We hear about self-care everywhere these days: You should treat yourself to a monthly massage, take hour-long soaks in the bath surrounded by candles and soft music, go out for apps and drinks with friends at least twice a month, and take leisurely Sunday afternoons to cook yourself luscious meals.
With the busy schedule that most lawyers have, who has time to also get to all this apparently mandatory relaxation? This kind of self-care can start to feel like just another burden.
Self-care doesn’t have to be time consuming or turn into another obligation on your already long to-do list. It shouldn’t be annoying to take some time for yourself—so don’t let it be. Self-care can be just as restful and good for you as it’s intended to be if you make it a habit and build it into your daily, weekly, or monthly routine.
The Daily Small Things
Remember that self-care doesn’t have to be about grand gestures and activities. It should include small things that you do to make every day more comfortable for yourself. If you have a preferred way to start your day—sipping coffee while reading the news or jogging for half an hour—make those activities a non-negotiable part of your morning. Do what you need to do to get yourself started and don’t save those things only for special days or when you have rare extra time.
The same idea goes for the end of your day. What helps you to end your workday and get yourself ready for restorative sleep? If a hot bath, 20 minutes of meditation, or reading in bed for half an hour makes you feel your best, do it! Do it as many nights as you can to put yourself in the best position to truly get rest.
Avoid What You Can
Self-care is not just about doing things that feel good, but also about avoiding the things you don’t want to do—as much as any lawyer can, that is. We know that you can’t just refuse to do doc review or sit in on a boring, unnecessary client call. As much as you can control your world, don’t do things you don’t care for. Don’t do the “in” thing that everyone else is doing or participate in activities because you think you have to when you don’t. If you don’t like yoga, don’t go to a yoga class because your friends swear by it. If lunch in the park isn’t your most comfortable place to eat, don’t do it just because someone suggested it’s good for you. Avoid the stuff under your control that doesn’t make your life more comfortable, and instead try to fill your day with what makes it better.
Avoiding the things that are necessary but also siphon our free time can also be a part of routine self-care. If you can afford it, send your laundry out or hire someone to clean your apartment. Lawyers have so little free time in the first place; why not reclaim some of it wherever you can?
Health is Part of Self-Care
Now, self-care is not just about making yourself comfortable or giving yourself more free time. Taking care of your physical and mental health is also a necessity, especially for those lawyers who have particularly brutal schedules. We know you’re busy and tired, but having exercise as a regular part of your schedule is essential. Not only is movement good for your health, but you’ll also have more energy if you, say, jog or bike or take a dance class regularly rather than veg out on the couch most of the time. Adding exercise to your schedule can be as easy as getting up half an hour earlier to take a quick run or speed walking during your lunch break, or keeping a standing Saturday morning yoga/rock climbing/weight training date with your bestie. Remember that the point is not only to get moving, but to do so in a way that you enjoy and that feels good.
We always remind you how important sleep is, so let’s do that one more time: Sleep is important, no matter how little you think you need it. As much as you can control it, you need to make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep every night. You will be more focused, your mood will be more stable, and you’ll feel more energetic. Make sleep a priority by planning it and making it just as much a part of your schedule as other things you plan for. Make your bedroom a comfortable sanctuary (that means no working in there!) that beckons to you every night.
Plan—But Remain Flexible
Self-care can easily become a regular part of your routine if you schedule for it, but remember: This is your life, and you can change the schedule and the rules whenever you want! If you don’t remain flexible enough to make changes when you’re just not feeling up to whatever you usually do on any given day, then it’s no longer self-care. It’s just another annoying task you have to complete, and who needs more of that in their life? There are some days that are easier than others when it comes to allowing you to practice self-care, so give yourself permission to make changes as you go.