While people across the country continue to experience different impacts from the global pandemic, they all have one thing in common: Stress. Here are some tips to build resiliency in these uncertain times.
The conversation about mental health and wellbeing is extremely timely as people continue to struggle with social isolation due to the global pandemic. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month.
Open and honest conversation, especially during a time like this, can help break the stigma around mental health, according to Richard Martin, director, byrne-dean, who moderated a recent webinar sponsored by FRA’s ARK Group to mark the publication of its new book, Lawyer Health and Wellbeing- How the legal profession is tackling stress and creating resiliency. The book was developed and written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the topics are more critical than ever and apply far beyond the legal profession.
“We are all finding this hard. If we could just take a moment to acknowledge and own our vulnerability and acknowledge that this is hard for all of us, I think we would be making huge strides in breaking stigma around people experiencing difficulties.”
And stress will manifest differently for people, explained Renee Branson, founder and principal consultant, RB Consulting, during the webinar. Some of the acute and chronic stress reactions people may face throughout this pandemic include anxiety, depression, irritability, grief, and loneliness, as well as physical manifestations such as inability to sleep, stomach upset, headaches, and muscle tension.
Some days may feel easier than others, explained Branson. “Our resilience is not a stable state, so being able to be aware of that and know that is important.”
But there are steps people can take to prioritize mental and behavioral health and create resiliency during such a stressful time:
1. Ramp up self-care with activities such as daily exercise, intentional connection with friends or family, and online support recovery meetings, suggested Bree Buchanan, chair, ABA, and co-chair, National Task Force on Lawyer Wellbeing.
2. Branson encouraged those who are struggling to ask for help when they need it – don’t suffer in silence.
3. Adopt realistic expectations for yourself and your colleagues, said Martin. People will continue to work remotely for quite some time, so make it sustainable and be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day.
4. Create an enjoyable workspace, suggested webinar speaker, Emma Jones, senior lecturer, University of Sheffield Law School. Even small adjustments such as a comfortable chair or happy pictures on your desk can influence mood and productivity.
5. Help or reach out to someone else, said Buchanan. Redirecting your focus to acts of kindness for another person not only helps with our own feelings but provides a greater purpose.
6. Kate Dodd, diversity and inclusion consultant, Pinsent Masons LLP, emphasized the need to protect rest throughout this period. Personal wellbeing should be the priority and rest is vital. Make sure to carve out enough rest periods for yourself and respect other’s downtime as well.
7. Maintain open communication in both your personal and professional life, said Paul Bennett, partner, Bennett Briegal. Communication is key throughout this period of isolation.