Self-care for a busy lawyer
It’s taken a while to pen this blog, which would suggest my self-care isn’t as finely tuned as I would hope. Eyes rolled and sigh sounded. Sound familiar? Life is about juggling for so many of us in both our personal and professional lives and you sometimes then wonder where you are underneath all the balls you’re throwing and catching above your head. Stop. Breathe.
As a family law solicitor it’s essential that I can help my client’s to focus on the issues to be resolved in what can be an incredibly emotional time for them and keep to any deadlines given by the Court, where proceedings have been issued, as well as their own wish to resolve things in certain timescales for so many different individual reasons. Provided I can clearly explain the legal process in a way they can fully understand then they can make informed decisions in their best interests and the best interests of their children. This absolutely includes their well-being in the longer-term.
I endeavour to provide an holistic service and a friendly ear, but I can’t take away the stress from the other aspects of their lives. I hope that by dealing with their legal issues as effectively as possible I’ve taken a few of those juggled balls away and they can focus on what’s more important to them personally, like enjoying the time with their children or planning the right house-move, etc., now that they are juggling less. They also then have that time to focus on their self-care whether it’s fitness, a good gossip with a friend over coffee or a glass of wine or some therapy – whether a massage, retail therapy or counselling.
"Whatever works for you, once you find it, if it doesn’t harm others: do that!"
I can come away from a day at work entirely frazzled, sometimes not having had chance to break for lunch, sometimes with still as much to do tomorrow as I had when I started today, but usually with a real sense of satisfaction and achievement. Some of those busier days are where perhaps I’ve settled a case by phone negotiations and not been able to answer all of the e-mails I’ve received but knowing how pleased my client now is knowing things are resolved, perhaps saving them having to go to Court, etc., helps to deal with my own stress. On other occasions I may have spent a long time with a client at Court and I shall never underestimate the emotional rollercoaster they are forced to ride on such days – I don’t think anyone every intended or expected to find themselves before a family Judge when they said ‘I do’ or found out they were expecting their child, etc.
I appreciate that not everyone can afford legal advice, but you can still usually get a free ½ hour with a lawyer on the phone, etc., rather than frantically trying to navigate Google without always knowing which articles are English law or American or otherwise, which are opinion or forum chat and which are correct, reliable and up to date, etc. It can become an even more stressful minefield if you’ve no clue how to navigate it. Ask for help. There is no such thing as a daft question.
So, what does self-care mean to me? A good cuppa, reading a book, must-see TV, a long walk? It can be all or any of those things and many more. It’s for me about having the time to reflect on both the good and bad, and sometimes find the positives in the latter, too, and bringing the day to an end being grateful for it. Knowing I’ve done a good job and made a positive difference for someone really means so much to me. On days where things haven’t gone to plan it may take longer to wind down, but with the wisdom of Taylor Swift in mind, I do my best to ‘shake it off’.
"Self-care doesn’t make you selfish, but self-aware."
Our mental health is so important, whomever we are and however ‘busy’ we may be. It’s not just for when you realise you have a problem, it’s part of what prevents you from reaching that crisis point. As a good friend once told me, I’m no good to my family if I’m too tired and run down because I haven’t been good to myself. So I do my best to stop and to breathe, to just concentrate on being rather than doing, to move myself up my own priority list and to refocus on what’s the most important thing to do next for myself, my family and for my clients. Now, where’s that cuppa?
Kimberley bailey is a solicitor with Woolley & Co, Solicitors, family law specialists based in Bristol. Kimberley-Bailey. T: 0117 370 0264 / M: 0744 622 7046 / firstname.lastname@example.org