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After the Bar

Personal & Financial

Creating a Holistic Lifestyle and Regulating Your Nervous System within the Legal Field

Bailey Elizabeth Anderson

Summary

  • A somatic workout is simply moving intentionally to release stress and trauma from the body.
  • Meditation does not always consist of sitting on the floor with eyes shut tight; that style is not for everyone.
  • While doing is good and necessary, finding balance and resting is equally important.
Creating a Holistic Lifestyle and Regulating Your Nervous System within the Legal Field
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While mental health awareness is increasing within the legal field, there seems to be a disconnect between the crisis and tangible solutions. A recent study estimates that 28 percent of attorneys have experienced depression, 19 percent reported having anxiety, and 10 to 12 percent have had suicidal ideations, which is notably higher than 4.2 percent of the general adult population in the United States.

I don’t have to give you stats to prove that your job can be extremely stressful. You know that. As Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk explains in his New York Times bestseller The Body Keeps Score, your body definitely knows and it is keeping score of the trauma it endures, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional. Because our bodies hold onto physical, mental, and emotional stressors or traumas, we must proactively care for them and rejuvenate our spirit, which we can do through the holistic practices I describe below. I hope that sharing some of my practices will encourage you to start or build on your practice and that your practice brings an abundance of flow and balance to your life.  

Before we dive in, let this be my gentle reminder—adding holistic practices to your day is just that—a practice. Don’t start all at once. Be gentle with yourself. Take what is working, build on it, and toss out what isn’t. These aren’t hard and fast rules. My practice is constantly forming and reforming.

Dawn Drop-In

Before allowing artificial stimuli in (e.g., that 11 p.m. email from my boss or, let’s be honest, TikTok), I check in with my body. Some days, it’s a quick, two-three-minute session of mindfully drinking water before coffee, showing gratitude for my night’s rest, and setting intentions for the day. On other days, it’s all that, plus grounding, a somatic workout, and meditating. What does that mean?

  • A somatic workout is simply moving intentionally to release stress and trauma from the body; this can be ecstatic dance, yoga, breathwork, all traditional but intentional workouts.
  • Meditation does not always consist of sitting on the floor with eyes shut tight; that style is not for everyone. Meditating is also showering in silence, noting how the water washes over you, the temperature, and the bodily sensations, or mindfully brewing a cup of herbal tea—noting how the water bubbles, the way the steam rolls off of the water, and the smell of the herbs brewing.

Recently, my morning practice has been simple. I drink coffee in my backyard and listen to the Martin birds sing. I read somewhere that a bird’s song increases mental wellness, but so does a cat’s purr and bee’s buzz. My main goal is to not touch my phone or laptop for the first 30-45 minutes of my morning, connect with nature (my cat, the birds, the grass, etc.), observe, and just be. There is no pressure to achieve, be anything, or check off something from a to-do list. This practice helps me set the tone for the day and preempt an existential crisis over that one unread email in my inbox. 

Midday Mellow and Mend

I need the most regulation during the day. I can get overstimulated quickly, with paralegals steadily coming into my office with questions, partners buzzing me with tasks, emails pouring in, clients showing up early, etc. However, I keep check-ins short and sweet because time is also of the essence. I used the principles of feng shui, a traditional Chinese design practice that uses energy forces to harmonize with our surrounding environment when I set up my office. It led to a space that naturally induces calmness and helps me destress and refocus through:

  • calming colors,
  • a tabletop water fountain,
  • a few plants,
  • having my favorite stones on my desk, and
  • a warm light to the desk lamp.

When I need a little more, I pour myself a cup of herbal tea (I find joy in curating herbal blends to support various emotional states) and turn on a Sound Bath. This deeply immersive, meditative experience bathes you in energetic-resetting sound waves. Then, a couple of times a week, I aim to have lunch at the park and get that daily dose of sunshine and ground.

Elevated Evening

By the end of the workday, I am exhausted, so I keep my evening routine brief—lower the lighting to signal to my mind to slow down, take a meditative bath or shower, and say a prayer of gratitude to my higher self and Spirit Guide. Finding something to be grateful for, even on the hardest days, has been a game-changer for me. I try to write in my gratitude journal, but realistically, I just say, “I am grateful for . . .” before drifting off to sleep.

Rejuvenating and Regenerating Weekend

Rest, rest, rest is my weekend philosophy. The legal field is a mental strain, not usually a physical one. Rest is not always sleep; however, we often put all exhaustion into one category. It can be easy to mindlessly binge Netflix, only getting up to grab the takeout from the front steps. Instead, I try to do activities that rejuvenate me through physical stimuli rather than mental, such as painting, walking outside, cleaning my house, making various herbal mixtures, etc. My weekend goal is to listen to what my body needs and do that.

Ultimately, Know Your Intrinsic Worth

Practicing law can be stressful, but remember that your value as a human being is intrinsic. It is not measured by your personal and professional accolades. Society may use that system, but it doesn't mean you have to use the same one. You have immeasurable value simply because you are a living, breathing being. Because of societal standards, a lot of us are constantly trying to prove something and incidentally fill our lives with doing. While doing is good and necessary, finding balance and resting is equally important. Achieving a level of sustainable rest and balance is easier said than done, especially as a first- or second-year associate, but again, your body keeps score, so it is important that you listen to it throughout your career.

I have found that setting boundaries with myself around work, time management, and life has been instrumental in my personal growth. I believe that process is the key to creating a sustainable life and career. It is even more pertinent to your mental health and quality of life. I encourage you to stay firm with your boundaries, even when pressures from employers are mounting. Especially during those times. Stand in your power, know your worth, and nurture your needs.

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