Barbara Ezyk, executive director of the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program, is the coordinating editor of this new series of wellness articles. Readers are encouraged to send authors and Ezyk their feedback. If you would like to suggest a topic or contribute a wellness article, contact Ezyk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) is happy to announce our new COLAP Wellness Corner in The Docket. You will now find in every issue an article with simple yet thoughtful advice about how to reduce your stress levels and increase your life satisfaction.
The New Year has come and gone, and we are well into 2017. How has it been for you so far? Are your experiences fulfilling, emotions hopeful and positive, and accomplishments making you proud? Do you enjoy the time you spend with others? Or have you been a bit anxious and overwhelmed, with too much to do and not enough time to do it? Maybe it’s a matrix of these feelings. Life is busy these days, and many attorneys report that they feel as if life were passing them by.
Sometimes we experience anxiety over cases, working with difficult people, dealing with large workloads and worrying about the future. Sometimes we feel depressed and isolated because we don’t have the support we need to be effective in our personal or professional lives, or because our workload has been too slow for a while. Sometimes we just feel overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility on our shoulders, or the amount of tasks we have to accomplish in a day. Regardless of the reason, when we feel stressed, anxious, depressed or overwhelmed, we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy the present moment, and life does seem to pass us by.
Research in neuroscience suggests that engaging in mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, mantras, and exercise, such as yoga, helps relax the brain and the body, reduce stress levels, and increase overall happiness levels. Studies also suggest practicing more gratitude, listening to fun or calming music, having pets, gardening, and cultivating meaningful relationships with friends and family to improve your health and wellbeing. Improving our diets and moving around more throughout the day can also help shift our body’s chemistry to improve our life experiences. Most of us have heard about ways by which we can take better care of ourselves, but are we taking the time to do them?
The quickest and simplest way to reduce your stress and increase satisfaction with your life is to slow down — your thoughts, movements, speech, decision making, etc. When we slow down the “momentum train,” we can discern what is best for us. (What kind of food does your body really want or need?) We can choose more helpful thoughts that lift our mood rather than bring it down by focusing on resources and solutions rather than on the problem itself. We can respond civilly to the people around us rather than succumb to the emotional excesses of a survival mentality. Slowing down allows us to behave with maturity, grace and wisdom. The people you respect the most are probably people who, despite being in difficult or stressful situations, respond with these qualities to the world around them. Research shows that people who are the most well-liked aren’t necessarily those who are the most intelligent, the most attractive or even the most gregarious. People who are sincere, consistent and compassionate rank as the most likeable. To be consistent in our moods and behaviors so that people feel safe around us, to be sincere and honest with those around us, and to show understanding and compassion rather than judgment of others, we have to slow down and contemplate our words and actions.
Mindlessly operating in the “rat race” and spending more time with our technology than the people around us doesn’t endear other people to us — and certainly doesn’t make us feel proud of ourselves. Life doesn’t pass us by when we slow down to appreciate the people or the things in our lives for which we are grateful. The stressful cases, the difficult clients, the massive to-do lists and the glitches along the way that interrupt our plans aren’t going to disappear. If, however, we learn how to handle life’s ups and downs with more patience and dignity, we can learn to enjoy more of the ride. Carve out some time in every day to slow down and breathe mindfully and purposefully. Think about the big picture rather than the details of what you are doing and give yourself a pep talk. Things always get better when we shift our perspective because the parts of the brain focused on survival can calm down long enough for the parts of the brain responsible for happiness, joy and overall life satisfaction to take over. So hurry up and slow down — the sooner, the better. D
Sarah Myers, J.D., L.M.F.T., L.A.C., is the clinical director for the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) and can be reached at email@example.com. COLAP provides free and confidential services for judges, lawyers and law students. If you need resources for any issue that is compromising your ability to be a productive member of the legal community, or if there is someone you are concerned about, contact COLAP at 303-986-3345. For more information about COLAP, visit coloradolap.org.