Working as a lawyer or attorney can be a stressful career. The American Bar Association (ABA) partnered with the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and their study found levels of depression, anxiety and stress are significantly higher in practicing attorneys and those in the legal profession.
The study reported that 28%, 19%, and 23% experience mild or higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, respectively. For those lawyers who suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety, what can be done to help them?
For the 85% of lawyers who said they would like support with managing stress and anxiety better, look no further. Jeena Cho is a partner at JC Law Group PC, a bankruptcy law firm in San Francisco, CA, and the co-author of The Anxious Lawyer, An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (ABA). Her book explores how mindfulness and meditation can help lawyers reduce their anxiety and stress, as well as improve focus and clarity and enrich the quality of their lives.
She recently spoke with Abby Connect Virtual Receptionists in a phone interview where she offered 4 ways lawyers can begin to relieve their stress quickly.
1) No Cell Phone Use in this area
Cho said she used to use her phone as her alarm clock (like many people do) and would sleep with it on the nightstand. Cho said in a previous blog post, “The problem was that it was too tempting to scroll through Facebook or check email. Getting the iPhone out of the bedroom eliminated that compulsion, the habit of constantly checking the phone.” This allows her and her husband more time to talk to one another and read books. She also suggests not using your phone while you’re eating or checking it when you first wake up in the morning in order to be more mindful of your experiences. Cho suggests having someone take your phone calls, like a receptionist, phone answering service for lawyers or virtual receptionist service, in order to refocus your attention on your daily tasks.
2) Don't let the days fly by
Whether it’s a massage every other week, yoga poses in your office, head or shoulder rolls while sitting at your desk, taking a quick walk around the block, gardening, or going hiking out in nature, everyone needs a way to relieve stress. Cho suggests calendaring everything when it comes to stress-relieving activities. “I find if I don’t calendar it, then it’s so easy not to do it or it ends up on the to-do list along with a hundred other things.” For the 70% of lawyers who said they would like to find more work-life balance, this would be a great idea to implement. She also suggests if you are in a relationship, you can calendar activities to do with your spouses such as couples massages or weekend trips so it gives you both something to look forward to. By scheduling in some relaxation and mindfulness, it will help you perform better in the courtroom and your job effectiveness can be increased by 6%.
3) It Only Takes a minute
There’s a lot you can do in one minute to relax, according to Cho. You can roll your shoulders back while sitting in your chair. Listen to your favorite song or give someone you love a quick hug. Cho also suggests in her blog to take just a few minutes to pay attention to your breath—how you’re breathing can ease the mind and defuse the body’s natural fight-or-flight response. She even suggests that even a short meditation during a bad day can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety. You could try to do some quick yoga poses at your desk if you can’t sneak away to the gym.
4) the more your practice, the better you get
The first few times you try some stress relieving techniques, it may not work. But don’t feel discouraged. Remember in law school how it would take you a few tries to win your first mock trial or learn the right technique to studying for your law course exams? The same principle applies here: You have to practice meditation to get better at it. Shawn Anchor suggests if you take 2 minutes of practice every day for 21 days to practice meditation it would help you to relax more and rewire your brain to work more optimistically and successfully. Remember, the more you practice meditation, the easier it will be to do. To help you get in the practice and inspire you to be more mindful in your legal career, Jeena Cho also offers a weekly newsletter and podcast, The Resilient Lawyer.