CBA Record May-June 2021

mental health. A now-famous study notes that nearly 21% of lawyers are considered problem drinkers. Meanwhile, studies cited by the American Bar Association sug- gest that lawyers experience depression at higher rates than the general population. In some cases, mental health can be dealt with through some basic self-care, like the above suggestions, and by find- ing alternative ways to deal with stress. For example, unwind after work with an activity that does not involve happy hour at the bar. If you have to attend a social gathering at a bar, choose low-alcohol or no-alcohol drinks. However, for some mental health issues, professional assistance might be required. Never be ashamed to get professional help for your mental health issues. The first step to addressing a problem is to acknowledge its existence. If the prospect of going to a doctor seems overwhelming at first, try talking initially with a trusted friend or family member. Their support and encouragement may be able to get you to the next step, which is to find resources to help you cope. Fortunately, the Lawyer’s Assistance Program provides mental health resources for Americans in the legal profession in addition to providing resources for employ- ers to create healthier workplaces. Never consider it a selfish thing to attend to your mental health. Like the rest of your self-care routine, it is a vital part of your overall well-being. In fact, taking the time to look after your mind and your body is often a very unselfish act. By following routines that build us up from the inside, we are better preparing ourselves to meet those many external demands swirling around us. When we can be our best selves, everything else improves, from our deadlines at work to our physical appearance, to the quality of the time we spend with our loved ones.

Say you eat fast food a few times a week. Commit to removing those trips to the drive-thru from your daily routine and avoid making drastic changes to other parts of your diet until you have mastered this one step. As your fast food craving decreases, you can start to change the way you eat at home, too. Other examples include drinking one less cup of coffee per day, adding one more serving of vegetables, confining meat to once per week, and trying one new healthy recipe per week. Practice Mindfulness Our lives are filled with worries, whether big, like the pandemic, or smaller, like how to manage a work schedule. Mindfulness is a great stress-relieving technique, and in practice is quite simple. Like meditation, practicing mindful- ness means sitting quietly and focusing on things like breathing or your senses. This is best done in a calm, comfortable space that is relatively free of sensory distractions. In general, try to avoid screens during this time, although there are guided mindful- ness and meditation apps that can help those new to the practice. Like the rest of self-care, mindfulness looks different for everyone, so try differ- ent techniques over time to see which ones create the most positive impact on your overall sense of well-being. Building Barriers — and Upholding Them As a society, we have grappled with work- life balance for years. But with record numbers of people, including attorneys, working from home over the last year, the need for boundaries has become even more urgent. A Harvard Business School study of 3.1 million people recently found that the average workday increased by 8.2%, or 48.5 minutes, during the pandemic. When interviewed about the study, Raffaella Sadun, a professor of business administra- tion in the HBS Strategy Unit, said that, “There is a general sense that we never stop being in front of Zoom or interacting.” Setting literal boundaries can help. To the extent that you are able, keep your personal and professional life separate. If you do not have the room for an entire home office, dedicate a corner of the home

or apartment to your work life. With clients, I also recommend eating meals and snacks away from your desk or computer and changing into a different set of clothes after the day is done, to help you better transition into your evening. Communicating your boundaries is key. That goes for both space- and time- related boundaries. Set your working hours just as you would if you were going into the office, and make sure your family and the people you live with understand and respect those times. Keep it Clean Messes have an impact on our overall sense of well-being, whether in our workspace or our living room. It isn’t just about sifting through a pile of unsorted papers to find a document we need and losing five minutes in the process. Research has shown that clutter impacts our cognition, emotions, and behavior, and can affect our decision- making and relationships with others. Cluttered space can add stress and anxiety to the environment and set off a chain of negative events, from making poor deci- sions about eating to losing sleep. Fortunately, there is a simple antidote to this issue: commit to a fewminutes each day to straighten up your space. Even 10 minutes of putting stray items away, load- ing the dishwasher, or organizing loose papers can have a measurable impact on your space. Mental Health is Vital to a Self-Care Routine Your mental health is one of the most pre- cious areas of your well-being. And while all of the above habits and routines can improve it, the reality is that sometimes we face conditions that need outside help. The number one rule of mental health care is this: never be ashamed to ask for assistance, whether from a friend or a pro- fessional. Mental health issues are a serious problem in the American workforce. Johns Hopkins University research has found that between 20 and 30% of employees and their dependents struggle with behavioral health problems such as anxiety, depres- sion, and addiction. At least 50% of these individuals require professional care. The legal profession is particularly riddled with alarming statistics around

Erin Clifford, a partner at Clifford Law Offices and a holistic wellness coach at Erin Clifford Wellness, is dedicated to helping individuals and businesses make lifestyle health changes

that produce lasting results.


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