Regardless of the type of work environment that you find yourself in, most professional business settings tend to be highly stressful.
Particularly for lawyers, where responsiveness to clients is paramount and the pace of the work continues to accelerate, the work can feel never-ending—you’re always on, and constantly expecting to jump into work mode. Even our traditional ways of relaxing’can unintentionally cause more stress. For instance, you may love running, but sometimes a three-mile run around the neighborhood feels like it raises your cortisol levels even more when that’s exactly what you don’t need. So how do we de-stress and disconnect from work in the most effective, healthiest way possible?
We are constantly under pressure to work harder and be better at our jobs, fulfill more familial obligations and, as we lawyers like to point out, this list is not at all an exhaustive one. But rarely is there a moment where we’re called to check in with ourselves and make sure that we’re okay. So is there a moment where you can not challenge yourself to be better, but simply accept yourself for where you are and be in the moment? After all, if you don’t commit to doing this, it’s highly unlikely anyone else will.
Why Mindfulness and Meditation
One universally positive way of disconnecting from stress and connecting with ourselves is mindfulness and meditation. Lawyers have probably heard a lot about these practices without actually, you know, practicing them. So let’s turn down the skeptic meter for a second and see if there are bits and pieces of the mindfulness approach that may benefit you. Everyone has their own take on how well meditation and mindfulness can help alleviate stress, but the only way to find out if meditation works for you is to try it for yourself. Once you’re able to disconnect from your thoughts a little, it might be the most relaxing, refreshing state of being you’ve ever experienced.
Learning to truly meditate and be mindful takes a lot more effort than one might think, which makes sense. We are constantly bombarded with stress, obligations, and stimuli like our cell phones and laptops. Even when we try to relax and disconnect in traditional ways, like seeing a movie or grabbing drinks with friends, we’re still being stimulated in some way. This makes improving your skill of disconnecting that much more challenging, but also that much more rewarding. Even if you don’t have time for a full-on yoga mat, lotus-positioned, world-changing meditation on a mountainside somewhere, just having the mindset of living in the moment and being in tune with yourself can be world-changing. Perspective changes can often make a huge difference in how you experience the world around you.
What Is It?
Meditation can be a moment you take for yourself, to disconnect, bring down the blood pressure and check in and make sure that all is as it should be. Mindfulness can be thought of as more of a lifestyle. Some studies suggest that part of what can cause anxiety and stress really starts in the mind with “rumination” or the constant thinking about the past and the future. We are hard-wired to think about things that have happened in the past, running through what we could have done differently or better. Lawyers tend to be critical of themselves and are also well-trained to look for errors, inconsistencies and potential pitfalls, so it’s no wonder they tend to be good at picking their own performance apart. Certainly, we all look forward, planning for the future, thinking of how things could go wrong and managing problems before they even arise, which not only serves us well but also serves our clients. But do we ever fully focus our attention on the here and now? This moment right now, reading an article and being so fully in this present moment that there’s no past or future. That’s mindfulness.
How to Do It
Everyone’s practice of meditation and mindfulness is different, and the good news is there’s no right or wrong way to do it. In a fast-paced, ever-changing business world, where everything has to be perfect all the time, meditation and mindfulness don’t require you to follow any rules. The practice of mindfulness and meditation are the few spaces in life where it’s all about taking care of yourself and being good to yourself. Sure, maybe you won’t be “advanced” the first time you sit down and try to meditate and be mindful. But as long as you’re gaining something positive from the experience, you’re doing it right. You can even have a moment of mindfulness sitting at your desk during a work day. You can simply check in and remind yourself that you can’t fix the past or change the future. Accept where you are in that specific moment and your pulse will slow, the anxiety will begin to disappear, and you’ll be able to be a better lawyer, friend, family member and partner because of it.
Consider if there are any moments in your day where you are simply focused on the present, not focused on anything else. Or consider a moment or activity where you are decidedly not focused on the present. Then commit to spending just five minutes one day in the next week where you intentionally try to disconnect, quiet your mind, and focus only on the present.