The ABA Journal report that Big firms have long been reticent to openly address addiction and other mental-health problems, despite research showing lawyers face higher rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide than the wider population,” the article says. “Law firm leaders say the need to keep up appearances in a competitive industry has contributed to the resistance. That attitude, however, is slowly changing. Read the article.
Big Law Tackles Mental Health Crisis Issues With On-Site Programs; Is Its Business Model at Fault?
Are Burnout and Depression the Same Thing?
A new article in the Wall Street Journal writes: “Burnout and depression are seen as two distinct health conditions in the medical world. A new study suggests they may be closer to one. Burnout is assumed to be related to job stress, but it may be a depressive syndrome that develops in response to chronic stress, researchers suggest. Read the rest of the Story.
Living a Simpler Life Can Ease Lawyer Depression
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler ~Albert Einstein
I believe most of us want, no, crave, a simpler life. Henry Thoreau, seeking to find out what was essential about life, retreated to a small cabin at Walden Pond and wrote,
Our life is fritted away be detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!
Lawyers know that their lives are too complex, confusing and stressful. They feel it in their bones. This sense of things intrudes on their thoughts during a five-minute lunch between court appearances and an afternoon deposition. They think to themselves, “There’s got to be a better way to live my life”. They yearn for more space, more time to digest their experiences. However, without a greater simplicity, their lives are swallowed by a flurry of demands that never stop coming.
It’s not only the office that weighs attorneys down – it the consumerist culture they live in with everyone else. In a piece in the Wall Street Journal “When Simplicity Is the Solution”, takes a sample of the dizzying array of choices buyers face everyday:
“Every facet of our lives, even entertainment and recreation, is complicated by an ever-widening array of choices delivered at a frantic pace. Consider:
More than 800,000 apps in the Apple App Store
240-plus selections on the Cheesecake Factory menu, not including lunch or brunch specials
135 mascaras, 437 lotions and 1,992 fragrances at Sephora.com
Lawyers need to shed those habits that weigh them down and clutter their lives and spirits. As the author Hans Hofmann once wrote, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
Some of the things that can be jettisoned are mundane: not reading the paper every morning, not responding to e-mails and text 24-7 or just allowing the sweet space of silence for ten minutes a day. Then there are the bigger items to chuck: letting go of relationships that aren’t healthy, daily diets that increase our waist lines and poison our bodies and habitual ways of responding to stress that batters their brains.
One Day at a Time to a Simpler Life
What small things can we let go of in our daily lives to make it simpler?
1. Keep your office clean and organized. Check out the website and book The Organized Lawyer.
2. Bring nature into your office – a small vase of fresh flowers helps or some green, leafy plants. A good tonic for a harried lawyer – the simplicity of nature.
3. Live a Day of 5 – and only 5 – important things that you want to get done today. Take a legal pad, a bold flair marker, write in big letters and allow copious amounts of space between items. This practice has a way of focusing our efforts and keeping it simple.
4. Get rid of needless noise in your office – keep your door shut, turn off the radio.
5. Live from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. So you think you are, said the Buddha. Remind yourself that you have everything you need and enough time.
6. Bring a healthy lunch and snacks to work rather than going out for a lunch at a busy and noisy restaurant.
7. Take a 10 minute silence break in your day.
8. Only check your e-mail 3 times per day during the morning, noon and at the end of the day. Psychologists estimate that as much as ninety percent of e-mail is junk. As such, the chances of your missing something urgent aren’t great. Try this for a week and see what happens. It’s an eye-opener.
Living a Simpler Life over the Long Haul
1. Using technology to make your life simpler – go paperless. Check out the ScanSnap Document Scanner.
2. Check out the blog Zen Habits – a site devoted to living a simpler life.
3. Develop the wisdom that having more stuff in your life doesn’t equal more happiness.
4. Practice walking outside in nature as much as you can.
5. Clean your house and throw out everything you don’t need.
6. Do something with your hands – some people love chopping wood, for example. Volunteering for Habit for Humanity is another.
7. Practice Mindfulness – check the best-selling book, The Mindful Way through Depression.
8. Fasting – it’s amazing how much time and energy we fret away thinking about food. A friend of mine took note that he had twelve eating opportunities in one average day. Check out the Master Cleaner fast – I did it one weekend and found it easy and rejuvenating.
9. Do free stuff for a day. As the author Robert Brault wrote, “The best things in life are not only free, but the line is shorter.”
Remember that the more you simplify, the less your day will be fragmented by nonsense. Thoreau wrote: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow of life.
Do you really need to live your life driven by choices that increase your preoccupation with complexity while fueling your depression? You already know what it’s like to live a complicated life. Try for a while to live a simpler one. You don’t have to go to Walden Pond to do it. You’re home and office can be a good place to start. It’s that simple.
By Dan Lukasik