriety and what influenced you to seek help?

SK: To say that I didn’t see sobriety coming would be an understatement. I had no idea that this path would ever be a part of my life, so I was kind of blindsided to be honest. My brother is an alcoholic who’s been in recovery since 2010. When he quit drinking, I secretly thought “good thing I’m not an alcoholic, I can’t imagine life without drinking.” Years later when I had a “moment of clarity” in 2016 and saw that I needed to stop drinking, completely, forever, it felt more like a discovery of something that had been true all along, rather than a decision. It was like looking at someone else’s life and being able to see so clearly—I realized “holy crap I am one of those people. I have to stop drinking.”

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Tips on Making the Season Brighter – Seasonal Affective Disorder

The change in the season means many different things to different people. When the season changes from autumn to winter (at least in regions where there is distinct variation between seasons), some people are excited about the holidays, winter fashion, and outdoor winter activities (think of your friendly neighborhood skiers, snowboarders, Santa impersonators). For others, the change in season is met with dread (lower amounts of energy, mood fluctuations, pessimism). While many people are negatively impacted by the colder seasons, there is a percentage of individuals who are affected to a significant degree, those who meet the criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD occurs when the change of season produces depressed mood, low energy, irritability, change in sleep patterns, change in appetite, diminished concentration, and low motivation.

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New Year’s Resolutions – Start small

Every year I make the same resolution. My resolution is to not make any resolutions this year. And every year, I break my resolution simply by making it. This is my way of taking away the guilt or pressure of making lofty goals that will most likely be broken sometime in the near future. This is our human nature: we get excited about change, start to make a change, realize that change actually takes hard work, get discouraged by that requirement, start failing in our efforts, judge our progress against our idea of what it “should” look like, and then stop making progress entirely. This is why so many people buy gym memberships at the start of the year and then stop using them entirely in March. This is also why gyms do not expand their space due to the influx of new members at the beginning of the year. They know that the numbers will decrease rapidly.

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