Mindfulness is just one way we can practice self-care to bring about change within our selves and our law practices. As we have explored in prior posts, stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the unfortunate side effects of a law practice that can, and often do, lead to alcohol and substance abuse. For reasons such as the structure of the legal work environment, the long hours, and the expectations of perfections, these emotional and psychological issues have become more commonplace in the law, than in other professions.
What is mindfulness?
In its simplest form, mindfulness is about being aware and cultivating a sense of presence and consciousness. To be mindful does not mean we live in the moment to moment, or that we become Zen like meditaters dedicated to minimalism. At it’s core, it is the “ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” The practice of mindfulness and what can be gained from it is different for everyone.
Mindfulness helps us become aware of our own actions, behaviors, and thoughts. It is so easy to glide from day to day not paying attention to the details. Have you ever gone to work early in the morning and before you realize it, it’s lunchtime. You wonder where the entire morning went. Other times, we get in our cars drive to or from work, noticing nothing until we get to where we need to go and not even being able to recall the drive there.
But what happened to the in between? When we begin to pay attention the in between begins to become clearer, it becomes easier to walk through the fog in our lives. Mindfulness is simply paying attention to your self, your thoughts, and your actions. Through mindfulness, we can improve relationships with our significant others and family and also our bosses, assistants, and paralegals. By being mindful of how actions and words affect those around us, the interactions we have with people everyday can become more positive, friendly, and constructive. We become better communicators, our practice becomes more efficient, and our stress levels reduce.
A very simple exercise is to take a few minutes to find a comfortable quiet space. Close your eyes and simply notice the ebbs and flow of your breath. Breathe deeply. Taking time out of the day to consciously notice each breath brings us closer to our selves and the present. If your mind wanders, embrace and observe those thoughts without reacting. By allowing yourself to calming think about something that has been troubling you, you can see the problem clearer and without the fog of stress, anxiety, and hurriedness. Mindfulness helps us cultivate a stronger awareness and minimize reactiveness. Meditation, which is just sitting with one’s breath, has also been known to help with sleep and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis can reduce stress and is a great form of self-care for lawyers.
Authored by Karen Munoz, Partner