As an attorney in a solo practice or small firm, you’ve got your hands full with marketing, networking, finances, client intake, and–of course–working on active cases. While it may seem like stress management is the last thing you have time for, taking care of yourself will pay dividends for your career in the long run. Manage stress in the new year with these five tips to make your mental, emotional, and physical health a priority in 2017:
1. Avoid Techno-Stress
Constant connectivity, thanks to smartphones and ever-present WiFi, has changed our working hours from the traditional 9-5 to to around the clock. Even when out of the office, it’s becoming more and more difficult to disconnect from work knowing that an email is a swipe of a finger away on that mini computer in your purse/pocket. A rising cause of stress, called techno-stress, occurs from the pressure to stay connected and responding to people in real time, according to stress counselor Arthur Rowshan. Avoid it by choosing a time each day to power off your devices (even if it’s just for an hour). Can’t risk missing an email from a client? Set up a rule on your phone to allow notifications for certain people.
2. Pick Up a Hobby
Maintaining a solid work-life balance is essential to not burning yourself out and managing stress. Pursuing a hobby doesn’t have to be a huge commitment–just find something that puts you at ease and takes your mind off work. Even with a full workload, carving out just 15 minutes a day to devote to something just for you is hugely beneficial. Here are five ideas to get you started, including learning a musical instrument, exercising, and playing a sport.
3. Stay Connected to Others
It’s tempting to come to the office, close your door, and spend the next 10-15 hours hunched over a desk working on your tasks–day after day. After all, who has time for a leisurely lunch? Not you. Rethink this, as humans have an innate need for community that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental health and happiness. For some, being busy makes them want to push others away, and withdraw from social situations. While it may seem like the necessary decision at the time to complete tasks and meet your deadlines, make it a point to connect with others in your office or outside of work. Whether it’s lunch with a current or former colleague, coffee with a mentor, or taking a walk with your spouse, getting away from your computer and in the presence of others will benefit you in the long run.
4. Be Intentional about How You Structure Your Day
Organizing your work is essential if you work in a small or solo firm, where you have to do a little bit of everything. Before you leave for the evening, organize everything you’ll need for the next day in a file folder or in a designated spot on your desk. Never leave work before jotting down the first few things you need to tackle the next day, so they’ll be fresh on your mind. David Lavenda offers some great tips to optimize your productivity, such as starting the day with structured ‘me time’ to sift through email and social media updates and scheduling regular breaks throughout the day.
5. Practice Mindfulness
The practice of mindfulness is growing among attorneys as more people recognize that the practice of taking our internal temperature and noticing how we are feeling physically, emotionally, and psychologically help us from burning out, turning to alcohol or drugs, or engaging in other destructive behaviors, Jeena Cho writes in Above the Law. Cho, the author of The Anxious Lawyer, offers free guided meditations on her website geared toward attorneys, such as “Having a Difficult Conversation with Clients,” and “Working with Difficult Opposing Counsel.”
Remember, you cannot be a good attorney, spouse, friend, or colleague if you’re constantly running on fumes, unhappy, and sleep deprived. Make it your new year’s resolution to prioritize your basic needs first, and you will be the best version of yourself for your clients.