This is the Second of Four Articles
Where Rebecca and Mike Will
Share Wellness Advice to Better
Balance a Law Practice
By Rebecca Martin and Michael Martin
month’s article, we wrote of the need for lawyers to address stress and
anxiety. A 2016 study jointly funded by
the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association found that
depression, anxiety, and stress are significant problems for lawyers at much
higher rates than for the population at large.
In response to the study, the ABA formed a National Task Force on Lawyer
Well-Being. Significantly, the task
force recommended educating lawyers on resilience and optimism as a strategy for
lawyer well-being. A copy of The Path to
Lawyer Well-Being: Practical
Recommendations for Positive Change can be found at www.lawyerwellbeing.net.
and optimism are skills a lawyer can use to reduce anxiety and stress. Resilience and optimism can be taught. Resilience is not a genetic personality trait
and is something anyone can learn. There
are numerous steps to improve resilience and optimism. In this article, we discuss some of our favorite
It is OK
to feel awful. Bad things are going to happen to
everyone. It is part of the human
condition. Being resilient does not mean
you never get discouraged. Without
painful experience, there would be no need for resilience. Resilient people find ways to overcome
adversity. Resilience is not about
masking your pain and pretending everything is perfect. How you are feeling in the moment ultimately
does not become as important as how you overcome the pain and stand back up.
you are in control. Some circumstances may be out of your
control; however, your response is within your control. Resilient people believe that they, not their
circumstances, are in the driver’s seat.
Instead of wishing for a problem to go away, thoughtfully consider the
problem and then make decisions on how to go forward. To develop your internal locus of control,
begin taking decisive actions, small and then large.
realistic goals. One characteristic of resilient persons is
that they set realistic goals for themselves.
You should set goals for yourself but set achievable goals. If you fall short of too many lofty goals,
you will blame that failure on yourself.
The scale of your goals must be reasonable while also fairly challenging
mindfulness, positivity and gratitude. Mindfulness,
positivity and gratitude practices create functional and structural changes in
the brain which support a healthy response to stress. Neuroplasticity is the idea that we can
rewire our brains. We can strengthen the
calming, rational prefrontal cortex and reduce activity in the instinctive,
impulsive amygdala. Try this simple
exercise. Whenever you have a negative
thought, immediately think three positive thoughts (no matter how small). When you start the day, think of at least
five things for which you are grateful.
Meditation can also be helpful.
Just two minutes a day of meditation, even if just breathing or setting
aside a time with no agenda, have been shown to create positive benefits.
Exercise strengthens and rewires the brain to make it more resilient to
stress by increasing the neurochemicals that can calm the brain in times of
stress. Keep it simple (remember, set
realistic goals). Go for a walk to clear
your head. Dance while fixing
dinner. Throw a ball for the dog. Play with your kids or grandkids. Play time, like laughter, is good at any age.
Self-care includes the obvious items such as getting enough sleep,
eating well, limiting alcohol and caffeine, and regular preventive
medicine. Self-care also includes less
obvious items like setting appropriate limits on your professional and personal
commitments, taking time off, and spending time with friends and family.
growth mindset. Resilient people have a growth mindset – the
belief that people have the potential to change. It has been shown that individuals who
believe that people can change report less stress and anxiety. They also have more positive feelings about
themselves in response to social exclusion as well as better physical health.
somebody. Helping someone else gets your mind off your
own problems. Although formally
volunteering is an option, do not overlook the positive impact of offering a
smile or a kind word, opening a door, or just listening without judgement.
off. Distressing news stories, magical life posts
on social media by your friends, multiple email accounts, cell phones, and the
lack of actual face-to-face interactions can add to the feeling of stress or
that nothing is going right. Try to
limit the amount of time spent on your devices and following the news.
is a journey. If you can incorporate some
of the tips listed above, you can improve your resilience and reduce stress and
Martin is a Kansas City attorney experienced in tax law, taxpayer
representation, business planning and transactions, and estate planning and
probate, and has practiced law over 30 years.
Since 2010, Ms. Martin has volunteered as a meditation leader at Unity
Temple on the Plaza with its Serenity Pause group guided meditation program,
and was certified to teach meditation in 2013.
Martin has a solo practice in Westwood, Kansas, focusing in the areas of
estate, probate, corporate and business representation, and related litigation
and mediation. He has volunteered with
the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program since 2001, serving as an attorney
monitor and a practice supervising attorney.