September is Self-Care Awareness Month, and the legal profession needs it!
Our self-care needs are undeniable but imprecise. For example, even when we understand that sleep would help us think more clearly, we can find ourselves with a more urgent need to accomplish a particular task. Lawyers routinely face needs perceived to require immediate attention. There is no Letter of the Law to tell us exactly when we are approaching the precise point at which our hours of sleep or other supports are insufficient and counterproductive to our work.
We need to practice self-care in The Spirit of the Law. There is no objective, quicker, easier, external answer — it’s a series of continual actions based on whether or not you are prioritizing it, which is a journey that can involve setback. If you can’t avoid this deadline, what can you do to minimize sleep tradeoffs in your career future? And what can you do to bounce back quickly? Take this self-care inventory to acknowledge how your practices are currently.
Sleep can be one of the best self-care investments we can make. Among many other important health reasons, our human brains need sufficient sleep to sustain peak performance. You can find tips to practice good sleep hygiene here.
Although sleep is critical, self-care doesn’t require a full 8 hours each day. Start with the smallest breaks, which are usually the easiest to implement and maintain.
From there, use time management strategies to help you schedule additional time needed for self-care, e.g. for more sleep or a therapy session.
Practicing mindfulness can help you clarify and live your priorities when you’d otherwise be too distracted. Scientists can’t explain why mindfulness is beneficial, but practicing is straightforward enough. Find more on Mindfulness Essentials for Lawyers + Law Students here. It’s important to note that if you’ve experienced trauma, you may want professional help to reexamine your thought patterns before sustaining a practice in which you endure painful thoughts. Lawyers and Law Students in Massachusetts can talk to one of our clinicians confidentially and for free — find how to schedule here.
Find tips for lawyers and law students to avoid burnout here. Making the sacrifices necessary to break away from an unsustainable work volume can be hard. It might help to start with these 5 steps to heal at any point on your burnout journey. Clarifying your priorities in a way that enables you to act on them in daily life is much more challenging in practice than it sounds.