Look after yourself

For many legal teams, the last quarter of the year is the busiest, as everyone else in the organisation pushes to finish projects before business closes at the end of December. This year, with continued uncertainty about the progress of the pandemic and companies implementing post-lockdown hybrid working, is likely to be even busier. Back in May we learnt about building resilience in our webinar with Julian Harris and Dr Audrey Tang. One of the areas they highlighted was the importance of using environment and exercise to help manage stress and access a more resilient mind-set. So how can you make this a reality in a packed schedule and help to protect yourself from burnout?

Watch out for burnout


The Guardian reported last week on findings by mental health charity Mind that, in a survey of 40,000 workers, 41% felt their well-being had got worse over the course of the pandemic. Insomnia, exhaustion, despondency and self-doubt are all cited as symptoms of burnout. With 18 months of the pandemic behind us, most of us in the working world are experiencing a period of social stress and uncertainty that has lasted longer than anything we’ve dealt with previously. For working parents and carers, the load can be even greater, with normal avenues of support reduced or even removed by the response to the pandemic. If you recognise the beginnings of any of the symptoms of burnout, take action and get support – you’re not alone. For all of us, taking preventative action to protect our energy levels is essential.

Walk it off


The cheapest and easiest form of exercise is walking. No need for any specialist kit, no need for a shower afterwards and best of all, as little as 10 minutes of brisk walking a day has positive health benefits. You can make simple switches to put more walking into your day. If you’re travelling somewhere, get off the train or bus early and walk the rest of the way to your destination. Take a walk at the end of the day, either on your own or as a family or social activity. Always take the stairs where you can. Combining a walk with listening to music or a podcast helps you get more out of your time, you could even have walking meetings.

Seek out green spaces


Even our largest cities have parks, common land and gardens. Use them. Science doesn’t fully understand all the reasons why but research covered in the New Scientist shows time in green space can reduce stress, increase happiness and improve sleep, amongst other benefits. Even if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere more rural or with a large garden, it’s still easy to spend the majority of the day inside when you’re working at home. To break the monotony, book green space into your day. Take a call from a quiet space in your local park or your garden. Schedule time to eat lunch outside. Find a route for your walk at the end of the day that takes you into open green space. Even when it’s raining, it’s worth it.

Get everyday active


With lots of legal teams beginning to use the office more or adopting hybrid working, it’s easy for time to get squeezed – and old habits to re-emerge. Finding ways to put activity and movement into your everyday routine is the best way to make sure your well-being doesn’t suffer. Consider working standing up when you can – for example, host meetings standing round a table rather than sitting down (these are often shorter too) or set up your laptop so you can join video conferences standing up at home. If you’re working on a project at home, set your phone or laptop to remind you to stand up and move around every 30 minutes.

Prioritise time for you


There are many, many different demands on all of us right now. So it’s important to prioritise activities that support your well-being. You know what works best for you. It might be a trip to work in a local coffee shop one afternoon, a regular lunchtime walk or 20 minutes of yoga at the end of the day. Investing time in building a reservoir of positive energy will help you to “bounce forward” from setbacks and avoid burning out. It will also help you do your best work, get the best results for your clients and be the best company to those around you.

If you feel you need extra help with your mental health right now, find specialist resources and support at Mind or LawCare.


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