As lawyers, we are taught to plan for the ‘worst case scenario’, to resolve and find solutions for problems, to be strong for, and assist, our clients through their crises and anxiety-producing problems.
However, we, as lawyers, are still human, with our own fears and anxieties. So, what happens when we are faced with a crisis such as we are currently facing that we cannot find a solution for, that we cannot plan for? How do we deal with our own anxieties and concerns regarding whether we will still have employment post COVID 19? What will the legal landscape look like? How can we ensure that we are still able function optimally and assist anxious, stressed clients (albeit currently remotely) with their problems (when we are feeling as anxious and stressed ourselves)?
While not a panacea, having a strategy around how you deal with your levels of anxiety is key to managing and keeping them in check
- Write it Down
Write your fears and anxieties down.
The use your logical legal brain to look dispassionately at what you have written and ask yourself ‘What is the likelihood of this happening? What is in my control and what is out of my control? If in my control, what can I do, do I need to do, reduce the likelihood of this happening?’ and if not in your control, find a way to let go of that fear (some suggestions below).’
This exercise will help you identify those things you can control and those you cannot – helping you start feeling a sense of being better able to manage the crisis and your anxieties.
- Practice Self Care
While practising self-care is critically important, doing so during the current COVID 19 crisis, is even more so – not only to help with your mental wellbeing but also to foster a healthier, more productive mindset.
Getting enough sleep, having healthy boundaries around when you work and when you have your own personal ‘downtime’, eating well, doing things you enjoy such as listening to calming music, reading a good book, are vital to manage our feelings of stress and bolster our immune system.
“I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.” – Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
- Avoid Information Over-Load
Keeping informed during this time is important – however, be mindful how much information you consume and from which sources.
Steer clear of ‘sensationalist’ newsfeeds and sources and schedule times in the day when you will get your news soundbites and updated (from trusted, accurate sources) information. Do not have the news simply ‘playing on repeat’.
- Practice Mindfulness and Breathe
Practice mindfulness – such as meditation or prayer – to reduce your levels of anxiety and instil a sense of calm. And practice breathing exercises – a powerful tool to help reduce and release stress and anxiety that you may, sub-consciously, be bottling up in your body.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” – Amit Ray, Om Chanting and Meditation
- Reframe Your Situation
Instead of thinking “I am stuck within my four walls!”, rather reframe this thought to “I now have the time to focus on family; to focus on myself; to start that hobby …”.
Use this time to do something positive and productive, something you have always wanted to do but have never given yourself the time to. This will help create a more positive mindset and reduce your feelings of being ‘stuck’, ‘trapped’. For example – try some new recipes, do those long-avoided tasks around the house, try a new hobby.
“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” – Shantideva
- Stick to a Routine
Create a routine and stick to it – ie: have a set time when you will work, when you will ‘shut down’ and do things you enjoy. Take breaks during your ‘workday. Try too to wake up and go to bed around the same time each day (and as you would during a ‘normal’ workday).
Don’t immerse yourself in work as a way of coping with your stress. This will not only result in burnout but will also increase your level of stress and anxiety. Having a healthy (remote) work-personal life balance is even more critical to practice at this time.
- Keep Connected
Ensure that you keep connected with family and friends on a regular basis.
While you may be tempted, when feeling anxious, to withdraw – keeping healthy, supportive connections, particularly during this time of ‘social distance’ is vitally important to avoid you feeling isolated and alone. Sharing your feelings and anxieties also helps you realise that you are not the only one feeling this way – helping to put things into perspective and creating a sense of being supported and heard, and as a result, fostering a more positive mindset.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference