Becoming a Better, Healthier Lawyer: 5 Tips for Staying Sane, Productive & Healthy Today and Every Day

Sarah Mills | May 4, 2020

A few weeks into the U.S. pandemic crisis, when everyone was still adjusting to stay at home orders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist.  Will’s background and experience give him unique insights into the mental health issues attorneys face every day. In the webinar, Will talked about the pressures facing lawyers during the forced isolation, and tips for staying sane during troubled times - and all the time. After all, wellness issues may be heightened right now, but they didn’t come out of nowhere - and they won’t be going away once we all head back to the office. The current situation offers legal professionals an opportunity to critically examine the reasons that attorneys suffer from high rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, and take the time to address those issues in the long term. 

To kick off Lawyer Wellbeing Week, we reviewed some of the top tips from that webinar. Check them out below:

  1. Remember: You Are Not Alone. One of the upsides of social isolation is the fact that we are all going through it together. Is it still stressful? Absolutely. Is it nice to know that other people are also incredibly stressed out? Also yes. In the day to day of law firm life, it is probably true that many of your colleagues are also feeling overwhelmed and unappreciated, but it is not considered acceptable to discuss these feelings. During the COVID crisis, it feels like a curtain has been lifted, allowing people to confide in each other. If we walk away from this crisis with one thing, it should be the ability to acknowledge the pressures we are experiencing every day. 
  2. Take it One Day at a Time. A familiar mantra for any lawyer who has come through AA or another substance abuse program, the COVID crisis has given us all the opportunity to really sit with this lesson. The uncertainty associated with a pandemic (Who will become sick? When will everything be normal again?) is not dissimilar to the experience of getting sober, and that experience can guide us all during this time. It doesn’t matter when your state lifts their stay at home order, or when your law firm opens its offices, or when the last coronavirus case is diagnosed in the United States. What matters is getting through today. 
  3. Make a Gratitude List. One of our faculty members recently shared an amazing tip - make your computer password a reference to something you love, so you always remember something good when logging in. It can be really hard to remember the good things when you are encountering a barrage of scary news, your practice is overwhelming, your clients are suffering, or your business is slowing down and you are worried about finances. But there are always good things happening as well. Check in with yourself and reflect on what you are grateful for: your partner, your kids, some time to yourself? A really great TV show, good food, or a friend who shared a funny meme? Write it down and check in when you are feeling down. 
  4. Do Something For Someone Else. We are social creatures, and we thrive on two things: meaningful connection, and feeling useful. Check in with your friends and your community to see how you can contribute. Maybe you can deliver groceries to someone in quarantine, do some pro bono work to help people impacted by the COVID recession, or just chat with a friend who lives alone and is feeling lonely. 
  5. Have Fun. In therapy terms, this is called “regression in the service of the ego,” and it’s vital to maintaining well-being. Make sure you make time to read trashy (or great) novels, watch a comedy on Netflix, play an online game with friends, or just watch some cute, funny Youtube videos. It’s not procrastination if you are affirmatively taking time out of your day to do it!

For more tips on staying sane, right now and in the long term, check out the recording of How to Stay Sane, Productive, and Healthy in Isolation: Wellness Strategies for Attorneys During the Pandemic, or some of our CLE programs on improving attorney wellness

 

Related Content: 

  1. 10 Ways Law Firms Can Support Their Employees During the Pandemic
  2. What Attorneys Are Watching In Every State (Map)
  3. ABA Makes Lawyer Well-Being A Top Priority

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About the Author

Written by Sarah Mills

Sarah graduated from Simon's Rock College in 2005 with a BA in Linguistics, then worked in events production for several years before she graduated from New York Law School in 2012. Before joining Lawline, she worked in litigation management as a legal auditor. She loves working as a program attorney as it combines her legal knowledge and production background. She has two kids, two cats, and loves public transit and rainy days.

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