I see it almost every day in the faces of lawyers. Stress. Drain. Overload. This is not a new phenomenon; however, the pressure does seem to be at an all-time high. Many lawyers who mediate with me express difficulty in finding competent staff and experienced associates post-pandemic. In the civil arena, this problem has been amplified by the passing of HB 37 earlier this year when plaintiffs’ lawyers across the state filed thousands of lawsuits to avoid the application of tort reform that came into effect at the end of March 2023. Six months later, these lawsuits are becoming ripe and litigation deadlines are crippling understaffed plaintiff and defense lawyers alike.
The reality is the stress of practicing law is weighing on everyone. Prioritizing mental health and employing stress-management techniques is more important than ever. Here are a few ways to help you navigate the tumultuous times.
Find Your Rhythm
It is important to give yourself breaks from work-related stress. The question becomes how frequently do you need a break to thrive in these stressful times? Maybe you need a weekend away every quarter. Perhaps you need an entire week off every six months. Everyone’s rhythm is different. Take time to determine yours.
Once you’ve done this, look at your calendar and mark the time off. Once you commit to your first break, make it a priority during that break to schedule the next one. In this way, you hold yourself accountable for scheduling regular breaks, and it gives you something to look forward to. Sometimes just seeing the vacation on your calendar can be the beacon of hope that gets you through the next stressful period.
Alternatives to Vacations
Sometimes the idea of taking days off from work can cause additional stress. If the idea of taking vacation day(s) is too overwhelming, start small by incorporating some self-care practices that provide mini-breaks to your daily load.
No. 1: Breathing Exercises. When we’re stressed, our breath becomes shallow and rapid. Luckily, countering this is easy and can be done at your desk. Inhale slowly through your nose for the count of four, hold your breath for four then exhale through your mouth for another count of four. Repeat this process for at least a minute, focusing solely on your breath. This technique can help lower your heart rate and reduce anxiety.
No. 2: Yoga and Meditation. Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for stress reduction. Yoga combines physical postures with mindful breathing to promote flexibility and inner calm. Meditation encourages stillness of the mind. You can find yoga teachings and guided meditations for any length of time by a simple Google search. Start with just a few minutes a day, gradually increasing the duration as you become more comfortable. Both practices enhance self-awareness and can provide a reprieve from life’s chaos.
No. 3: Connecting with Nature. Nature has an incredible ability to soothe the soul. Spending time outdoors, especially during Florida’s fall season, can be an incredible stress reliever. There are so many parks and beaches to explore in the Jacksonville area. Give yourself the gift of reconnecting with nature. It is a reminder of the beauty and simplicity that exists beyond our screens and schedules.
No. 4: Gratitude Journaling. Practicing gratitude can shift your focus away from stressors and toward positivity. Keeping a gratitude journal is a simple but powerful way to incorporate this tool into your daily life. Each day, jot down three things you are thankful for. They can be as small as celebrating the warm cup of coffee that gets you going in the morning. Regularly acknowledging the positive aspects of your life can foster a sense of contentment in the face of stress.
In conclusion, we can’t control the stress that comes at us, but it does not have to overwhelm us. By fostering some self-care rituals, we can develop a holistic approach to stress management that will empower us to find serenity even in the midst of chaos.