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What can individual lawyers do to look after their wellbeing?

While workplace wellbeing is a collective responsibility, we can all take an active role in improving our own wellbeing at work. Here are seven suggestions for ways you can do that.

1. Look after your wellbeing

Wellbeing is a key part of a long, safe and enjoyable legal career. To look after your wellbeing consider:

  • regularly checking how you are feeling emotionally and physically
  • prioritise time for yourself
  • take regular breaks and changing your environments during working days
  • exercise regularly – this could be anything from walking to playing team sport
  • spend time in nature
  • switch off from work and social media
  • sleep properly – just one poor night’s sleep can make us 30% more anxious, and prolonged insomnia can lead to panic responses
  • eat well
  • practise mindfulness (for example, through mediation or yoga), and
  • remember that taking care of your mental health is not an indulgence.

2. Connect with others

We are all social creatures, so consider:

  • prioritising social activities at and outside of work
  • joining a sports team, an interest group or a community club, and
  • finding ways to increase the positivity in your family and friend relationships.

3. Grow professionally

Investing in your own professional growth is an important factor in doing your job well and feeling good about the work you do. Ways to do this include:

  • participate in formal and informal learning and development opportunities
  • sign up to a mentoring program
  • avoid putting too much pressure on yourself by comparing yourself to others
  • proactively thinking about your career goals, and
  • take on new roles.

4. Give back to others

There’s an old adage that pleasure is in the giving, not the receiving. You may find it rewarding to increase the ways you give back to others, which could include:

  • be kind, including by doing something for someone else without expecting any reward or recognition
  • be generous with your time and experience through activities like pro bono and community work or mentoring, and
  • notice and encourage others and praise their achievements.

5. Separate work and non-work life

Lawyers often struggle to separate their work and social lives. Lawyer’s Weekly found 71% of lawyers consider maintaining boundaries between work and non-work life one of their top two greatest challenges, and this was particularly the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. To better separate your work and life, try to:

  • give yourself permission to disconnect from work when not working
  • change environments during your breaks
  • use out-of-office email and phone messages after hours
  • minimise personal phone use at work.

6. Consider continuing working if you are struggling

While it may seem counterintuitive that someone struggling with their mental health should aim to continue their work, the Black Dog Institute found that most people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression or anxiety benefit from being at work (potentially with some reasonable adjustment to their duties). The benefits of continuing to work include:

  • having a sense of belonging
  • avoiding isolation
  • maintaining productivity, a sense of achievement and routine
  • having a healthy distraction from other issues, and
  • avoiding need for return to work after long absence.

7. Know where to seek help

If you are looking for help there are many services and resources available, including:

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