How to feel good, improve your performance and give yourself the best chance of success
Rates of mental health issues in the legal industry are gigantic, with one third of solicitors having experienced depression. Feeling a bit down, or occasionally anxious can be considered a usual response brought about by specific situations, however, we need to act when these symptoms become more than just the usual, to make sure you’re able to function at or near your best, most of the time in your professional life and your personal life. There’s a mis-conception that taking care of yourself by seeking support is ‘weak’, when in fact, it can take great strength to reach out to others and improve your wellness and performance.
Huge workloads, feeling like you’ll never know enough, and managing customer (and family) expectations are just the start, with many people also experiencing relationship problems at home or in the workplace and turning to ‘unhelpful coping strategies’ like taking drugs, or drinking excessively. There’s a better way. Think of managing your wellness as a tiered system, like a pyramid. At ground level you have your essentials, your base level, and then you can work your way up to the top, over time. It’s really important that you have a solid base from which to build however.
You’ve heard it all before – exercise daily, eat nutritiously, watch your weight, and get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Of course, you’re going to fail at this – just hit some of them and ensure you have down time (i.e. weekends, holidays) scheduled into your calendar, and treat that like a meeting you wouldn’t dream about missing. In terms of exercise, when you’re under the pump, resist saying “I don’t have 40 minutes to exercise” and instead, think about the time you do have e.g. 10 minutes, and focus on what you can do in 10 minutes. Something is always going to be better than nothing. Once you have formed healthy habits, you’ll find you don’t require so much motivation to sustain them. If this level is really not happening for you, you can engage someone to help you form the habits you need e.g. a personal trainer or psychologist. If you’re acing this level, move onto level two.
Level Two: Feeling Safe
This includes feeling financially secure, ensuring you can sleep at night. Research has shown a correlation between financial problems and mental illness, so having sufficient funds available to pay all of your bills and then some, is a no-brainer. Financial advisors can help any debt problems become solvable.
Level Three: Increase Sense of Belonging
Develop a network of supporters – whether that’s your family, friends or work colleagues. Feeling connected is one of the largest factors that make up your resilience level. The good news about resilience, is that you can grow it and become stronger. Think about how you can be this person for others as well – you’ll find that you get support back ten-fold.
Level Four: Increasing your Confidence
Congratulations! You’ve made it to level four which is all about developing your confidence. Your expectations play a big role here. For example, taking on a more challenging task where you think you have a good shot at doing well, and then pulling it off is a confidence booster. However, if you’re punching miles above your weight and the task isn’t pulled off, this is a confidence drainer. Gaining more confidence is best done in a gradual and safe way, so you can prove to your brain that ‘you’ve got this’ before moving onto harder activities. You can’t know everything, and people that do well at increasing their level of self-esteem, confidence and performance tend to be people that ask for and accept support.
Focusing on your own wellness is the first step you need to take to increase your performance, and then remain close to that level for the long term. Establishing and maintaining healthy habits -including those that make you financially healthy, increasing your network of true supporters, and building your confidence will give you the best chance of having the life you want, whether that’s experiencing amazing opportunities, or having robust and genuine relationships.