While most attorneys are willing to concede that theirs is not the only profession that experiences stress on a regular basis, they’re also aware of just how much pressure comes with the territory. Even non-lawyers have the perception that an attorney’s life is fast-paced, tension-laden and intense.
As an attorney, making sure you are spending ample time to relax and take a break from the stresses of your job is just as important as anything you else you might do to improve your career. A 2013 article from the New York Times points out:
“A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health”
For the most part, attorneys understand the importance of relaxing…it’s the how that they have a problem with. As with most facets of your career as a lawyer, you’ll only be successful at consistent relaxation when you plan for it and stay disciplined. Here are 5 ideas on how you can get the break you need and make yourself a better attorney:
Attorneys are a peculiar breed in that many of them find learning as relaxing as taking a nap. Maybe it’s the way an attorney’s mind works or their need to be distracted by something other than their case load. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of attorneys out there who will agree that spending an hour reading about new scientific discoveries or deep space missions can give them just the break they’ve been looking for. Give it a try and see if it works for you. Doing research on the anatomy of the River Dolphin of Bangladesh on a Saturday afternoon may not make sense to those close to you, but if it does the trick and helps you unwind, everyone wins!
- Connect with Nature
Your human biology allows you to appreciate the wonder and beauty of the natural world that surrounds you. By finding even the smallest connection to nature, you allow your mind and body to focus on the basics of life and forget your stresses. You don’t have to go deep into the woods to find this connection. A simple trip to a local park to watch the interaction of animals or admire the beauty of local plants and trees can be enough. Studies have even shown that having a potted plant in your office can make a difference when it comes to relaxing
There are the physical benefits of exercising that everyone knows about. Equally as important and necessary are the mental and emotional benefits of exercise. We’ve been trained to think that, if we’re going to take the time to exercise, that it should be intense and fast. While that may be the trick for burning calories, it doesn’t always help relieve stress. When exercising for stress relief or relaxation, opt for the leisurely stroll or bike ride instead of the 20-minute run. A simple walk can make a big difference and doesn’t require a change of clothing. Remember to stay disciplined – plan your exercise so that you can do it consistently.
- The 5-Minute Mini Vacation
This is in no way meant to replace a “real” vacation (which you should definitely consider from time to time), but it can be helpful to relieve stress on a daily basis. The idea is to spend 5 minutes during the day to push back from your desk, close your eyes, stretch and think about a favorite memory. It could be a moment from your childhood, time spent with friends, an important date in your family’s history, or even an actual vacation you took in the past. By spending just 5 minutes during the day to replay a favorite memory in your mind, you are giving yourself a chance to unwind and relax. If you try this and find that it works for you, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to do it once every day.
- Group Effort
It never hurts to involve others in your relaxation efforts. When friends and family are included, you’ll find that you spend more time focusing on them and less time thinking about work. For some attorneys, playing a team sport like softball or volleyball does the trick. Others might have a group of friends or colleagues that they meet every Friday night for happy hour. Time with the kids and loved ones helps keep things in perspective. When you make these types of activities a regular occurrence, you’ll not only be able to relax from the stresses of your career, but you’ll actually end up being better at what you do in the long run.