And just like that … it’s February, and you have settled back into the daily grind. Not to be all harpy, but … how are those resolutions going? You know the ones about being good to yourself, exercising more, eating better, spending time doing what you enjoy and with people you love. Um Hm. If you are at all like me, they went out the window the minute you looked at your inbox on January 4.
The stress of the legal profession takes its toll on attorneys. According to a Legal Week survey of senior American and English attorneys, 82 percent of surveyed attorneys feel that long hours at work are damaging their health. It can also affect our mental health. A 1990 John Hopkins study found that attorneys are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than other professions.
Stress and depression often go hand in hand with substance abuse, which may explain why attorneys are twice as likely as others to suffer from substance abuse. Sadly, attorneys are more likely to commit suicide than others. Clearly, we need to find practical ways to manage our stress and maintain our health.
In this issue, our authors discuss how social media and technology can benefit your practice. Technology can also make it easier or fun to maintain your health, reduce stress and enjoy life. Below are some tips for incorporating technology into a healthy lifestyle.
Join a Fitness Challenge
You don’t have to climb mountains or run marathons; just get moving. Being active improves health and helps to manage stress. The American Heart Association recommends walking 10,000 steps per day. To make sure that I keep moving throughout the day, I wear a FitBit fitness tracker to measure my activity. Some smartphones include pedometers. There are also apps for smartphones like Moves (for Android) that track activity. Not only does my device allow me to track activity to ensure I meet my personal goals, but it allows me to satisfy my competitive and social nature by participating in fitness challenges with friends and my sister-in-law. Nothing like a little friendly competition to keep me motivated.
By the way, if you and a fitness partner use different devices, check out the app MatchUp. It allows challenges between folks using different devices and, with the purchase of a premium membership, it will manage challenges with groups of more than 10 members.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found evidence that meditation can help reduce anxiety, depression and pain. But wait … there’s more! Many law schools and companies (General Motors, Google and Facebook, to name a few) also believe it can help create more focused and creative attorneys. These organizations are incorporating mindfulness into their curriculums and corporate structure.
And guess what, benefits can come from a meditation as short as five minutes, so in less than a “.1” you can do something to improve your health. In fact, Bay Area attorney and USF Adjunct Professor, Jeena Cho, even has a “.1 Guided Meditation for Lawyers” along with several other slightly longer, and free, guided mediations, on her website, the Anxious Lawyer. There are many apps out there to lead you in guided meditations. I use Insight Timer, which has dozens of guided meditations of various lengths and subjects. It also has a timer for silent meditation.
I know you are busy, and I’m not going to tell you to pack a salad. But eating out and making healthy choices is a lot easier if you use an app like Healthy Out. By using this app, you can find restaurants that cater to your preferred diet (paleo; vegan; low fat) and are located near the office. Healthy Out tells you what dishes the restaurant offers that fit your dietary requirements. It even includes take-out joints that you might not have realized can cater to healthy eating. There are several similar apps you should also check out including Food Tripping and Locavore.
If getting a healthy dinner on the table is a challenge, you might consider trying a service like www.munchery.com that offers same-day delivery of chef prepared dinners to your home or www.blueapron.com that delivers ingredients and recipes for healthy dishes that you prepare yourself. With these services, you order online and affordable, fresh meals are delivered to your home or office.
Get Some Sleep
Trust me, you aren’t doing anyone any good trying to write that brief at 2 a.m. But more importantly, studies have shown a connection between sleep deprivation and poor health—specifically, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and perhaps, Alzheimer’s. Develop good sleep habits. Get your eight hours of sleep by selecting, and sticking to, a specific bedtime. Limit your alcohol intake in the evening, as alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep cycles. And if you have trouble getting to sleep, try the free “Body Scan for Sleep” guided meditation from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, available free (along with others) at http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22.
Have Some Fun
I enjoy gardening and reading, but I decided recently to try something I haven’t done before … playing the guitar. I am taking free lessons online at www.justinguitar.com. As you know, you can find anything on the Internet, so pick something that interests you and get started. The key is to have fun and enjoy.
You would think given all the Type A personalities in our profession, we would all be very good at taking care of ourselves. However, often we are so focused on doing the best for our clients and families that we neglect ourselves. The fact is that by taking care of yourself, you will provide better service to your clients, better care of your family and create a better life for yourself.
Elva Harding is the founder of Harding Legal. Elva is a Bay Area attorney focusing on real estate and business matters including the purchase and sale of commercial buildings, multifamily properties and commercial leasing. She represents property owners, multifamily investors, small business owners, restaurant and food service operations and medical groups throughout California. She can be reached at (925) 215-4577 or www.edhlegal.com.