- Lawyers should incorporate mindfulness and self-care practices, such as yoga and meditation, into their lives to prevent burnout and promote overall well-being.
Congratulations! You’ve graduated law school, passed the bar, and started your exciting career as an attorney! Right?
Maybe? Maybe you’re exhausted and have been even before your legal career, and now you’re staring down the barrel of decades of stress and working too hard. How will you manage and have energy left for friends, family, and the causes you care about if you’re burnt out already?
Pop culture says: Buy things! A mindfulness app! Essential oils! Carve out time for a daily hour-long yoga class! Get a massage/manicure/pedicure! Indulge in self-care! It says we can consume our way to mindfulness and out of burnout, with a focus on how we look versus how we feel. But it doesn’t work that way. Investing in skills and guidance to facilitate embodiment, rest, yoga, or meditation is great, but you must still prioritize practice.
Ultimately, “mindfulness,” a Westernized way of saying “yoga” that’s meant not to seem too woo-woo, is a state of integration within your whole self: body, mind, and spirit. As attorneys, we’ve gone to school and built careers based on what our minds can do, but often we lose connection to our bodies, intuition, inner wisdom . . . joy.
At first, the excitement of career path progress feels worth such sacrifices. However, the true cost of exploiting yourself takes a huge toll. Many lawyers feel there’s no avoiding this stress, isolation, and exhaustion—either there’s room for self-care or getting the job done, but not both.
This false binary is, unfortunately, a widespread belief. There is time for both. If you prioritize consistent, committed time for yoga, care, rest, and embodiment, you will feel better beyond your work life, and you’ll show up for responsibilities with more clarity, energy, and ease. Of course, productivity is not the reason for self-care—your happiness and health are worth much more than your professional performance. It’s a reliable positive side effect, however.
Let’s be honest: the work we do wears on us. The problems lawyers help solve are heavy. We help clients who have been injured, are struggling with heartbreaking conflict, and are navigating incarceration, addiction, domestic violence, unjust social structures, and power imbalances. Many can’t leave their work at the office and carry it home to their personal lives, shut down emotionally, and struggle to be present, sleep well, and enjoy life. It’s called vicarious trauma. Whichever nervous system response happens for you, it keeps you stuck and exhausted—unless you find a way to process it. But how?
Committing to (or recommitting) a small but consistent practice: yoga, mindfulness, meditation, etc., can truly help! A great compliment to other forms of support, like therapy, yoga connects you to your body and spirit, reprograms your nervous system, and helps you relax. You don’t need a posh studio to buy weird candles or long sweaty workouts. But it is important to tune into your somatic experience, the part of you that is not your thoughts, every day, even for a few minutes.
Though abundant yoga classes, guides, and books are available, many people have difficulty getting started. We’re busy, tired, so . . . tomorrow, we say.
Whether this is new or you’re getting back in the groove, embodiment practice is key to being present with your whole self—which also nurtures your clients, your loves, and the change you want to make. Your health and happiness matters.
Your practice will evolve with your needs, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes you need more active movement or meditation or more rest. It’s supposed to change; you’re not a failure for having different needs than you did years ago. It’s about being in touch with the now!
Let’s work to change society so we aren’t all burned out! In the meantime, we can’t do that work if we’re running on fumes, so make time today to enjoy having a practice.