Shana Stein 2016-08-24 18:45:02
Tipping Point How to prevent stress from consuming your civility and productivity. “Quit having a hissy.” I’ve wanted to utter those words oh so many times to folks I’ve run across in my legal career. But can you even imagine? Me neither. So I dare not. On the other hand, I am also a yoga teacher who gets paid to look people dead in the eye and tell them to do precisely that. And they thank me for it. In contrast to the adversarial system that is the legal profession, people primarily come to yoga in search of balance, wholeness, and peace. Many stressed out lawyers dredge through discovery requests as their trial dates approach. They send curt emails. They slam down their phones without the courtesy of saying goodbye. Their pleadings frequently border on snarky or accusatory. At first blush you might be tempted to write them off as grade A jerks. But when you take a step back, you can see that stress affects the mind and body in ways that sneak up on us. Like forehead wrinkles from holding up the eyebrows, poor posture from hiking up the shoulders, and flared nostrils that could be a simple effort to catch a good breath. Many folks wind up tense all over. So lots of cues that could be taken as nasty are, in fact, coping mechanisms. As the body reels, so too does the mind. Anxiety leads some lawyers to turn to alcohol or drugs and others to have trouble sleeping through the night. Such chronic ill rest and stress make you more likely to get sick, which leads to missing work and falling behind, causing even more anxiety. You can stop yourself from going down this path. You can have the baggage from under your eyes lighten and see your demeanor brighten. You can be professional and courteous again. To avoid reaching the tipping point, consider the following stress management strategies. Take time for yourself each day. Do the things you used to like to do. If you played soccer in your younger years, join a recreation league. Spend more time with your spouse. Start writing again. And reading fiction. Basically, return to the well-rounded person you’d once been before everything took a back seat to your law practice. By taking care of yourself, you become a better attorney, husband or wife, father or mother, and human being. Stop and pause. We all experience stress and get overwhelmed. In the heat of those moments, shut your eyes, quiet down, and just breathe. You’re never in as big of a rush as you think. And truth is, accidents happen when you rush. So slow down and take 30 seconds to calm yourself when you’re feeling anxious. Prioritize self-care. People say “health is wealth” for a reason. Think of it as your No. 1 commodity. It’s what enables you to do all the things you do. So consider the endgame, not just the short run. No matter the deadline, you must incorporate self-care into your daily life. Exercise doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as taking the stairs and quick lunch-break walks or doing push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, and jumping jacks. Practicing stress-relief techniques is important not only for successfully getting through your day but also for shutting it off to fall asleep at night. A guided meditation recording for sleep can be helpful, as can a simple breath-counting practice. My favorite meditation CD (which comes with a book) is Yoga Nidra: The Meditative Heart of Yoga, by clinical psychologist and spiritual teacher Richard Miller. I also have a free guided sleep meditation MP3 on my website, operationyoga.com. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. When the phone rings again, or the email dings again, or the fax machine blows up again, don’t think, What a drag! Instead, thank the forces that be and remember that those “interruptions” are what feed you and your family. Without clients and opposing counsel and all the rest of the rigmarole, you wouldn’t have a job. Maybe you’ve noticed a thing or two about you that could use an upgrade. It’s never too late. Change is simple—but not easy. It happens one good life decision at a time. SHANA STEIN is a criminal defense attorney, yoga teacher, and public speaker practicing in Dallas. To learn more, go to shanastein.com and operationyoga.com. Heavy workloads and client stories can affect attorneys physically and psychologically. It is important to actively work to stay healthy. For more information, go to texasbar.com/tlap and click on “wellness.”
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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