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Three Simple Steps for Attorneys to Boost Mental Health and Alleviate Stress

Dr. Amy Botwinick

Three Simple Steps for Attorneys to Boost Mental Health and Alleviate Stress
Olga Rolenko via Getty Images

You can likely remember back to a time when something happened at work or at home. It wasn’t a big deal but it really got under your skin and you completely lost your cool. Think about what it was that triggered you. Hold onto that visual image of the event that set you off. Now, ask yourself, what was your body’s expression as a result of the trigger? Did you feel your heart race, notice tightness in your chest, or feel a sensation of your blood boiling? Now, drop into your body and imagine being in that trigger event as you hold onto that escalating agitation in your body. How did you show up? Did your inner dinosaur break out to steal the moment?

Welcome to our collective human condition—dinosaur energy known as “the fight or flight response.” This energy highjacks our ability to use the calm, cool thinking part of the brain, which is our pre-frontal cortex, and defaults to the reactive primitive part of our brain called the amygdala. Additionally, our bodies release a cascade of stress juice transforming us into walking bags of inflammation and agitation. Grant yourself a few minutes to put down your legal pad to learn a simple three step strategy that can chill you out in the moment of a stressful situation, and in any moment.

THE POWER OF 3: Vega, 5-4-3 & Mindful Morning

Vega Breathe

We all breathe but that is breathing with intention. Put one hand on your chest to check in with yourself and one hand on your belly to guide a deep cleansing belly breath. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds and out your mouth for a count of 4 seconds. Do this 4 times in a row to activate the Vega nerve in your body to release a calming cocktail of serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. This will not only chill you out but will also promote your wellness and keep you in your pre-frontal cortex, the thinking part of your brain, when you feel triggered, to help you respond cooly and calmly rather than react with your dinosaur energy.


Sometimes we get so triggered it feels impossible to find sufficient stillness to enable us to drop into 4 slow deep breaths. For times like these consider 3 of your 5 senses: what you see, what you hear, and what you feel from the sensation of touch. Imagine dropping into your body to focus on 5 things you see in the room, 4 things you hear, and 3 sensations of touch. The sensation of touch is the most grounding. For instance, what does it feel like for your feet to meet the floor? What does it feel like sitting on that chair or with your elbows on the table? The reason this works is because 5-4-3 invites you to use your brain, your body and your senses, requiring so much focus that you can’t also multitask with what is triggering you in the moment. This gives your nervous system a chance to settle down, so that you can then drop in with the 4 slow deep Vega breaths described above.

Mindful Morning

These techniques are simple but not easy. They need to be developed as a new habit to be used even when you are not feeling triggered, to become part of your DNA that you can easily access when needed. The easiest way to create a new habit is to attach it to an established habit. Everyone is different but here is an example others found helpful. First thing in the morning before you turn on the TV or look at your phone, go to the cupboard and reach for your favorite coffee mug. As you pour the hot black liquid, watch it fill the cup. Pick it up and feel the warmth in your hands as you sit down at the kitchen table. Before drinking, waft in the aroma of the coffee and smell it and feel the steam and condensation in your nostrils. As you take the first sip of the warm liquid don’t swallow. Hold it and roll it around your tongue, let your taste buds have a party so you can experience the different areas around your tongue: salt, sweet, sour, and bitter. Put the mug down and drop into 5-4-3 and 4 slow deep Vega breaths.

This simple strategy described above will help you to build your “muscle” of mindfulness. While you can’t eliminate triggers of stress, you can learn to go down your trigger tunnel and come out of it in a healthier more productive way. Don’t let your inner dinosaur steal your moment!