I recall one morning, on one of the last occasions I was enjoying the usual robing room banter with Bar colleagues waiting for my case to be called on at Bradford Crown court, overhearing countless lawyers greeting one another. It caused me to reflect on how frequently it was that when asked “How are you?” Barristers and Solicitors would reply “Busy”. Not “Really well, thank you”, not “Happy, thanks” but “Busy” – as if their standing as a successful lawyer would in some way be diminished if they didn’t take every opportunity to tell their audience that their practice was thriving. But how does “busy” really feel? Loaded, pressured, frenetic, even angst-ridden, at times. What happened to the person behind the Practice? Our ability to “simply be” without permanently engaging our “game face”?
It got me thinking of other small tweaks we as lawyers could make to our everyday working lives to improve our wellness, whether through the language we use, the thoughts we have or the habits we adopt.
- I’ve already touched on the language we use. Are there other ways you can change the language, and even thoughts, you usually use to adopt a more positive outlook? Self- deprecating humour – is this serving you, putting yourself down in front of colleagues who will be constantly evaluating you and your levels of confidence? And how about thinking, for example, of what effect these different phrases might have to your daily outcomes and your general sense of wellbeing: “I choose to…” as opposed to “I need to…do some work/ go to the gym…”; “I prefer to…” instead of “I must/ I’ve got to…find time to develop my career”; “I will…” not “If only I could…secure a regular client base.” In my experience, positive thoughts & language- combined with positive actions- lead to more positive outcomes.
- Smile! The endorphins released around your body when you do have such an instantaneous effect, you can’t fail to feel, even temporarily, a changed and more positive mindset.
- Breathe: deeply, with your eyes shut, from your core, and with a long exhale to finish. Just allowing yourself that single moment to course your body full of air and a reflective pause can be all it takes to feel grounded and back on point.
- How many of us have experienced that afternoon eye flicker? The 3pm graveyard slot in a trial where interviews are simply being read into the record for the jury, which you already know like the back of your hand. Paper pushing at your desk when you know you SHOULD we working and when your motivation to do so is low. When you have an opportunity for “a natural break,” change your state – get away from your immediate environment, move away from your desk, even go to the toilet and do some star jumps if you are able! A change in state can work wonders for your energy levels, and altering how alert you feel.
- Focus on nature where you are able. Even if it’s a picture of a country road on the office wall, or a thriving plant in the corner of your room, allow yourself a moment to shift your focus, then return with more energy and vigour. Better still, look, or even get, out of the office; incorporating exercise and the outdoors in to your working day are frequently credited for an increase in performance, productivity and wellbeing.
- Keep yourself well hydrated throughout the day. Even when it is so easy to skip lunch with deadlines and meetings and countless other things on our “to do” list getting in the way, keeping our water levels topped up is vital to improve, amongst other things, muscle function, digestion and even our state of mind.
- Practice gratitude. Even if in the moments of extreme pressure and overwhelm, on the commute home for example, be grateful for a beautiful sunset or rainbow, your favourite song playing on the radio, your friends/ family. It’s amazing how quickly focusing on the positives can put into perspective, and reduce the extent of, the negatives.
- For the tricky stuff, always keep in mind one of my favourite quotes and use like a mantra: “This too shall pass”. It will.
Nikki Alderson is a specialist corporate and executive coach (and former criminal barrister) empowering female lawyers to achieve their career ambition whilst creating congruent lives. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free, no obligation consultation.