The practice of law is inherently stressful. We have to find healthy ways to deal with that stress and maintain a high level of satisfaction and happiness. Here are six suggestions to help you become a happy, healthy lawyer.
By James Gray Robinson, Family Lawyer and Consultant
Many lawyers don’t make their health and wellness a priority because they are focused on a myriad of crucial tasks and activities that demand their attention.
I remember my father, a high profile trial attorney, who was morbidly obese as was his father, a trial lawyer turned County Court Judge. For many centuries, obesity was an indirect symbol of success and power. “Throw your weight around” was more than just a metaphor, especially around my family tree.
In 2004, I was totally stressed out and decided to quit practicing law and focus on healing myself and possibly others. My law practice was a large source of my stress, and I have written numerous articles for lawyers dealing with practice-based stress.
My eyes were opened wide by my new career of wellness and discovered that a lot of the stress I was experiencing was based more on poor wellness choices than the conflict inherent in being a lawyer.
6 Suggestions for Becoming a Happy, Healthy Lawyer this Year
1. Loosen the Necktie
Seriously, studies have shown that closed collars and neckties actually restrict the blood flow of oxygen to the brain. Depending on the looseness of the collar, really tight collars cause headaches and reduce brain function. Consider wearing an open collar and quit wearing neckties.
2. Improve Your Eating Habits
My relationship with food has always been passionate and emotional rather than nutritious and smart. When I practiced law there always seemed to be a dozen doughnuts in the break room and we had regular pot luck lunches which were high sugar and low nutrition. You are what you eat – and if you are trying to practice law on poor nutrition, you will get sick and obese. Not a good formula for success. I can help you with food plans, but it is critical that we eat wisely.
3. Exercise Regularly
For some people, the walk from the parking lot to the office or the court is the only exercise they want. However, regular exercise has two important effects:
- It makes you feel (and sleep) better, and
- You will be healthier than if you do not exercise.
The brain excretes several chemicals when you exercise which are similar to morphine without the side effects. It will not only make you feel good, but it will make you feel good about yourself. Exercise can also provide much-needed alone time, which allows you to pause and reflect.
4. Body Awareness
Lawyers should get regular medical checkups and blood chemistry analysis. Blood chemistry is a tricky thing, especially as we get older. Hormone levels, sugar levels, cholesterol levels all have direct effects on our health and how we feel. When we are under a lot of stress our adrenal glands can be dramatically affected. I had to start monitoring my blood pressure which had risen to 150/100 or worse. A poor diet can result in high blood pressure, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and diabetes.
5. Learn to Recognize Your Baseline Emotional States
I used to joke that what I thought was happiness was actually just a low level of anxiety. It is important to know what happiness feels like and what you feel like when your body is relaxed. If we are constantly stressed, we may not know what happiness or relaxation feels like. Listen to relaxing music, brain entrainment sounds, or whatever helps you reach a state of relaxation, so you will know when you are stressed because it feels different. For example, now when my blood pressure spikes, I know because it feels different than when it is normal.
6. Pace Yourself
While working a hundred hours a week or more may be good for your career, it is not good for your health or your family. If you have to work that hard regularly, have a plan for relaxation and recovery, including exercise. When you get older you will thank yourself for making your health a priority.
Obviously, this only skims the surface of the areas I mention above. I have read dozens of books on each one. The reality is the practice of law is stressful, and we have to have a way of dealing with the stress and maintain a high level of satisfaction and happiness.
Happy lawyers are a force of nature.
Unhappy lawyers are train wrecks.
It’s your choice.
James Gray Robinson, Esq. was a third generation trial attorney, specializing in family law, for 27 years in his native North Carolina up until 2004. Since then he has become an individual and business consultant who works with a wide range of people, professional organizations, and leading corporations. Robinson’s mission is for all people to have fulfilling, peaceful career experiences and work environments. At the age of 64, Gray passed the Oregon bar exam and is again a licensed attorney. You can learn more about his work by visiting www.JamesGrayRobinson.com