If we weren’t taught by our parents or gym teachers the value of good health, we certainly cannot continue to blame them for not having the knowledge today. It seems like everywhere one turns, there is an ad for a gym, a health food brand, or a sporting event. Perhaps if those marketing attempts didn’t catch your attention, the ads for hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and funerals had a momentary effect on you. All of this is to say, it is no secret: There is value in good health.
Many lawyers joke about the fact that we can’t do math. While that may be true, lawyers do understand values. So often, we will argue until we are blue in the face just to prevail on a dispute. The value there is winning, but at what cost? The “blue-in-the-face” lawyer might be compromising various health aspects of their own cardiovascular, neurological, or nervous systems due to stress. Let’s face it, lawyers have high stress jobs. Therefore, we must be smart about our health in order to balance the stress of being a lawyer.
If the advertisements are not making a lasting effect, we can consider longevity as a motivating factor. Most of us will maintain our careers as lawyers until we retire, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 65 years old. So why not make it an enjoyable career? The legal profession, in general, is considered to have a high burnout rate because it is very stressful. To help avoid burnouts, try balance. Too often, when professionals of high stress jobs do not exercise balance in good health, they indulge in an unhealthy lifestyle. I think it is fair to say that we have all seen lawyers on a downward spiral that look a lot like the following:
- trial preparation leads to late hours at the office and there isn’t a full kitchen or a chef to prepare dinner, so it’s take-out delivered to the office;
- arrive home late after a long day, need a “wind down” drink;
- still waking at the same early hour each morning to report to the office during business hours;
- business meeting lunches all week long at restaurants serving portions that are too large and loaded with…well, who really knows;
- then Friday arrives and the weekend leaves the lawyer worthless, zapped of energy or motivation, or possibly back at the office to continue working.
As stated in the title of this article, lawyers should spend more time defending their health, rather than defending their clients’ cases.
Lawyers are trained to find the answers. When we can’t find the answer, we research, ask around, and investigate, all so that we can perfect our case. Likewise, that same energy should go into finding ways to improve your health. The first tip…get involved! Start researching local athletic groups (a nifty little gadget, “Google,” is a great source), such as groups that gather to walk each morning, during lunch, or after work. The same groups can be found for just about any athletic interest imaginable (running, jogging, hiking, swimming, weight lifting, martial arts, triathlons, yoga, Pilates, dance, Cross Fit, parkour, roller derby, volleyball, etc.). Further, contact your local bar association and ask whether it has a fitness group organized under the bar and, if it does, attend a meeting or ask what events they have coming up. If your local bar association does not have a fitness organization, then create one and be a leader…if you build it, they will join. Do not be afraid to solicit motivation or workout partners. Ask around, research, and investigate until you find somewhere to start, then build on it. The key is to find like-minded people, regardless of whether they are in the legal profession. Additionally, these new groups of people are a great source of networking and marketing.
Other tips for leading a healthy lifestyle as a lawyer:
Make yourself eat breakfast! Force yourself to budget 15 more minutes in the morning to make breakfast happen. The simple truth is that if a lawyer is due in court on a certain morning and the weather is problematic, the lawyer is likely to make plans to leave a little earlier to ensure a timely arrival at the courthouse. Just make it happen.
Make sensible choices at lunch! This isn’t rocket science. If you gorge on a steak, burger, fried foods, etc., you are likely going to feel sluggish the rest of the day. Just be smart.
Eat snacks! This tip is so very important. Remember this tip: NEVER GET HUNGRY, NEVER GET FULL. If you allow yourself to snack periodically (again, make it a sensible snack), then your body should rarely feel hungry and give your brain the false sense that you need to eat loads of food. Likewise, when you are consuming a full meal, do not allow yourself to eat until you feel full. Simply eat a smart portion (no more than approximately 2 or 3 fist size portions of any food in one sitting). Even if you leave a meal feeling like you are not satisfied, wait an hour or two and have a snack (trail mix, fruit, sliced vegetables, cheese, crackers, etc.). A smart portion size for a snack should be no more than a palm size serving.
Drink water! Water, water, water…I could probably stop the lecture on water right here, but this is too important not to say more. Essentially, water is essential. Water is basic and critical to consume. Even the healthiest food decisions can be cancelled out by a lack of H20. The body must be flushed and hydrated. The lasting effects of dehydration can be so tragic that it can, tragically, lead to death. Tips: drink a glass of water before that first cup of coffee. Drink a glass of water while you’re waiting for your lunch to arrive. Drink a glass of water during your meetings. It is always smart to reduce soda, caffeinated drinks, and drinks with fruit juices (those with and without alcohol), but balance is the key. Drink as much water, or more, as you would any other beverage.
This is an easy tip…lawyers prepare their cases, so prepare for good health. If your office does not have snacks, then bring them to the office yourself. If you do not like the tap water at your office or house, then purchase bottled water or bring a reusable water bottle to the office.
Move your body more! Take the stairs at every opportunity. Find workout buddies to join you for a hike. Research new trails around your community. It is important to get out of your comfort zone. While walking can be beneficial, it is imperative that the walk be brisk and challenging. If it feels easy or leisurely, then you’re not pushing yourself. Lawyers are always negotiating and sometimes encouraging clients to step out of their comfort zones when making decisions, so do the same with your cardiovascular health. When participating in any physical activity, aim for an elevated heart rate and panting and maintain that level of exercise for as long as you can endure. Then, allow yourself 30 seconds or one minute to recover, then, repeat the exercise. Physical stamina and endurance increase rapidly the more times you push yourself and, when you begin to notice that you are able to last a little longer in the activity, your confidence will soar…not that lawyers need any more ego-boosting!
Plan ahead! If you are not a morning person, then pack your gym bag and take it to the office. If you are a member of a gym, then familiarize yourself with the schedule of workout classes, pick out one for that day, and know what time you have to leave the office after work to make it to that class on time (allow time for driving, checking into the gym, and changing clothes). If you know that you are wiped out after a long day of work, then start conditioning yourself to wake up early to get in a workout. Like I’ve mentioned before, if you had to be in court or present at a certain time to pick a jury, then you’d be there without fail…make your health just as important, because it IS.
4. MENTAL CLARITY:
Recharge your brain! A healthy lifestyle will help your neurological system recover more quickly, thereby reducing tension headaches and racing thoughts. In addition to smart food choices and physical activity, take time to let your brain recharge. Go on vacations, schedule a massage, read a book, log eight hours of sleep, etc., but allow yourself to slow the pace from time to time.
The majority of this article has preached about smart food choices, exercise, and making a link between practicing law and practicing a healthy lifestyle, but there is really one word that can summarize the whole point of this article; BALANCE. Find balance in your health and your career as a lawyer. If you don’t take the initiative to balance it yourself, then gluttony will tip the scales and prevail.