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Legal professionals and attorneys have a propensity to suffer from stress. On the farthest end, alcoholism and substance abuse is all too common amongst lawyers. So much so, it's estimated that 20% suffer from those addictions.
Many law firms deal with stressful, and many times tragic, client situations. Add these situations to workplace performance expectations and demands from high-profile clients and the legal industry makes it hard for anyone to relax. Stressful professions create the need to channel and release the tension the job creates — which is where the benefits of mindfulness come into view.
The practice of mindfulness is one venue for alleviating stress for legal professionals. This article will focus on what you can do to avoid reaching such extremes and provide you with a tool to maintain a better work/life balance.
Why should you practice mindfulness?
Think about how much information you’re bombarded with on a daily basis. Most people wake up to their smartphone and are immediately exposed to work email, social media notifications, text messages from friends and family, new updates from various apps and so on so forth. And that’s just the beginning of the day.
The problem is that all this information lingers in your head and occupies precious cognitive bandwidth. So when the time comes for you to problem-solve, or manage emotions to make effective decisions, what should be simple becomes unnecessarily difficult. And it creates a cycle that leads to an increase in anxiety, stress, fatigue, and other mental health issues.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has a host of scientifically proven benefits that stem from reducing the physiological impact that stress has on you. Mindfulness practices are so effective that they have become a common tool for high performers across a wide range of professions from Navy SEALs to CEOs of billion-dollar corporations and professional athletes. There are breathing techniques that can improve how you manage your stress response and thus make better decisions.
Here are the top 3 benefits of mindfulness:
- Reduce anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems in the US. Over 18% of adults suffer from it at one point or another in their lives. Chronic anxiety leads to a variety of other mental illnesses as well. Mindfulness has proven to be an effective way to manage anxiety without the need for medications that can have undesirable side effects.
- Improve cognitive abilities: As a legal professional, you rely on your cognitive abilities. Imagine if you were suddenly better at problem solving, understanding complex ideas and making better decisions. How much easier would that make your job? Consistent mindfulness practice has shown that it can improve your cognitive abilities even in high-stress situations.
- Feel better: Every profession has its highs and lows. However it’s the low points that, if not managed properly, can lead to a series of mental health issues for legal professionals. Mindfulness helps keep you centered and reduces cognitive noise from recent stressful events.
Easy Techniques for Beginners
Meditation and breathing exercises don’t require retreating to a remote mountain or beach resort to have positive benefits. Starting with mindfulness can be simple. You could start after reading this section of this article. Yes, you can go deep into mindfulness practices, but you can start small to see and feel benefits.
Here are 3 easy techniques that you can try for yourself and see how you feel:
- Box Breathing: Also known as four-square breathing, is a breathing technique that helps you manage your stress, lowers your blood pressure and improves your mood. The most amazing part of this technique is how simple it is, you breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, then you exhale for a count of 4, and hold for another count of 4. Repeat this a few times and you’ll start feeling the effects.
- Walking Meditation: This is a technique that combines walking while doing some meditation exercises that help you focus and tune out all the noise in your mind. It’s a great alternative if you have trouble staying still, which is a common challenge for some people when it comes to meditation. Walking meditation is all about gaining awareness of your emotions, your body and your thoughts.
- Mindful observation: This deceptively simple technique is about focusing entirely on observing a natural object. Typically a leaf or something else like a cloud, the moon or an insect. Simply focus all your attention on observing every aspect of your chosen subject for as long as your concentration allows. By doing this you’ll notice that you’ve given yourself a mental break from everything else and feel refreshed.
Focus on Doing What You Can (Be Practical)
Maybe starting a two-hour long breathwork and meditation routine every day isn’t realistic for you right now. Maybe 30 minutes still sounds like too much. That’s ok. There are many ways to get started that are simple, quick and that you can fit at any point throughout your day.
Whichever mindfulness practice modality you choose to implement, the main takeaway is that being proactive about your mental and physical health is important to avoid the serious problems that so many legal professionals have to deal with.
Your profession is demanding and stressful. Realistically, you won’t be able to take away every stressor in your life. What you can do is better manage the ones you have. You can find help for those small things that steal your time and disrupt your peace of mind, too. For example, Lawyaw’s web-based document automation can help you reduce the amount of time you spend on routine document drafting.
Want to know more? Schedule a meeting with us to see how we’ve helped thousands of law firms and legal services organizations generate more than one million legal documents.