Importance Of Learning Self-Care Early In Your Legal Career

There is no question about it, the legal profession is gruelling. Whether you are in the throes of law school or you are beginning your practice, the threat of burnout is ever-present. It’s not just you – law students and lawyers across the country are feeling the pressure. The American Bar Association reports that 37% of law students suffer from anxiety and a quarter are at a higher risk for alcoholism. The statistics are similar for practicing lawyers, as nearly a third suffer from depression. This is precisely why learning self-care early in your legal career is so imperative.
As a certified coach-consultant, I apply an analytical approach in order to promote sustainable wellness among individuals working in the legal profession. Student wellness and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) is more important than ever, especially given the pattern of anxiety and depression across high-performing people. By incorporating sustainable habits, it is wholly possible to learn self-care early in your legal career and practice these habits as you proceed through your work life.

What Is Self-Care?

In essence, self-care is taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. It is the practice of incorporating sustainable habits into your routine in order to achieve a sense of well-being. Self-care can take many different forms and is tailored to a person’s unique needs and desires. Some examples of common self-care practices include:
  • Developing a regular sleep routine
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Taking breaks to rest and relax
  • Writing down your thoughts in a journal
  • Going for a walk to cool down after a long day
The idea of sustainability is central to the practice of self-care but this word is often reserved for conversations about the environment, for example. In reality, sustainability has a strong individual dimension. Self-care helps ensure individual sustainability by preventing burn-out or other negative mental or physical health consequences.

Why Is Learning Self-Care Early in Your Legal Career Important?

Given high rates of burnout, drop-out, and sick days within the legal profession and law school, the importance of learning self-care early in your legal career is evident. Research has shown that lawyers are prone to an array of stress-related illnesses, including burnout, insomnia, depression, addiction, and substance abuse. Additionally, lawyers are three times more likely to experience depression compared to professionals in 25 other occupations.
The quantitative evidence is clear: lawyers and law students are at a higher risk for mental illness and emotional distress compared to professionals operating in other fields. It is for this reason that learning, and practicing, self-care early in your legal career is so critical. Incorporating sustainable habits early on prepares students to succeed in their legal careers and helps lawyers maximize their productivity

How Can Self-Care Benefit Me?

Profession aside, self-care is important to ensuring health and well-being. For individuals within the legal profession, however, the benefits are increased. Studies have shown that high levels of well-being are associated with positive outcomes such as:
  • Effective learning
  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Improved relationships
  • Pro-social behaviour
  • Good health
  • Increased life expectancy
Through my practice, I focus greatly on high-performance and productivity, as juggling these two goals alongside self-care can be incredibly difficult. My approach is holistic in nature, cultivating a culture of health and self-care that, in turn, optimizes performance.

5 Ways to Practice Self-Care

Life is hectic and it is easy to lose ourselves in the daily grind of our routines. Self-care does not need to be a time-consuming or burdensome practice, however, and there are easy ways to implement self-care into our lives. In an effort to demystify the practice of self-care, I have narrowed down five different ways that you can begin practicing self-care today.

Focus on Being Present

It is easy to get swept away in all of the tasks and responsibilities that are on our agenda. One of the easiest ways to practice self-care is to designate moments to focus on the present moment. Start with five minutes per day, perhaps when you wake up or when you are going to sleep, and focus on the immediate environment around you. Step away from your phone or computer and sit with your thoughts for five minutes. Focus on your breathing. Consider how you feel in that moment, physically and mentally.

Eat Good, Feel Good

The gut-brain relationship is nothing to scoff at, and a proper diet is essential to a longer and healthier life. Prioritizing eating at regular intervals throughout the day. This helps prevent being half-distracted by an empty stomach or too-hyper will caffeine.

Take Time To Celebrate Small Victories

Self-care can also manifest as celebrating the small victories of your day. For example, maybe you just submitted your first legal research assignment or you just conducted your first deposition. Celebrate those moments as they happen.

Reach Out to a Friend

Take a moment and consider whether you have at least two individuals in your professional network who you can confide in and brainstorm solutions with. If you do, aim to deepen those relationships. If you do not, perhaps it is time to connect with others and build a network that you can rely on. This may not always seem easy, but it will greatly impact your quality of life.

Move Your Body

Physical well-being directly connects to emotional and mental well-being. To this point, it is crucial to keep your body active and strong. Moving your body does not need to be running five kilometers every day, rather it can be as small as incorporating stretching into your daily routine. Exercise and movement is also a fantastic way to build social connections; consider going on a walk with a friend this weekend!

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