Former lawyer, Charlene Gisele, discusses what law firms can do to improve the health and wellbeing of their teams.
It seems that work doesn’t have an end time anymore; long workdays become long work weeks, and blend into months. Mental performance really starts to suffer – our ability to process information, recall memories, and respond to external stimuli starts to deteriorate – and when we mix in age-related cognitive decline, doubling up on coffee and reaching for sugary snacks does not make up for it. We need more sustainable ways to improve our health and wellbeing at work, which is why tailored wellness has become increasingly popular within law firms. Corporates have started to see it as in investment in their team’s health, wellbeing, and productivity, both inside and out of work. But alongside robust corporate wellness programmes that are underpinned by data and insights, firms should also be encouraging holistic practices.
So what wellness solutions can we use?
One of the most common things among lawyers and corporate clients is the lack of movement in daily routines. Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise for boosting health and wellness, yet is often forgotten, especially when we are desk bound. But firms should be actively encouraging their teams to take walking breaks. Lawyers spend far too much time sitting down so going for a silent walk (meaning no podcasts or music) is a very powerful way to “get out of your head’ and release any accumulated tension and stress that has been building up.
Breathing is the most vital of all our needs and it is one that most people take for granted as they do not realise the powerful ways conscious breathing can have on their health and wellbeing. On a physical level, a breathwork practice can boost the immune system, and increase oxygen levels in the body. Emotionally, breathing can release and help process trauma and anxiety. Socially, attention to breath can help you develop self-awareness and life skills, as well as increasing confidence levels, improving relationships, boosting self-esteem, and enriching creativity. Most people are not aware of their breathing patterns nor do they breathe consciously.
To breathe consciously all you need to do is breathe deeply in through the nose to a count of 3 and exhale to a count of 6. By making your exhales longer than your inhales, you slow your heart rate down and trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which makes you feel more relaxed. Firms should be encouraging their employees and partners to take a literal breather regularly throughout the day.
Another powerful tool at many of our fingertips is nature. I know this can be a challenge in big cities but there is always a park to go, even if it is a small one. You might want to walk barefoot on the grass to benefit from the calming and grounding effects of earthing and what Japanese doctors call ‘forest bathing’. Nature is our original habitat and going back into it more often can do wonders for our wellbeing.
Lawyers spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a screen. Evolutionarily, this is not the norm, and it is starting to impact our eye health. It’s an area more firms should be investing in, especially now. On a practical level, one of the best ways to give your strained eyes some TLC is to close the eyes and listen to a short yoga nidra recording. The combination of relaxing the eyes and relaxing the mind is powerful because our eyesight and mind are intimately connected. Our ability to visually concentrate is directly linked to our ability to mentally concentrate.
I also recommend hourly eye breaks by using a mask to completely rest the eyes for a couple of minutes regularly throughout the day. And do consider a pair of biohacking blue light filter glasses to help reduce the strain.
The last thing you’ll likely want is more homework but making journaling a daily practice is a time-tested strategy that has helped brilliant and successful people overcome the greatest of stresses and bring about success.
A daily journaling practice can be implemented in many ways – journaling can be done in as little as five minutes. No matter how deep you go, journaling can be adapted to fit any routine and its results are effective at both the personal wellness level and its effects on business performance.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that journaling boosts working memory as it helps to remove intrusive and negative thoughts, which can often leech our cognitive resources. Another study done by Cambridge University investigated how journaling can help with traumatic and stressful events and found that by writing about such events for 15–20 minutes resulted in improvements in both physical and psychological health.
These studies reveal that journaling is a powerful mechanism behind learning, optimising performance and stress management – integrating journaling into a daily business practice will not only positively impact the health and wellness of the employees, but it can also boost the overall performance of the company.