A favorite part of the end of each year for me is the opportunity to reflect on the last 365 days and to resolve to make the next year better. This type of reflection can come in many different forms, from a “New Year’s Resolution” you place on your bathroom mirror to simply an internal promise to yourself to make a change. Regardless of what shape your personal year-end review takes, it is an important activity that should be incorporated regularly into our lives. Why not start now?
If you’ve been reading The Wellness Corner or paying any attention to the emails and other communications from the Virginia State Bar, you have likely noticed the increased focus on attorney wellness and well-being. There is a very real reason for that. The things that make our profession enviable and sought after by many are also the things that drive so many of us to lead a less-than-healthy lifestyle. Each one of us is different, however, and we all respond differently to external factors. For example, some of us struggle with the burdens brought on by our clients’ concerns and needs, while others may suffer more from the stressful demands expected of us by our employers (and probably many of us deal with both!). This year, particularly in light of the increasing evidence tying our profession to a number of severe health risks, we should all resolve to be more conscious of our personal professional trials so that we can then develop and work to execute an effective plan to address them.
To be sure, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy to the lawyer well-being crisis. As attorneys, we face different challenges every day, professionally and personally. Recognition of the struggles we collectively face as a profession, as well as those that we are prone to as individuals, is the necessary first step in developing constructive habits in the new year to counterbalance the bad. For some of us, drastic changes will be required, while for many others, small steps in our daily lives will go a long distance. For all of us, a new year’s moment of introspection and reflection is required to figure out which camp we belong to.
In 2019, challenge yourself to put “you” first. As the airline flight attendants always say, remember to put on your own oxygen mask first so that you are able to then help others. If you feel stressed out at work, find a worthwhile release, whether that’s going for a run, hitting some bags at the gym, doing yoga, or even cooking or playing some video games. If you realize that you and your colleagues constantly go out for drinks after work, suggest a different outing like mini golf, bowling, or just relaxing while watching a movie. Emphasize your family. If you find yourself falling asleep at your desk tired from late nights, make a point to set a more reasonable bedtime and stick to it, even if that means having to work a little extra on a weekend to make up for it. If you are dealing with all of this or more, perhaps sitting down and re-evaluating yourself and your happiness should become a priority.
We owe it to ourselves to recognize our tendency to ignore our own health and well-being for the benefit of others and for our work. While noble in sentiment, this mindset can lead to personal disaster if left unchecked. Therefore, in 2019, we should all strive to do better each day, not just every year, for our clients, friends, family, and (most importantly) ourselves. Take the time you need now to position yourself for success this year. Resolve to focus on you so you can maintain your own well-being today and into the future. Your future self will thank you.
About the Author
J. Harrison Powell, II is an associate with Heath, Overbey, Verser & Old, PLC.