6 Steps to Becoming a Healthier Lawyer

6 Steps to Becoming a Healthier Lawyer

In the demanding world of legal practice, the pursuit of personal health and wellness often takes a back seat to the relentless demands of the profession. But in 2004, after 27 years as a divorce attorney, I found myself overwhelmed by stress and decided to bid farewell to my legal career. It was a pivotal moment that prompted me to shift my focus toward self-healing and, potentially, helping others do the same. As I embarked on this new journey, a revelation struck me: much of my stress was rooted in poor wellness choices rather than the inherent pressures and conflicts that come with being a lawyer.

In the years that followed, I had the privilege of counseling numerous legal professionals and crafting various articles addressing the issue of stress within the legal field. Through this experience, I've gathered valuable insights and devised a series of recommendations to promote a healthier and happier life for lawyers.

Establish Your Baseline

In my earlier days, I used to quip that my version of happiness was nothing more than a perpetually low-grade anxiety. When stress becomes your constant companion, it's easy to forget what genuine happiness and relaxation feel like. Stress begins to feel normal. To combat this, it's crucial to pinpoint your baseline, that state of contentment and relaxation that you may have lost touch with over time. Whether it's through soothing music, meditation, or any other method, reconnect with that relaxed state. By doing so, you'll be better equipped to recognize when you're stressed because it deviates from your established baseline. For instance, in my case, I can now detect a spike in my blood pressure because it feels distinct from its usual state.

Become Body Aware

Scheduling regular preventive medical checkups and monitoring blood chemistry provides a vital baseline for overseeing your overall health. Blood chemistry is a complex puzzle, particularly as you age. Hormone levels, blood sugar, and cholesterol all play a crucial role in determining your health and well-being. Stress, in particular, takes a toll on your adrenal glands, and prolonged, unrelenting stress can lead to severe health complications.

Develop a set of strategies to manage stress when you first sense its impact on your body. In order to counteract its effects, take decisive steps to enhance your long-term health:

Make Informed Dietary Choices

In my family, legal success seemed intertwined with obesity, tracing back generations. For centuries, obesity symbolized success and authority; indeed, "throwing your weight around" was more than just a saying in my family tree. My relationship with food has always been more passionate and emotional than practical. During my legal practice, the breakroom seemed eternally stocked with a dozen doughnuts, and potluck lunches featured sugary, nutritionally deficient fare as the norm.

Late nights of work, travel, anxiety, depression, and insomnia often correlated with late-night fast food orders and an overreliance on caffeine and sugar for energy boosts. Attempting to practice law while maintaining an unhealthy diet is a recipe for illness and potential obesity. Poor dietary choices can result in elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes—an unfavorable equation for success.

Elevate Your Exercise Routine

For some, the brief walk from the parking lot to the office or the courthouse might be the only exercise they can squeeze into their busy lives. However, making time for regular exercise not only fosters better health and improved well-being but also boosts self-esteem. Exercise triggers the release of various chemicals in the brain, akin to the effects of morphine but without the side effects. Undoubtedly, exercise stands as one of the most effective stress management strategies.

Furthermore, exercise, whether at the gym, through leisurely walks, or cycling, provides a precious window of solitude and reflection. This, too, is indispensable in managing stress.

Loosen the Noose

Research has revealed that tightly fastened collars and neckties can impede the flow of oxygen to the brain. Extremely snug collars can lead to headaches and even diminish cognitive function. Hence, consider adopting an open-collar attire and minimize the use of neckties wherever possible.

Pacing Yourself

While working tirelessly for a hundred hours or more each week may seem beneficial for your career, it spells disaster for your health and personal life. If you routinely push your limits, it's essential to carve out moments for relaxation and recovery, including regular exercise. Don't forget to utilize your vacation days—they are an investment in your future well-being. Years down the line, you'll be grateful for making your health a top priority.

Becoming a Healthier Lawyer: A Strategic Imperative

The legal profession is inherently laden with stress, and this pressure can exact a heavy toll, particularly when your well-being and stress management are overshadowed by the needs of others. To maintain a consistent level of satisfaction and happiness throughout your legal career, addressing your stress and prioritizing your health is not just a choice—it's a strategic imperative.

1. Why do lawyers often struggle with their health and wellness?

Lawyers often prioritize their demanding work over their personal health and wellness.

2. What prompted the author to quit practicing law in 2004?

The author left their legal career after 27 years due to overwhelming stress and a desire to focus on healing themselves and helping others.

3. What did the author discover about the source of their stress?

The author realized that a significant portion of their stress stemmed from poor wellness choices rather than the inherent pressures of the legal profession.

4. What are the six steps for managing stress and health discussed in the article?

The six steps are: Establishing Your Baseline, Becoming Body Aware, Making Good Food Choices, Stepping Up Your Exercise Routine, Loosening Your Collar, and Pacing Yourself.

5. How can one establish their baseline for stress and relaxation?

To establish a baseline, engage in activities like listening to relaxing music or meditating to recognize what relaxation and happiness feel like.

6. Why are regular medical checkups and blood chemistry analyses important for lawyers?

These help establish a baseline for monitoring overall health, including hormone levels, sugar levels, and cholesterol levels, which can be affected by stress.

7. How can a poor diet affect a lawyer's health and well-being?

An unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, prediabetes, and obesity, all of which can negatively impact a lawyer's health.

8. What are the benefits of incorporating exercise into a lawyer's routine?

Exercise not only enhances physical health but also triggers the release of brain chemicals that help manage stress and improve overall well-being.

9. Why are tight collars and neckties discouraged for lawyers?

Research suggests that tight collars and neckties can restrict oxygen flow to the brain, potentially causing headaches and reduced cognitive function.

10. How is taking time for relaxation and recovery essential for lawyers?

Working excessively long hours can harm one's health and personal life, making it crucial to allocate time for relaxation, exercise, and vacation days.

11. How can lawyers recognize the impact of stress on their bodies?

By establishing a baseline for relaxation and contentment, lawyers can identify stress when it feels different from this baseline.

12. Can stress affect blood chemistry levels?

Yes, stress can impact hormone levels, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, all of which are essential components of blood chemistry.

13. What is the significance of exercising regularly for lawyers?

Regular exercise not only improves health but also helps manage stress by triggering the release of brain chemicals similar to morphine without the side effects.

14. What is the main message of the article regarding the legal profession and stress?

The legal profession is inherently stressful, and lawyers must prioritize their health and well-being to maintain satisfaction and happiness throughout their careers.

15. Why are relaxation and reflection important in managing stress?

Engaging in moments of relaxation and reflection provides valuable coping mechanisms to handle stress effectively.

16. How can lawyers change their dietary habits for the better?

Lawyers can opt for healthier food choices, avoid excessive sugar and caffeine, and prioritize balanced nutrition.

17. Why is obesity historically associated with success and power in the legal profession?

Obesity was seen as a symbol of success and authority for many centuries, even influencing language idioms like "throwing your weight around."

18. What are the long-term health consequences of practicing law on an unhealthy diet?

Practicing law on an unhealthy diet can lead to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, prediabetes, and diabetes.

19. How can lawyers alleviate the physical effects of stress?

Developing stress management strategies and engaging in regular exercise can help counteract the physical effects of stress.

20. Why is it recommended for lawyers to use their vacation days?

Using vacation days is essential for relaxation and recovery, safeguarding long-term health and well-being.

21. Are there alternative attire options for lawyers to avoid tight collars and neckties?

Yes, lawyers can consider wearing open-collar attire and minimizing the use of neckties when appropriate.

22. What role does self-esteem play in managing stress for lawyers?

Regular exercise not only improves physical health but also boosts self-esteem, which is crucial for handling stress effectively.

23. Why is it essential for lawyers to have a strategy for managing stress and health?

The legal profession is inherently stressful, and without a well-defined strategy, it's challenging to maintain satisfaction and happiness in one's career.

24. Can stress management strategies be applied to other high-pressure professions as well?

Yes, the stress management strategies discussed in the article can be beneficial for individuals in various high-pressure professions.

25. How has the author's personal experience informed the recommendations provided in the article?

The author's personal journey of leaving law practice due to stress and focusing on self-healing has provided valuable insights and informed the recommendations for managing stress and health in the legal profession.