WELLBEING AND THE LEGAL PROFESSION


 

As this week is Stress Awareness Week, Yvonne Healing takes a look at some simple ways to promote and maintain personal wellbeing in the legal profession.

 

Wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment – and rightly so.

We live in a high pressure world, and engage in a high pressure occupation.

With the advent of instant access to documents, and the ability to communicate with ease via e-mail and other means, it is easy to find ourselves in a situation where we feel that we are never off duty.

If we are never off duty, we may feel over-burdened, and start to suffer from stress related conditions (anxiety, sleeplessness, inability to relax, difficulty in enjoying life…).


The Bar Council recognises the issues that many in the profession face. It has taken steps to support practitioners and actively promotes wellbeing at the Bar through a dedicated website and a programme of events.

They state:

Barristers, clerks and chambers’ staff are exposed to emotionally and psychologically challenging environments on a daily basis. We aim to tackle the stigma associated with mental health and encourage members of the profession, and those who support us, to better understand wellbeing and feel empowered to make healthy choices.

 


 

The really good news is that we can control our responses to stress.

There are simple strategies available to us all which may help to alleviate stress related symptoms.

You don’t have to be a dedicated yoga practitioner or a committed Buddhist to learn techniques which will help us to cope with the ever increasing demands of working in a fast moving environment. There are exercises which we can do in our suits and in our offices which will help.

Taking a few moments to sit still and breathe can reap enormous benefits.

 

Sitting in a straight backed chair, move your shoulders upwards and backwards. Place your palms on your lap, preferably facing upwards. Close your mouth and breathe through your nostrils. Maybe even close your eyes.

Concentrate on your breath. Inhale deeply. Exhale fully. Count your breaths. Five breaths will be sufficient to make a difference.

If you adopt a habit of controlling your breath in this small way, it will lead to a feeling of being calm. It will lead to a feeling of being in greater control of your life.

We should not feel guilty about taking time to take care of ourselves.

Woman stretching on a mountain top at sunris

We are all constantly being told that a good diet and exercise are important – we know what is good for us – but many of us struggle to fit these goals into our busy schedules.

Making time to take care of yourself does not mean that you have to go on a retreat for a week, or visit the gym every day.

Exercise undoubtedly reduces the level of stress hormones that we produce, however, a brief walk is exercise. Perhaps parking your car a little further away from your office, or walking around whilst at court, are good forms of exercise.

We all need enough sleep. The amount, of course, differs for everybody.

If you don’t get enough sleep you will damage your health, and it will result in you being less effective in your daily life.

If we experience difficulties in sleeping, the simple breathing exercise described above can be used whilst lying down.

The techniques described are, of course, meditations. Give them a try.
They cost nothing, take up very little time, and will definitely be rewarding.

 

Yvonne Healing is the head of the Family Department at 18 St John Street. Alongside her busy practice, Yvonne also teaches yoga and meditation.