If you’re a lawyer and you hear the words “self-care” your first thought may be that it certainly does not apply to you. Most lawyers and other professionals don’t have time to eat, let alone work on self-care. However, I can attest that is exactly why you need to devote time to self-care.
The definition of self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. It is the key to improving our mood, reducing our anxiety and improving our relationships. Health care professionals consider self-care to be preventative care to illness and disease and thus, very important.
When I was a litigator and law firm owner and had to balance my career with raising a family and taking care of a home, there was little time for self-care. The only thing that caused me to change was that my body and mind started to break down under the effects of my schedule, poor lifestyle habits and stress. Being goal-focused for so long, it was very strange to be in a position to have to focus on myself. But my body and mind told me that it was time. If you’re reading this and thinking that you don’t have time or desire to reinvent, let me reassure you that you do not need to change your job in order to practice good self-care. In fact, you don’t have to give up anything in order to take care of yourself better. Nor do you need to find any more time in your day than you already have. Working with your circumstances as they exist now, let’s get you healthier:
1. Make Small Changes to Your Diet
The first step is to begin to eat and drink healthier. Running on fumes and caffeine is no way to live. I get that you need to power through your day, but the only way that you will maintain is to do that in a healthier way. I also understand your limited amount of time to grab anything more than a coffee. But if you have time to grab a coffee, then you have time to grab something healthy to go along with that coffee. Every day that I grabbed my coffee from Dunkin Donuts I also ordered a Veggie Egg White Flatbread to eat before court. While not as healthy as grabbing a salad, I simply didn’t have time for a salad, and that little bit of protein helped me power through more than a calorie-laden pastry would. I also started to prepare my lunch at home—-either the evening before or by waking up a few minutes early, and that was a huge game changer for my diet because I could control what I ate. It was super easy to eat my lunch at my desk instead of trying to find time to leave the office to go get lunch. When I had to eat out with clients I made sure my main meal was greens or fish, not heavy pasta.
I also increased my fluid intake (not including caffeinated beverages). I started to drink half my body weight in ounces of water each day, which merely increased our water delivery at the office but made a huge difference in my health. I limited my coffee intake to morning only and drank water the rest of the day, cutting out diet sodas. For lunch, during meetings and in the car, I drank water. It’s easy to refill a water bottle or pick one up from Starbucks at the same time you are buying your morning coffee.
These simple changes to your diet won’t cause you any increased time and maybe just a few dollars more. Make these quick and easy changes and take note of how you feel after just thirty days.
2. Re-set Your Sleep Schedule
Guess what? You need to get some more sleep. I understand the vicious cycle you are on as a lawyer and that you probably just laughed when I told you to get more sleep. I used to wake up at before dawn to frantically get both myself and the kids ready . I continued on at the frantic pace until bedtime—-typically doing more work after the kids went to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. If I got five hours of sleep I considered that a good night. And five hours may do it for you. However, is it a great five hours? Moreover, how do you feel? Trying to sustain on five hours of sleep for a significant length of time will result in your body breaking down.
When I committed to getting more sleep, my life changed. I made a decision that I wanted a solid seven hours of sleep. I can do it on five if I have to (and I’ve done it on a lot less) BUT seven is my magic number. When I committed to seven hours I decided that this night owl must turn into an early bird so I also changed my waking time to getting up one hour earlier. All I can say is, I wish I had done this years ago. In the morning when it’s quiet and I am not tired I have a plethora of time to get myself ready, read, have some coffee, do some yoga and then get the kids up. It’s like self-care on top of self-care. Try this for two weeks and let me know what you think.
3. Take a Walk
I am a big believer in walking. I love to walk my dogs and go hiking, and it is my favorite form of exercise. When I was litigating I found it difficult to get to the gym consistently so I used walking as a form of daily exercise. I took the train so I could walk from the train station to court. I parked at the back of the parking lot so I could walk further to my meeting. When I was stuck in the office all day I took a brief walk outside at lunch.
Sometimes when you are tired and hurried, and dressed up, the last thing you want to do is to take a walk. However, that may be the best time to do so. Taking a walk does more than help you get your exercise in. It also gives you some time to de-stress and think. Take some deep breaths and get some oxygen. Listen to some tunes. Music is a mood-lifter and listening to a few of your favorite songs may instantly change your mood and your day. Trust me: take 15 to 20 minutes today and take a walk, using the time you already have set aside for lunch or walking to a meeting. Do that for a week and let me know how you feel.
Try to incorporate these simple self-care tips into your daily schedule. With some small changes you will gain some more balance, and you may even catch yourself smiling a little more!