Lawyer Self-Care is Lawyer Excellence
By Aaron H. Wallace, Esq.
In the buttoned-up, nose-to-the-grindstone world of lawyering, the whole concept of “self-care” can sound entirely too froufrou for a self-serious attorney’s taste.
Unsurprisingly, in an industry known for 80-hour weeks and unending demands, self-care has never amounted to much more than a buzzword — an aspiration worthy of lip service but not a serious part of anyone’s work week.
But maybe it’s time to rethink that, especially in light of our strange new world. COVID-19 has plopped the proverbial grindstone into every lawyer’s own personal sanctuary — the home. Once a rare respite from the all-encompassing practice of law, your living room or bedroom may now look more like an office than an oasis. How can anyone hope for balance?
As a Florida legal malpractice insurance company, we’re big believers in the value of self-care to the successful — and responsible — practice of law. (By the way, so is the ABA.) Studies consistently show that stress, depression, anxiety, mental health neglect, substance abuse, and overwork are breeding grounds for malpractice claims.
In a very real sense, you can’t be a good lawyer without self-care. That was true before COVID-19. It’s even more important now.
This article is the first entry in a brand-new blog we’re launching at FLMIC.com — Sunny Decisis™: The Lifestyle Blog for Florida Lawyers. Here, we hope to help you make the most of your life outside the office, the courtroom, or the remote work environment. We’ll cover everything from technology and trends to food, fashion, style, staycations, entertainment, and beyond — always tailored to Florida lawyers.
Good mental health and lawyer self-care will be a recurrent focal point. That’s why we’re kicking off Sunny Decisis with a list of 11 ways for Florida lawyers to stay sane and healthy during COVID-19.
Quick & Easy Ideas for Lawyer Self-Care
1. Take a Day Off
Taking a vacation day when vacations are almost impossible can seem like a waste. But here’s the reality — COVID-19 might be with us a while, and your mind needs a break whether you go anywhere or not. Your hard-earned vacation time is there for a reason: you need it and you deserve it. So take a “mental health” day and enjoy the heck out of it… whether you sit on the couch or plot a pandemic-compatible adventure in your own hometown.
2. Plan a Staycation
Who says you have to leave town to travel? As long as you’re taking some time off (see above), try experiencing the Sunshine State as a tourist. Some of the state’s finest resorts have rolled out socially distanced vacation packages that let you soak in sun and luxury without getting on an airplane. You might be surprised how just a few days of doing something different can leave you feeling brand-new.
3. Make Your Own Self-Care Kit on Amazon
Before the novel coronavirus reared its ugly head, a trip to the day spa would have taken the #1 spot on any list of lawyer self-care tips. Now, you might have to make your own spa at home. Here are tips for your online shopping list:
- Heating pad for your neck and shoulders
- Heated foot warmer or heated booties
- Aromatherapy candle (try cucumber melon!) or essential oil diffuser
- At-home reflexology kit
- Cozy plush robe
- Hand-held electric massager, whether Swedish or deep-tissue
- Bath bombs
- Activated charcoal mud mask (to soothe your skin from all those other masks you’re wearing lately)
- An infusion pitcher to make your own cucumber, lemon, or watermelon water!
4. Operation “Inbox Zero”
There mere knowledge that your inbox has hundreds of unread messages can quietly zap your energy throughout the day. Set aside an afternoon to conquer your email once and for all. Unsubscribe from emails that aren’t useful to you, and finally tend to any pesky replies you’ve been putting off. Click send and put them out of your mind for good!
While you’re at it, consider signing up for new email lists that will add value to your day. (Consider registering for FLMIC’s e-newsletter… our messages are infrequent and always designed to give you urgent information and/or brighten your day!)
5. Reserve Part of a Work Day for Clutter Clearing
Should cleaning your home office really be part of your work day? If it helps you be more productive and effective while at your desk, then yes! “Outer order contributes to inner calm,” says happiness expert Gretchen Rubin. When your environment has the appearance of efficiency and professionalism, your workday will tend to follow suit.
6. Put Your Bare Feet on Grass
Even before COVID-19, Florida lawyers spent a lot of time cooped up inside, despite living in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. As a scientific consensus emerges around the safety of socially distanced outdoor activities, now is the time to get outside and let nature fix you up. Did you know that putting your bare feet on real grass triggers a host of whole-body health benefits? It’s science. So go find someplace safe and remind yourself what the ground feels like!
7. Cook Something for the First Time
Challenge yourself to try a brand-new, extravagant, or downright zany recipe in the next 30 days — something unlike anything you’ve ever cooked or tasted. Variety is the spice of life!
8. Light a Candle During Your Shower
Turn off all the other lights. Let your eyes adjust. Enjoy the relaxing rhythm of showering water in the dark. It’s just you and the dim glow of a dancing flame for a precious twenty minutes as you wash the weight of the world and the pressures of the day away.
9. Put a Plant in Your Home Office
Plants can literally enliven your workspace. In want of a green thumb? That’s okay. Try a peace lily. They’re inexpensive and extremely low-maintenance (in fact, too much sunlight or water can kill them). To boot, they have so many indoor health benefits that NASA once told homeowners to add one for every 100 square feet of living space!
10. Incorporate Music Into Your Day
Research has shown that, for most people (though not everyone), listening to music increases productivity. Even for those who can’t work with music on, queuing up some tunes in the early morning or evening hours can release endorphins in the brain, literally boosting your mood and changing your energy level. Pick the style and genre that works best for you, but make the effort. Build a playlist and consciously incorporate it in your day.
11. Remind Yourself Why You’re a Lawyer
There may be no better form of lawyer self-care than a renewed sense of purpose. When you wake up in the morning:
- Remind yourself that you’ve worked hard to be where you are, and you deserve to enjoy the life you’ve crafted.
- List the things you like about your life and career.
- Tell yourself you’re fortunate to be where you are. It’s true.
- Ask yourself why you went into the practice of law. Think about the ways you’ve helped people (your clients, colleagues, the community, etc.) since COVID-19 began. You’ve probably had a bigger impact than you realize in just a few months’ time.
- Spend time in prayer or meditation. Practice gratitude. Resolve to center your legal services on the concept of service to others. You may find that we are happiest and most fulfilled when we focus our energy on others. Counterintuitive as it may seem, serving others is self-care.
FLMIC Cares About You
Self-care is only part of the equation. At FLMIC, we believe that lawyers deserve a legal malpractice insurer that cares about them too.
As a mutual company owned by the Florida lawyers we ensure, we see service as part of our central mission. That’s why we offer free CLE courses, risk management guidance, a lawyer-to-lawyer hotline, personalized service, and high-quality policy terms. We believe these things set us apart from the commercial insurance alternatives.
This new Sunny Decisis blog is just an extension of our commitment to showing care to Florida lawyers.
For 30 years, FLMIC has stood as the only legal malpractice insurance company created by The Florida Bar. Let us stand by you. Apply for a policy today.