Lawyer Well-Being While Social Distancing

well-being while social distancing
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The first annual Lawyer Well-Being week is coming up May 4-8, 2020.  Conceived of by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, with the support of the American Bar Association, the goal of this inaugural event is to “raise awareness and encourage action across the profession to improve well-being for lawyers and their support teams.” The date also coincides with National Mental Health Awareness Month.

Lawyer well-being week may not turn out exactly as organizers had planned, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the goals of the event are more important than ever.  Multiple studies show that lawyers face high rates of substance abuse, and mental illness, as well as fairly low levels of job and life satisfaction.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control cautions that the current COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting changes to our way-of-life, can exacerbate pre-existing substance abuse and mental health issues, as well as generalized stress and anxiety.

So, whether you are embracing lawyer well-being week or just looking to focus on your well-being generally, here are some ways that you can still do this while working remotely and practicing social distancing.

Participate in Planned Online Events. 

There are a large number of webinars and other online events focused on lawyer well-being that are already up and running. Some programs are specifically designed for Lawyer Well-Being Week – like this free webinar series organized around five well-being themes: (1) physical; (2) spiritual; (3) social; (4) occupational; and (5) emotional well-being.  The ABA also has a collection of free programming, some of which will earn CLE credit, as well.

If you are looking for virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings specifically designed for lawyers, several recovery groups offer online meetings specifically for lawyers in recovery. Local AA and NA groups are offering online meetings as well.

Connect with the Lawyer Assistance Program of your State Bar.

The Lawyer Assistance Programs of each state bar offer a wide variety of programs, including programs and services that are offered virtually or by telephone. The American Bar Association maintains this comprehensive list of LAP websites and contact information. LAPs offer programs that cover a wide variety of well-being angles, including substance abuse, mental health, time management and loneliness in the profession.  Services include: confidential telephone calls with licensed counselors; assessment and referral services to treatment programs; ongoing counseling; and virtual events.

Support Your Own Well-Being with Simple Strategies.

It is easy to get sucked into sitting on video calls for 10 hours a day when you are working remotely. Below are some simple steps to boost well-being, that allow for both social connection and physical movement.

Walk and talk.  Whether you work at a treadmill desk or you can take your conference call outside, experiment with moving while you talk.  If you take your walk at the end of the day, you can turn your video chat feature into a virtual walk and catch up with a friend or family member. Health experts report that simply integrating walking into your day builds long-term health and well-being.

Schedule a time to exercise.  Planning your daily exercise is a very effective way to make sure that it actually happens. Studies consistently show that people who make a specific plan to exercise have a much higher likelihood of achieving that goal.

Use face-to-face technology creatively.  Practicing social distancing in 2020 allows us the distinct of advantage of being able to see and hear our colleagues, friends, and families even when we are forced into separate spaces.  Take the opportunity to be together virtually – with virtual book clubs, happy hours, meetings, and classes – even when you cannot be together physically.

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