The life of an attorney isn’t easy. The rewards of this profession can come at a cost; namely, long work hours, high stress, and emotional duress. Lawyers are disproportionately afflicted with mood disturbances like depression and anxiety, insomnia, excessive workloads, and even alcohol dependence.
The mantra “just breathe” might seem trite and downright annoying but there’s scientific evidence to support the notion that deep, mindful breathing can reduce stress and improve your emotional resiliency. While many people tell those in crisis to breathe, they might not know the very good reasons why this age-old advice is often given.
The Need for Lawyers to De-Stress
If you’re practicing law, you can likely attest to the very real need for lawyers to manage their stress. Long work hours, intense pressure from clients and colleagues, and poor work/life balance can take a heavy toll on your physical and emotional wellbeing. Law schools throughout the United States are tackling the issues of overstressed lawyers by encouraging their students to learn coping mechanisms for the obstacles that lie ahead of them. Law schools incorporate meditation and yoga into their curricula and provide more outreach than ever before to help aspiring attorneys prepare for a demanding profession.
According to a joint study conducted by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, alarming numbers of attorneys struggle with depression, anxiety, and alcohol dependence.
This study found that:
- Over 20% of lawyers and judged surveyed profess to alcohol dependence while another 36% could be classified as problem drinkers.
- Roughly 23% of respondents reported stress.
- Another 28% report experiencing depression.
- About 19% experience anxiety.
Compared to other professions, including high-stress ones, lawyers have higher incidences of mental illness and alcohol abuse than the general population. The long-term effects of excessive stress are far-reaching. Stress causes the body to release excess hormones, negatively affects levels of neurotransmitters, and can play a role in the development of systemic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, and mental illness.
Benefits of Breathing
In the heat of the moment, when your heart is pounding and you’re struggling with racing thoughts, being told to “breathe” might seem pointless. Dismissing the importance of deep breathing during high-stress situations is not wise. Deep, purposeful breathing can reset your body’s physiological response to stress, lower your blood pressure, and help you think through problems and crises more clearly.
Purposeful breathing is proven to relieve stress. A survey of nurses reported feeling increased peacefulness, energy, and improved sleep after adopting a deep breathing practice.
Adopting a Simple Breathing Exercise
Five minutes a day of deep, mindful breathing could make a huge impact on your wellness and your law practice. Here’s a simple breathing exercise to try:
- Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor and your eyes closed.
- Take an assessment of your emotions and your breathing. Ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel stressed, anxious, exhausted? Evaluate your breathing. Is your breath labored or shallow?
- Begin to breathe slowly and deeply. Inhale through your nose and count for five seconds.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth, making note to do so for five seconds.
- Repeat your five-second inhales and exhales for the next five minutes or so.
- As you breathe, be mindful of the moment when your muscles start to relax and your heart rate slows.
- At the end of your breathing exercise, open your eyes and take a moment to reflect before resuming normal activity.
When performing deep breathing exercises, it might be helpful to visualize peaceful scenery such as a tropical beach, mountains, or a lush forest. As you breathe, saying words like “calm” or “peace” quietly can aid in relaxation. Be sure to take in the rhythm of your heartbeat and your breathing; this will assist with acknowledging your body’s response as you de-stress. Breathing exercises will become more effective with regular practice. Carve out time each day for mindful breathing and if necessary, increase the length of your breathing exercises.
Oh and whenever you’re ready, here are some ways I can help you improve your practice…
- Join my private, free facebook community,Mindset Mastery for Lawyers, For lawyers only! It’s a great way to connect, and share ideas and tips on how to become happier and more powerful in the practice of law. To join Click Here.
- Check out my Mindset Mastery for Lawyers course.
It’s helped hundreds of lawyers learn how to master their minds to be more powerful in and out of the courtroom. You learn how to be more focused, productive and happier in all you do.
- Tap into how to decrease stress and anxiety with my 7 day Free Meditation Course
It’s 7 days filled with ways to be have less anxiety, be more intentional and become more focused in your practice of law. (I promise – I make meditation super easy).