Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Have you broken it yet?
com jmkastner gmail Jill M. Kastner, UCLA School of Law 2000, is president of the State Bar of Wisconsin. She practices in civil poverty law to ensure housing stability for veterans at Legal Action of Wisconsin Inc., Milwaukee.
The most popular resolutions include exercising every day, losing weight, saving money, spending less time on social media and TV, and spending more time with friends and family. These are great resolutions. They are ways to improve your health, reduce stress, and increase personal satisfaction. In the same spirit, I encourage you to make a New Year’s resolution to improve your overall wellness.
I know what you’re thinking. Ugh, another article on lawyer wellness. You already know that the legal profession has high rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. You may think I’m going to tell you to go to therapy, become a vegan, and take yoga classes. Well, I’m not. I am asking that you find one thing you can do this coming year to help relieve stress and find more enjoyment in your professional and personal life.
How do you do that? Well, do what most lawyers do naturally – issue spot and problem solve. Analyze the situation (your life). Identify the things that negatively affect your health and happiness. Set aside the things you cannot change, and focus on the things you can influence. Do your research on possible solutions. Determine outside resources or assistance you might require (if you need an expert, get one). Set realistic expectations and develop an action plan. Be prepared to reevaluate and modify the plan along the way as needed. We do this type of analysis for our clients. It’s time we apply these skills to our own lives.
For example, I’m a working mom. When the kids were little, I constantly struggled with being pulled between my clients and my kids. I never felt good enough. In desperation, I joined a Moms in the Bar group to see how all these other women were doing it. My very first meeting, I asked for the secret to having it all. My peers told me in no uncertain terms: “Knock it off! You can’t have it all.” At least not at the same time all the time. Instead, to be consistently good and occasionally great at each of your roles, you need to prioritize, delegate, and compromise. You don’t magically find balance; you continue to struggle to keep balance.
Set aside the things you cannot change, and focus on the things you can influence.
I can’t tell you how much stress and anxiety was lifted from my shoulders that day. During meetings over the next several months I learned important tips. I could delegate cleaning to a service, have my husband take the kids to appointments once in a while, and not feel guilty when I took time to walk the dog with my daughter (great conversation time) instead of vacuuming or immediately answering email. These relatively small changes made me a much happier and less stressed mom and lawyer.
This January, make a resolution that will help your personal well-being so that you will be healthier and happier.