Between the pressures of the year ending, social gatherings, monetary concerns, and the diminishing of daylight hours, the holidays are a tough time of year for everyone. But if you add in the stress of working in law, the holidays are an especially difficult time of year for legal professionals. According to a 2016 Hazelden Betty Ford/ABA study, nearly a third of practicing attorneys report mild or higher levels of depression . If you compound that statistic with the additional stressors that come with this time of year, the stakes are that much higher. While work is important, one must ensure their own well-being first and foremost. Here are some ways you can practice self-care this holiday season.
1. Get Some Sleep
Whatever number of hours you need to function, get them in. Shut down that laptop computer, turn off the Netflix show, get in some flannel pajamas, and snuggle into your covers (furry animal companion suggested but not necessary). Studies have shown that it is generally impossible to recover lost sleep, so sleeping in on the weekends to make up for the all-nighters you pulled during the week isn’t really going to help. Further, as there is a deterioration of work performance when one is sleep deprived, you may be inadvertently creating an endless cycle of sleep-deprivation as you attempt to rectify the diminishment in your work product, which will stress you out even more. Save yourself from that spiral. Get your sleep.
2. Eat Right
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. And when you are busy working all day, it can be very tempting to just shove whatever food is readily available right into your mouth hole. Don’t do it. Poor nutrition generally results in poor affect. You can eat those holiday treats in moderation, but resist the urge to subsist off of them entirely. Similarly, as tempting as it might be to avoid thinking about food entirely and forgoing nourishment, starving is even worse than eating poorly. If you can, try to make your week’s meals the Sunday before, so you can just grab-and-go your lunch for the day. If this isn’t feasible or if you are a lazy human-being (like I am), opt for healthier options when you go out for lunch. Try to pick protein-rich meals with lots of fresh and colorful produce to keep you energized and vitalized. A good rule of thumb is that you want something with ingredients you know and can (generally) pronounce.
3. Take a Break
Get some fresh air. Halfway through your day, leave the stale, regurgitated air of your office, and go on a quick walk. Not only will this give you a chance to breathe some fresh air and get your legs moving after sitting at your desk for so long, it will also give you an opportunity to take a pause from your work and get a breather. Breaks are important, particularly when you’re overwhelmed and/or stressed. Sitting chained to that hot seat isn’t going to make the stress go away. Once you’re done with one task, there will inevitably be many more waiting to be done. So walk away for a sec. Go outside. Grab a cup of hot cocoa or some tea with honey. People or pigeon-watch (whichever, no judgement). Then go back to work, refreshed. I promise you, the work will still be there when you get back.
4. Give Yourself You-Time/Reward
Give yourself some kind of reward at the end of the day. For me, that looks like a candlelit bubble bath with a glass of Moscato, while watching something nice and relaxing, like Game of Thrones. For some of my friends, it looks like an hour or two at the gym running off the day’s garbage. For others, it is a phone call to a loved one or story-time with their children. Plan something for you to look forward to after work, even if it is only a Taco Bell burrito (oh hey, Yesterday Me!) Do something nice for yourself. Light up your fireplace and have some eggnog. Cuddle with your dog (or pigeon, no judgement). Do something that gives you joy. You deserve it. Existence is hard.
5. Lean on Your Community
You have people in your life that appreciate and love you. Connect with them. Sometimes it is hard to make time for those people when schedules are conflicting, they are going out of town, and/or busy with holiday/work obligations. Even if it is just a “good morning” text to a loved one or a fifteen-minute phone call during your commute, you can find a moment to drop a line. Schedule a dinner with someone Friday after work, or maybe even lunch sometime during the week. It can be very easy to isolate yourself this time of year as a way to combat the overwhelming-ness of everything. Don’t isolate yourself so much as strategically plot what is deserving of your energy. While hell is other people (thanks, Sartre), so is redemption. Find the people who light you up, who excite you and make you happy, and spend time with them.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
Listen to your body and what it needs. Pay attention to how you feel. You know yourself better than anyone else, and you know what you need. If your body is telling you that you need sleep, go to bed. If you need a moment to breathe, go out for a walk. Whatever you need to do, do it. As you can’t shame a plant for needing water and sunshine to grow, you can’t shame yourself for needing things either. Self-care is important. You are important. When other things are going wrong or when they’re difficult, you owe it to yourself to be on your own side. You’ve got this.
7. Ask for Help
If you are experiencing something beyond stress, don’t be afraid to talk to someone or to ask for help. Like there is no shame in self-care, there is no shame in recognizing a problem and trying to fix it. If anything, asking for help can be an indication of strength. Things can and do get better. You owe it to yourself to give yourself that chance.
What are some ways you self-care? Share your strategy in a comment below.
For more blogs about managing stress in the workplace, check out our blog, "3 Simple Tips to Reduce Stress" below.