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7 Challenges & Solutions: Stress Management and Mindfulness for Lawyers

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7 Challenges & Solutions: Stress Management and Mindfulness for Lawyers

Being a lawyer inevitably means experiencing a lot of stress. Stress is impossible to avoid, but it is not impossible to manage. You can learn how to handle stress for your own sake, the sake of your loved ones, and for your own career satisfaction and success. During this seminar, Cheyne Scott shares various techniques for addressing seven common stress points most lawyers share. As a litigation partner, Ms. Scott is walking in your shoes everyday. As a Certified Life Coach, she will show you to a different path for handling the stresses of practice so you can find balance amid chaos and uncertainty, and take personal satisfaction in work that you do.

Transcript

Hello and welcome to 7 Challenges and Solutions: Stress Management and Mindfulness for Lawyers. My name is Cheyne Scott, I am a partner and chair of diversity and inclusion at the law firm of Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo. I am also a certified life coach and the founder and creator of Spiritual Litigator LLC. And today's presentation objectives are to define mindfulness, to discuss why mindfulness, stress management, and wellbeing is important to lawyers and to legal employers; to discuss how stress specifically impacts attorneys, to identify seven common challenges faced by attorneys, and to discuss some proposed solutions to those problems and how mindfulness can help. So just diving in, we're going to start with a voluntary meditation. It's gonna be a quick five minute breathing exercise. So if you're sitting in a chair or lying down at home, whichever one that you do, just get comfortable. If you're sitting, put your feet firmly on the floor, put your hands gently in your lap, and you're gonna close your eyes and you're gonna breathe in through the nose with a deep breath in, and you're gonna sigh it out of the mouth. Deep breath in through the nose, sigh it out through the mouth. Deep breath in, sigh it out. Deep breath in, sigh it out. One more deep breath in through the nose, sigh it out the mouth, and just let your breath go normal, in through the nose and out the nose. And just notice how your body feels, sitting in the chair or lying down. Noticing how you feel supported, and just taking this time for you. Notice how your lungs expand and contract with each inhale and exhale. And now just silently tell your body it's okay to relax. Noticing your toes, your feet, your heels, your ankles, with the next exhale, silently tell yourself to relax. Noticing your legs, your calves, your knees, relax. Your thighs, your hips, your lower stomach, your lower back. Relax. Noticing your solar plexus, your mid back. Relax. Noticing your upper chest, your upper back. Relax. Noticing your fingers, your hands, your wrists. Relax. Noticing your arms, your elbows, your upper arms. Relax. Noticing your shoulders, letting them drop and relax. Noticing your throat. Relax. Noticing your jaw, your facial muscles, the back of your head. Relax. Noticing the crown of your head, relax. And just scanning your body from the top of your head down to your toes. And if you notice any tension, any gripping, any holding on, just silently tell yourself it's okay to relax. This is the time that you have made for yourself. Nothing else to do, nowhere else to be. And just notice how you feel right now and just know you can go back to this place anytime and just taking a couple more breaths. And as we get ready to end the meditation, you'll take one more deep breath in through the nose, sigh it out of the mouth. Open your eyes. And if you're still awake, let's get started. Okay, so what is mindfulness? I have two definitions here. One from clinical psychologists, the other one is from Webster's Dictionary. First definition is attending to the present moment and cultivating an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance in one's experience. The Webster's Dictionary definition is that mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique. So the theme running through these definitions is noticing the present moment, being aware of the present moment and accepting what is going on. And why is mindfulness important? Why should we care? Well, there are a multitude of studies and a lot of them have come back showing that it improves cognitive performance, it increases focus and reduces stress. It reduces anxiety, decreases depression, leads to healthier responses to challenging social situations, reduces implicit bias, increases compassionate responses. So why is mindfulness important to attorneys? Well, studies show that mindfulness can mitigate some of lawyers' biggest challenges and have a positive impact on lawyer wellbeing and success. Why is mindfulness important to legal employers? Well, mindfulness can lead to higher productivity and overall job satisfaction. So most legal employers should care about more things getting done and people being happy, doing those things. But on the flip side, failure of an employer to consider the mental health of lawyers can lead to litigation. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace against disabled workers, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 broaden the definition of disability to provide legal protections against employment discrimination for more individuals with disabilities, including people with psychiatric disabilities. The 2017 ABA National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being surveyed several attorneys, and of those that were surveyed, 21 to 36% identified as problem drinkers, 28% surveyed stated that they had depression, 23% had elevated stress, 25% work addiction, and 11.5 reported suicidal thoughts. And so it's really important to understand stress, anxiety and other emotions. And there are a lot of ways that people look at them and what I have found to be the most helpful and useful for me is the model. So the model was created by Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School, where I am certified as a life coach. And it's a five part tool that if you learn it, master it and use it, you can understand and solve any problem. And I think something like this is very helpful because in law school and then going into practice, you were taught to look at cases and take every case and put it through the lens of issue, rule, analysis and conclusion. So this five step process really takes any issue that you have, whether it's work related or otherwise, and you can break it down just like you would break down a case. It starts with circumstances, things that happen in the world that we cannot control. So the weather, the client, the judge, your adversary, your boss, things that you can't control. And these things are 100% neutral until we have a thought about them. A thought is a sentence that happens in your mind, nothing more, nothing less. And when you have that sentence in your mind, it creates a feeling and a feeling is a one word description of the sensations in your body. And it's created by thoughts. Your feelings drive your actions and that's behavior, what we do or don't do in the world as a result of what we are feeling. And finally, results, what we see in the world or our lives as an effect of how we act. And the result will always be evidence for the original thought. Don't worry, we're gonna go through a bunch of examples of how the model will work and specifically how it can be applied to common circumstances that lawyers face. Another part of understanding stress is to look at the biological functions, right? The fight or flight response that comes from our prehistoric days where you knew to flee if you saw a tiger in the wild, but you also knew to fight if you saw someone harming your child or harming someone that you care about, that is something that's biological. However, it is 2022, and we're not running from tigers anymore, but we are now attaching the fight or flight response to activities that are not life threatening, but our brain doesn't know the difference. So when we're having crushing anxiety about writing a simple email or doing a simple assignment, it is activating that same part in our brain that was running from a tiger. And that prolonged amount of fight or flight response is what can lead to chronic anxiety or chronic stress. Also, we have to understand the difference between reacting and responding. So if someone says something to you that makes you upset and you react immediately and you start yelling at them, and then there's an argument, that's the reacting. But if someone says something to you and you take a step back and you say, you know what, let's take a break and come back to this later. Or you decide to say, you know what, this conversation's over. That is something that we can often achieve with mindfulness. Now, as I said before, prolonged anxiety or stress can make you sick. And I learned about this firsthand. So I've been practicing litigation for 10 years and I burned out four years into my practice. I was working on a complex employment case that involved an employee who had been working for the employer for over 20 years. There were thousands of pages of documents, thousands upon thousands of emails, different things that were contained in archives that the plaintiff's attorney was requesting in discovery. There were a lot of objections on our end saying that a lot of these discovery requests were over broad and harassing, but the plaintiff's attorney filed motion to compel after motion to compel. And I was opposing all of them and I was losing all of them. The court was giving them carte blanche, giving them everything. And so I was taking it personal on a multitude of levels. I had decided in my head that the judge hated me, even though the judge didn't know me to hate me, I had it in my head that the adversary hated me because the timing of each motion was always right before a holiday. And it would quote unquote "ruin my time" before the holiday and away from time that I could go and see my family. And I was also not asking for help because this was one of the first files that I was given to handle on my own. And I didn't want them to take it away from me and say, look, Cheyne can't handle these complex cases. I really didn't want to lose the opportunity. I also had in my head that even if I did ask for help, that nobody could do this but me because I was so entrenched in the case and that I had to redact a bunch of documents and all that, my conversations with the adversary were very terse and not very helpful. We were arguing during every phone call. I was also having a lot of trouble getting documents from my client who was underpaid, overworked, and had a really hard time obtaining the documents on their end. So I was getting yelled at by the adversary, I was getting orders left and right from the courts, I was not asking for help. I was working through weekends just 10 hour days, 12 hour days, just working Saturday, Sunday, Monday, just going straight through, which I don't ever recommend. And I was at a point where I was just so depleted, so exhausted and I was eating like crap. I was not sleeping very well. I was isolating myself. So I wasn't speaking to my friends. And I wasn't really speaking to my family all that much either, which was concerning them. And I just remember one day in January of 2016, finishing another motion and sending out another batch of documents that the adversary was probably going to say was deficient. And I remember looking out the window and thinking, and watching the traffic on route three, which is the major highway outside of my office. And just thinking to myself, I would rather walk into traffic right now than to have to deal with this for another second. And so it kind of scared me, 'cause this was a pretty dark thought. And so I decided it was about three o'clock that day. So I said, you know what? I'm just gonna pack it up. I'm gonna go home, go to sleep, start fresh tomorrow morning 'cause I had already finished what I needed to finish. So I go home, I get in bed, and immediately the room starts to spin. It really felt like I had had 15 margaritas, but I hadn't had anything to drink and I get up very disoriented and confused. And because I was so off balance, I just start throwing up. And I'm sorry if you're listening to this during lunch, but I was throwing up so much that it was very scary to me 'cause that it never happened before. So I call my friend and I say, hey, I need to go to urgent care, please take me somewhere. So she takes me to urgent care. By the time that she got me and took me to urgent care, I was so depleted that they had to get me in a wheelchair to get me from her car into urgent care. They gave me an anti-nausea shot and they asked me a bunch of questions about whether or not I was drinking, no, on drugs, no. They couldn't figure out why this was happening and despite giving me the anti-nausea shot, I was still heaving bile. And so they said, well, you need to get to the ER now because at the rate that you're going, you're gonna have organ failure if you don't get an IV. So we wheeled me back to the car, drove me to the ER and wheeled me into the ER. And they asked me the same questions, not drinking, nope, not on drugs. And then they asked me, well, have you been stressed lately? And I looked and I said yes, but it really wasn't registering to me at all. So they had me an IV, finally, I was finally coming back to life and I had an IV in my left arm and I was using my right hand to call and make sure court was covered the next day. And you know how they say, like when you're on your death bed, you don't think about work? Well, I wasn't dying so I had to cover court. So they finally diagnosed me with severe vertigo, some type of stomach bug, and a severe sinus infection. So this trifecta appeared to come together and put me out of commission. The vertigo, even though they gave me a prescription, was so severe that for the first three days, I could only crawl to the bathroom and back. And my vision was so blurry from the vertigo that I could not work because I wanted to work remotely, but my eyes were too blurry. I was really resistant to this notion that stress had caused all of this. And so I was out of work for that week and it really took me that week of being forced to not work, to really come to terms that you burned out, your body literally stopped you and made the vertigo so severe that you couldn't work even at home. And so I decided after that, okay, I still wanna be a lawyer. I still wanna practice with my firm because they had been so supportive throughout that whole ordeal. They never once questioned whether or not I was sick. They never asked for a doctor's note. And they said, take all the time that you need. I just made up my mind, like I have to practice. I have to be at this firm and I have to be a partners at this firm, but I don't wanna burn out again. So how do I handle stress as a lawyer? And so I did what most people do, I searched Google. So I Googled how to deal with stress as a lawyer? And the responses were, get out, save yourself. Don't be a lawyer anymore. Quit, do something else, save yourself, get out. Okay. I didn't wanna do that. I was really adamant that I wanted to find a way to deal with the stress and leaving was not an option to me. So I kept searching and searching. And then I finally found mindfulness, that changed a lot for me. I really dove headfirst into meditations, and gratitude journaling and yoga, but something was missing. Even though I was feeling a little bit better, I was still being triggered by my adversary, I was still being triggered by judges, I was still being triggered by clients. Then I found the model as I discussed before and started noticing that it wasn't just the meditation, yoga or gratitude journaling. That is an action. It was what I was thinking about all of these issues and circumstances that was creating my suffering. And once I'd found that that was the missing piece, that really changed everything. And so I tell you that long story so that you have an understanding as to why I do this, why I care so much and why I want lawyers to be able to manage their stress so that they don't have to burn out like I did. Let's talk about the seven common stressors for lawyers, perfectionism, worst case scenario thinking, lack of boundaries, imposter syndrome, compassion fatigue, loneliness, and victim mindset. Now these are not the only stressors for lawyers, but these are the ones that I see are most common. Perfectionism. Now this is a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable. And there are three domains to perfectionism, there's self-oriented perfectionism, other-oriented perfectionism, and socially-prescribed perfectionism. So the first one, self-oriented perfectionism is imposing an unrealistic desire to be perfect on one self. So that is probably the most common, that's usually when we're just saying, well, I have to do this perfectly, I have to do that perfectly. And that just comes from our school system that makes you afraid to do anything outside of the realm of perfection. Otherwise you're just going to fail out, never be anything and live under a bridge. Then there's other-oriented perfectionism, that is imposing unrealistic standards of perfection on others. So if you ever find that you're comparing and despairing, right, looking at other people and saying they shouldn't do that because I don't do that, or I wasn't allowed to do that. A lot of that comes from other-oriented perfectionism. And you will find that if you have bosses that are really hard on you, they're putting their perfection on you. So it's really important and great to understand exactly what's happening in those situations. And finally, socially-prescribed perfectionism, that involves perceiving unrealistic expectations of perfection from others. Assuming that other people expect you to be perfect, even though people haven't explicitly told you that. So you may beat yourself up 'cause you're saying, well, I'm expected to do this, well, who expected you to do this? But you can't really pinpoint who or everybody's gonna think that I'm a loser. Who is everybody? 10 people? Socially-prescribed perfectionism is the one that is most closely associated with depression. Let's look at a perfectionist model. Let's say you have an assignment due for a perfectionist boss. We've all worked for someone who has in our minds unrealistic standards. Think about that person and put them in there. So assignment for that perfectionist boss is due tomorrow. And you may think, "if I don't complete this assignment perfectly, the boss is going to be upset," and you may feel anxious. Now, how do you know that you're anxious? You feel it in your body. That's why we say, again, a feeling is a one word description of a sensation in your body. So you literally feel anxiety in your body and only you know how you feel it. And when you feel that anxiety, that drives you to procrastinate because you're trying to avoid that feeling. And then when you procrastinate, you put off doing the work, but then you rush to complete the work and then you overlook the mistakes in the writing. So then your result is I complete the assignment in a rush and my partner is upset. Here, you have actually created the results that you feared the most. You are more likely to make mistakes when you are doing work for someone out of fear or anxiety. And you're going to read what you want instead of what's actually there. And you're more likely to make mistakes because you're already experiencing the negative feeling that you are afraid of in the first place. And that prevents you from focusing. So let's look at a different way of thinking about the same exact circumstance. So you may have that same assignment due tomorrow for the same boss, but you may have the thought, I have no control over what the boss thinks, I'm doing the best I can. And it might feel deliberate or it may feel like relief, but whatever it is, with that feeling, you stay focused on completing the assignment. You complete it in enough time to thoroughly proofread it, right? 'Cause you're not procrastinating. And so your result is you take control over the assignment and you do the best that you can. Two very different thoughts that create two very different results. Let's look at another example. I gave my client advice. My client did not act in accordance with that advice and your thought may be, "I hate cleaning up the messes of people who ignore my advice." You may feel resentment. And when you feel resentment, you may complain to other people about how terrible your clients are. You may watch Netflix instead of working on the assignment, you may procrastinate until the last minute. And as a result, you make the client's lack of perfection the reason that you feel resentment. And here's a lesson, high expectations of other people will disappoint you every time. 'Cause people are not good at being you. So you may say, "it doesn't make sense that I have to keep cleaning up my client's messes," but that's just because you're making it mean a person is not living up to a standard that you were expected to live up to. Thinking that way is not going to help you in that situation. So let's take that same circumstance and let's change the thought. If clients did not make mistakes, I would not have work to do. So there we have acceptance. And remember acceptance is not condoning, we're not just saying that clients should just go out and not listen to you and make things worse but we're accepting the fact that clients are human and without them making human mistakes, we wouldn't need lawyers in the first place. And so from that acceptance, you would speak with the client, discuss the next steps, add the next steps to your to-do list. Document your previous attempts to counsel this client because we are documenting so that if the client comes back a year from now and says, well, you never told me this, it's documented, it's in an email. You're protecting yourself, but you wouldn't have even gotten to this level of protecting yourself from resentment. You get it from accepting the client for who they are. So your result is you have more work to do and that's really great news. So some perfectionism solutions. Do not make failure mean something bad about you. And I hate the word failure because we make it mean something so terrible. Don't make failure mean something bad about you. And I would put failure in air quotes because it doesn't mean what society wants you to make it mean. Failing means that you've just tried something and you need to try something again. It doesn't mean that you've tried something and it's failure and then you have to go live under a bridge somewhere, it just means you keep trying and you keep learning. I think this happens because we transition from a graded system in law school to a pass/fail system in real life practice. And so it's not like you're gonna file a motion and get an A on the motion. You could write a fantastic motion and still lose the motion. And so we think of it as pass/fail when it's really granted or denied, there is no moral or grading scale or worthiness scale in your work. Accept the lack of control over circumstances. And those circumstances are clients, witnesses, adversaries, judges. We have no control over other people, we only have control over ourselves. And just learn how to accept the behavior of others. As I said before, people are who they are, and the more that you accept, the better you can focus on solutions. Next is worst case scenario thinking, catastrophizing. Judith Orloff, a psychologist, wrote a Psychology Today article called "Are You Addicted to Anxiety?" It's this idea that a lot of times we say we don't like anxiety, but we're just always seeking for things to attach anxiety to. And that's where catastrophizing comes from. Here is an example. The circumstance is that the adversary has called demanding to know where overdue discovery is and your client has not returned your repeated calls regarding the discovery. And your thought may be, "I must respond now to calm the adversary down and to prevent motion practice." And you may feel panic. Again, how do you know you're panicking? You feel it in your body, heightened heartbeat. Maybe you feel some tightness in your chest, but you know what panic feels like, and it's very uncomfortable. So from that place, you're gonna answer the call from your adversary. You're gonna argue with the adversary and then you're gonna ruminate about the argument and really you've solved nothing, 'cause you haven't gotten overdue discovery to them. The client's still not answering. And now you're just upset. So your result is that you make yourself responsible for the actions of your adversary and the client. Not ideal. So let's take the same exact circumstance and have a different thought. I am not responsible for the actions of my adversary or my client. Again, we're back to acceptance, not condoning. We don't love that the adversary is upset and we don't love that the client isn't answering, but we're accepting the situation because there's nothing else that we can do. And so if you're finding from that place and from that place of acceptance, you can intentionally decide, okay, I'm going to limit communications with the adversary to email only, follow up with a client every two weeks regarding discovery. How do we do that? We are emailing every two weeks and now we have a paper trail in case there's an issue later when the client has an issue with what happened, oh, here's what happened. Here are the emails. And then expect to receive the discovery motions. You cannot talk the adversary out of filing a motion by being on the phone with them. If the discovery's not there, they're going to file a motion, but good news, we can handle motions 'cause we're lawyers. We know what to do with them. And the result is I only take responsibility for what I have control over and that's gonna feel so much better. Again, the difference between the unintentional model and the intentional model is how it feels. And we go from panic, which feels pretty terrible, to acceptance, which is a lot lighter. Some solutions for worst case scenario, ask yourself some useful questions, does worrying about this protect me from something? And what if all of these things actually happen? Then what? What happens is our brains like to take us to the extreme and I'm gonna keep using the van by the river example because our brain usually takes us to, you know, if I mess this one thing up, I'm going to fail at everything. I'm going to get fired from my job or kicked out of law school, I'm going to be unable to pay my rent, I'm gonna get kicked out and evicted out of my apartment, I'm going to end up homeless down by the river. Final question is what if I'm wrong? Because a lot of times when our brains take us to the extreme and then you ask yourself, is that really true? You take a step back and you realize, no, I'm not gonna end up in a van by the river. I can actually, if worst case scenario happens, here are the plans that I can make. I can move in with my parents. That might be the worst case scenario for some of you, but you may be able to stay with a friend. You may be able to get a job with another friend. When you let your brain go all the way there instead of saying, I just can't handle it, I just can't see it, let your brain go there and then tell yourself that's not gonna happen. And even if one of those steps in that process happened, you're gonna be okay. Lack of boundaries. So a boundary is a limit defining you in relationship to someone or something. So common boundaries lawyers should set are with clients, adversaries, bosses, coworkers, family, friends, and significant others. So basically every human in your life. Here's an example. While working on a deadline, a coworker stops by your desk and starts talking to you for almost 30 minutes. And your thought is, "I don't wanna talk to them, but I don't wanna be rude." And so you may feel fear about being rude and so you continue the conversation and then you're passive aggressively looking away from the coworker to the computer screen and making gestures that indicate stress that are completely unnoticed by the coworker, by the way, as they continue to speak for another 30 minutes. And the work that you wanted to do is not completed in that time period. And so the result is you're making your coworkers feelings more important than your own, and then you blame them for it. So you're afraid of being seen as rude as the other person, but then you're not taking responsibility for your own feelings of, I don't want to talk to this person. So let's try a different thought. My time is valuable and my coworker can and will find someone else to speak with. That is more of a deliberate feeling or an intentional feeling. And then you tell the coworker, "Hey, I'm working on a deadline and I'll stop by your desk tomorrow to catch up." And then you continue working on the assignment and then you complete it in a timely manner. And your result is I honor my time and my work. That time you are allowing yourself to do what you want to do while still telling the coworker, hey, I will talk to you tomorrow. So here are some solutions for lack of boundaries, set a boundary for you, not the other person. You're gonna make a request. You're gonna communicate the consequence, and then allow the other person to do whatever they want. So with the coworker you can say, "Hey, I'm working on something right now. If you come by my desk, I'm not gonna be able to talk to you." So this is a request, please don't talk to me. And if you do come to my desk, I'm not gonna talk to you, and then allow the person to do whatever they want. Don't be all mad when they do show up another 15 minutes later, like, oh, I told you. No, just say, "Hey, I can't talk to you right now." Remind them, "Hey, I'm gonna finish this up. I'm gonna talk to you tomorrow." And then you've set the boundary. Imposter syndrome. Let's go over some definitions. These are the intense feelings that one's achievements are undeserved and worry that they are likely to be exposed as a fraud. This is an internal experience of intellectual phoniness in individuals who are highly successful, but unable to internalize their success. It is not a pathological disease that is inherently self-damaging or self-destructive, rather, it interferes with the psychological wellbeing of a person. And the consequences of imposter syndrome are stress, anxiety and depression. And the symptoms resulting from prolonged imposter syndrome can lead to clinical levels of anxiety or depression. So we wanna make it very clear, imposter syndrome is extremely normal. If you experience it, everyone experiences it, and it's not harmful unless you are experiencing it in a prolonged period of time. There is what is called the imposter cycle. This starts with receiving an achievement-related task, an assignment, some type of request from a boss or a professor or something that you have to do. And so you take two routes once that happens, you either over-prepare or you procrastinate. So let's use the example where you are an associate at a firm and you've just gotten a research assignment and you have to write a memo. If you over-prepare, that is where you over bill and you do too much because you don't wanna miss anything or make any mistakes. Procrastination is where you put it off because you're indulging in overwhelm and anxiety telling yourself that you don't know what to do, that you're not good enough. And then at the last minute, going into a frenzy of activity, working all weekend and then getting it done. Either way, whether you over-prepare or you procrastinate, you finish the task, so you feel this accomplishment. And you have this initial feeling of relief, but then you discount positive feedback. So the boss says, good job. And if you over-prepared, you beat yourself up because you tell yourself that you shouldn't have taken that long, but if you procrastinated, you beat yourself up for waiting until the last minute. So either way, you lose in your brain, and then you have this increased self-doubt, depression and anxiety. And then the cycle continues when you get the next assignment. Good news is you don't have to stay in this cycle. You can intentionally make a decision not to. Let's look at a model. So let's say it's your first week of work and you have 100 case files on your desk. This happens to insurance defense and this happens to people in public service. Prosecutors and public defenders know this very, very well. Your thought may be, "if I ask for help, everyone will think I'm a fraud and that it was a mistake to hire me." So that thought is going to make you feel fear. And when you're feeling fear, you're gonna continue to work without asking for help, you're gonna fall further behind on the caseload, you're going to begin making small mistakes, and then beating yourself up over them. And so, as a result, you create the experience of feeling like a fraud because you're too afraid to ask for help, not because of the workload. So let's try a different thought. I don't know what I'm doing yet and want to learn as much as I can. Now that can create a feeling of curiosity, which is a lot lighter than fear. So you may approach one or two coworkers asking for help. You may get a better understanding of case management and processes and other resources that you were not originally aware of. You begin working through the caseload with more confidence. Now we all know in every workspace, there are some people who are more helpful than others, find the helpful people, but you're more likely to find the helpful people when you're approaching them in curiosity than if you're in fear of people finding out you're a quote unquote "fraud." And then as a result of all of these actions, you create knowledge and learning through your curiosity. So this was directly caused by your thought and your feeling. Some solutions for imposter syndrome, focus on the circumstances, be very specific about what is going on. A lot of times we say things like people are gonna think that I'm an idiot or they think I'm gonna be a fraud, or they think I'm gonna be a failure. But really all that's happened is you've been given one research assignment. And there's no way that all of that is coming from that one assignment. So really focus on your circumstances, what exactly is happening? And then acknowledge your thoughts and process the feelings that they create, acknowledge that you're having these thoughts, that you're a fraud and that you're not supposed to be there, and that you don't belong. Be very clear that these thoughts you're having, be very clear that you're having these thoughts and just process the feeling, sit with them, just like we did that meditation at the beginning, really sit with those feelings. And then change the way that you think about your circumstances. Instead of getting an assignment and deciding that this is another opportunity to look like you don't belong, take an assignment and be curious about how you can do the best that you can. One feels pretty terrible. One feels a lot lighter. Talk to others about how you feel, you are not the only person that experiences imposter syndrome, but I cannot tell you how many times I've done these types of presentations and seminars and people come up to me and they say, I had no idea other people experienced this. People don't like talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more normalized it is, and the less shame that silences people away from speaking about it. Compassion fatigue. This is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another, who is stricken by suffering or misfortune accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the pain or remove its cause. Compassion fatigue develops over time, taking weeks, sometimes years to surface. Basically it's a low level chronic clouding of caring and concern for others, over time the ability to feel and care for others becomes eroded through the overuse of skills expressing compassion. So this is not the same thing as burnout. Burnout is characterized by an accumulation of events that are fueled by stress and highly demanding jobs. Conversely, compassion fatigue comes from dealing with others who are suffering from a trauma and are in great pain. And so there are different ways of looking at compassion fatigue. Cognitive symptoms include apathy, difficulty concentrating, perfectionism, and obsession. Emotional symptoms include persistent feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, numbness, or helplessness. Behavioral symptoms include being withdrawn, having difficulty sleeping, appetite changes or hyper vigilance, like being really startled by things. You know, people that like jump out of their skin when you say hi to them. And physical signs include increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, muscle and joint pain, and impaired immune system. So this often happens because we are as lawyers encountering people at their worst times when they are in some of the most difficult times of our lives. And when we're not aware of compassion fatigue, we can really start to identify with them and be so wrapped up in compassion that over time we start to develop the symptoms that I just talked about. So here's an example. So this happens to people who maybe work in public service or maybe family law in which they are dealing with situations that can feel hopeless or helpless at times. So the circumstance is that you received a phone call that a child whose case that you've worked on several times was harmed by their parent again. And so your thought may be, "nothing I do makes a difference," and you're gonna feel helpless. Now you could apply this thought, "nothing I do makes a difference" to many other cases and it's going to create helplessness. So when you're feeling helpless, you maybe ruminate on the case and all of the cases where you believed that your work was useless. And this is just your brain trying to find more evidence to support your thought because your brain is very efficient. And then you may respond defensively to simple requests at work. A coworker may ask you about a file that's completely unrelated to the one that's made you so upset, but you may snap or have a reaction that's really overblown. You may go home and mask your feelings with alcohol or TV or social media scrolling. You may argue with your romantic partner on the phone or a family member, you may show up less engaged at work. And then you may not wanna work on the case files where you actually do make a difference because once you're focused on the helplessness, you're not looking at the things that are actually working. And so as a result, you help less people including yourself. So let's take this same circumstance and look at it differently. Your thought could be, I will do what I can in my control to help the child. And so that creates more of a feeling of being purposeful. Again, a lot lighter than helplessness. So you may get up and go take a quick break to clear your mind. You may focus on what you can control and do your best to work on the file. And then as a result, you compassionately focus on what you can control and you honor your feelings. So some solutions for compassion fatigue. Allow yourself to grieve. I know that with these cases, it may feel a little strange that you get so attached to people and so attached to their lives, but we are humans and we're social beings. And sometimes we get very attached to people, especially when we're not noticing that we're doing it. And so when you recognize that something is not worked out for a client and you've worked really diligently on something that fell apart, allow yourself to grieve that like a loss and then develop a support system. Make sure you're speaking to other people, not just your friends and family, but I am 100% on board with therapy. I have a therapist. I have a life coach. So if you need to speak to someone about these compassion fatigue symptoms and the feelings of helplessness and the anxiety that compassion fatigue can create, definitely speak to people. And then finally, rest. Rest is so underrated. You need to intentionally set the time aside to make sure you are taking care of yourself and resting, taking a Friday off every once in a while, taking a half day, taking vacation, so critical and important to recharging you. Loneliness. So Harvard Business Review had an article that said that lawyers are among the loneliest professionals along with doctors. And I think part of that is because the legal practice rewards isolation, so less social interactions equals more billable hours. And then that also makes you grumpy at home. And so all the people at your home, like your significant other don't wanna see you, so what are you gonna do? Work more. And then you start to decline social gatherings and your friends will stop asking you to come out, 'cause they're tired of asking you 'cause you're never gonna come out, right? So over time you self-isolate and then you just kind of go back and work more. And this may contribute to depression and in increased rates of suicide among lawyers. So let's look at a loneliness model. A non-lawyer friend sends you a text on a Tuesday and asks if you want to meet with a group of friends for dinner and drinks, and your thought may be "I can't go out 'cause I have too much work to do" and you may feel lonely. So you may continue working. You may ruminate about how much work you have to do and how your non-lawyer friends have it so much easier. And so as a result, you don't see your friends. But let's look at this circumstance differently. Let's think, if I do not have an emergent deadline, I can find time to spend with my friends and make time to complete my work later. And so from there you feel connected. You look at your schedule, you confirm that you can get the work done tomorrow and you go out with your friends. And so as a result, you find the time to spend with your friends. This isn't to say, if you have a deadline to just completely say, well, Cheyne told me to be connected to people so I'm just not going to, you know, fulfill my obligations. No, take a very close look. See if you have the time and make sure you're taking the time to connect with people. And so the solutions for loneliness are to build relationships. And this can be in very different ways. You can reconnect with people that you may have lost touch with. You can join networking events, you can join your local bar association. You can go to meetup.com. I am all about meetup.com. I've met some pretty great friends on there, and just reengage in activities that you have put off because you've decided to overwork, whether it's hiking, rock climbing, playing in a band, whatever it is, whatever activities that you've put off or said that you don't wanna try yet because you're so busy, make time for them. And then you can connect not only to other people, but connect to yourself. Victim mindset. So this is viewing negative circumstances as things that are happening to you, things that you are not responsible for and things you are powerless to overcome. And there are three main components, there's the victim, there's the villain, and then there is the false savior. So let's look at an example. So let's say for example, you have five briefs due in one week, that's your circumstance. And so your thought may be, "I have too much work to do and not enough time to complete it." And so you'll feel anxious. And so when you're feeling anxious, you may panic. You may feel paralyzed. You may scroll social media, you may complete other non-emergent tasks, complain to others. Believe that once you get this assignment done, that you'll never get in this situation again. And as a result, you don't have enough time. Let's think about this differently. I have five briefs due in one week and my thought is I have time to get everything done. And so that feels intentional. And so from that place of intention, you contact adversaries for adjournments, start working on the assignments that are not adjourned, stay focused and off social media and away from distractions. And as a result, you have the time to get it all done. Notice that the victim mindset came out of, I have too much. You were the victim. The villain was time and your false savior was more time. You believe if you had more time that you could have finished this work. However, if you're in the thought, I have too much work to do and not enough to complete it, and you're anxious. If you had more time, you would waste it sitting in fear and procrastination. You didn't have enough time, but it wasn't because you didn't have enough time. It's because you spent that time being paralyzed, going through social media, completing other emergent tasks and complaining instead of being intentional and starting to create time by getting adjournments and working on the assignments that were not adjourned and staying focused. So just notice how your thoughts really do make a difference in what happens. And then another example, I completed an assignment and my boss did not thank me. Your thought may be, "my boss does not appreciate me." You may feel resentment. And when you feel resentment, you may show up to work grumpy, become less productive and less motivated, fall behind in work. And as a result, your boss has less reason to appreciate you. Let's think about this. So you're the victim here. The villain is your boss and the false savior is appreciation from another person. Here you are outsourcing your feelings to someone who may not be capable of expressing that feeling. You want appreciation, but if you don't appreciate yourself, then no one outside of you can give you that, you have gotten compliments before and completely discounted them. That is because other people cannot create your feelings and you believe that the boss should act a certain way so you can feel a certain way. But when you show up grumpy, less productive, less motivated, and you fall behind on work, your boss has less reason to appreciate you. But if you appreciate yourself, regardless of what others do, you're going to show up more focused and deliberate. Let's look at the other model, same circumstance. And the thought is, "I appreciate the work that I do," and so you create appreciation for yourself. And so when you are in a place of appreciation, you show up more focused and deliberate, you become more productive and positive at work. And as a result, I appreciate my work. I get more appreciation from others because of the way I show up, not because I'm seeking it out. And remember, if you define yourself as a victim, you will present as a victim. You will show up as a victim. Some solutions are recognize martyrdom in the moment. Question your thoughts, and dismantle the power that you outsource to external circumstances. Everything that you think that someone else should give you is almost always something that you should be giving yourself. Let's talk about how to get started with mindfulness. You want to identify a mindfulness technique that works for you. You want to cultivate awareness, acceptance, and willingness to change. Let me break those down. You want to identify a mindfulness technique that works for you because what works for me and what works for other people may not work for you. There are plenty of people that hate meditation and make sure they let me know that. For some people, it makes them more anxious. For some people, they can't really stand sitting still. And they find that other things that get them up and moving are more likely to create awareness for them than sitting and breathing. To each their own. There is no judgment here. Find the technique that works best for you. Try a bunch of different things. Whatever you choose, you want that mindfulness technique to create awareness, to slow you down, to put you in the present moment, to make you aware of what you're feeling in your body, because we are so disconnected and so disassociated from ourselves that once we become aware of what we're thinking and what we're feeling and what we're doing as a result of those feelings and what results we are creating, then we can turn ourselves off of autopilot and really start to intentionally create what we want. A part of that is acceptance because sometimes when we start this work of being curious about what's going on in our minds, we start to see that we may have been creating things that are not ideal and not useful for ourselves. And so we scramble to, okay, well I need to change this now, what do I need to do? And especially lawyers, we just have this lawyer brain of, I found an issue and now I need to fix it immediately. Before you get to that, you want to accept that you are a human with a human brain. It is completely normal that you are thinking these thoughts on autopilot and that these thoughts were creating these results for you, but just accept where you are. And then you have to have the willingness to change. And you may think you have the willingness to change, but you may not. For example, when I burned out and when I started doing mindfulness and when I finally found the model, I was confronted with this idea that I had to let go of this thought that my adversary was out to get me, that the judge hated me and that no one else in the firm could help me. I was the only person who had the ability to work on this file in my mind. And I was reporting that as if it was the news, but in reality, my adversary was not out to get me. My adversary was doing their job as a plaintiff's lawyer to get documents, whether or not I agreed on whether they deserve those documents or not, it didn't matter 'cause the judge decided they needed the documents and the judge wasn't out to get me. The judge was getting these motions and doing the best that they could based on the information. And finally, the firm could operate without me because I went into the ER and called to make sure court was covered and everything was taken care of during that full week that I was out. That's not to make you feel terrible, like, oh my gosh, I'm replaceable because we all are ultimately replaceable, it's to give yourself grace to know that you can step back and take a break when you need to, because there are always people there who can pick up and take the work. And I did ask for help after that. And I had to work on that voice in my head that told me that if I asked for help, then they're going to think that I can't handle it, again, willingness to change, willingness to be wrong about the thoughts that I had before. And that change is really through using the model for awareness and coming up with new thoughts. If you try to take action with old beliefs, you're just going to recreate the same results. For example, if you are working somewhere that you don't like, and you decide to go look for another job before you've worked on your thoughts, then you're going to just recreate the same situation in another workspace. So let's say you want to leave your job to go somewhere else to feel appreciated. And then you're gonna go to the new job and go through that excitement phase the first few weeks, and then slowly notice that nobody here appreciates you either. But the reason that that happened was you did not have appreciation for yourself to begin with. So it's gonna keep happening everywhere you go, until you become aware of it, accept it, and are willing to change the thoughts that created that. Another example is if you have compassion fatigue, like we discussed, and you're in family law and you think, okay, well I wanna do employment law instead because my friends that are in employment law seem to be a lot happier. Well, I have bad news for you because we have compassion fatigue over in employment law too. Where there are humans, there is compassion, where there's compassion without awareness, there can be compassion fatigue. So it doesn't matter what you do. Your actions don't matter. It all starts at the top of the model at your thoughts and your feelings. So it's really important that you find the mindfulness techniques that work best for you. But if you haven't changed your thoughts, you're just going to be like I was before I found the model and just meditating in misery. Let's talk about some common mindfulness techniques. The first one is meditation. That is personally one thing that I do every day and the studies that support it are numerous, but the main one and the most famous one is where Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital determined that meditation rebuilds the brain's gray matter, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making in just eight weeks. So where I find meditations are on YouTube, I will find guided meditations or meditation music. I also use the Insight app, which is free and I meditate every night. People ask me what's the best time, there is no best time. I meditate at night because I find that it slows my brain down. Some people like to meditate first thing in the morning so that their brain doesn't go into a frenzy in the morning. It just slows and centers them in the morning. Whatever works for you. The idea is to slow down and to create awareness and presence. Another common mindfulness technique is yoga. A report presented at the Anxiety and Depression Association of America conference in April of 2015, linked yoga to lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, especially in women at risk for mental health problems. For this, I usually go to YouTube, I like Yoga with Adriene personally. I'm not a huge fan of group yoga because sometimes people breathe too loud. But I also do think that when you find a really good yoga class or a really good yoga studio, workouts can be very calming because it's a collective energy that you can't really quantify. It's intangible when you're in these spaces and everybody is moving in unison and taking time for themselves in unison. And that's something that you really cannot quantify. So if you find a good studio, go there, otherwise YouTube has you. And then finally, gratitude journaling is another common mindfulness technique. A University of California, Davis study found that regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we are thankful can significantly increase wellbeing and life satisfaction. Other studies showed that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things that they are thankful for experience more optimism, productivity, and overall happiness. For gratitude journaling, I literally just have a dollar store notebook, I don't have any fancy apps. I don't have any fancy notebooks, dollar store. And I just write five to 10 things every day that I'm grateful for. It takes me only about five minutes and it can be anything. Some people feel weird and they think it's kind of corny to write, "I'm happy to have a house. I'm happy to have running water," but it is very useful to direct your brain to what is working and what you are grateful for because your brain is going to go wherever you steer it. So if you steer it towards things that are working and things that you are grateful for, your brain will respond by looking for more evidence of things that are working and more things to be grateful for. If you let it just go, you let go of the wheel, your brain is going to be skewed toward looking for things that are negative, not because anything's wrong with you, but because your brain was made to help you survive, not to make you happy. And once you recognize that it just is something that needs a little bit of guidance and a little bit of direction, it makes things so much easier. Other mindfulness techniques, exercise. And again, pick the exercise that works the best for you. Some people say that they hate running, but they tried to start running. Well, why would you start running if you hate it? Me personally, I find running to be boring and it hurts my legs and my knees, but you know what I do like, I like hiking, which for some people says is weird. You're still walking. What's the difference? So the longest that I have hiked in one day is 17 miles. I found a meetup group for hiking, I'm actually a part of two, three meetup groups, and I rotate just about every weekend. And as I said before, anytime that there is a activity or interest that you want to engage in and you think that you don't know anybody who will go with you, meetup.com is the place to go. So hiking is something that gets me in nature, gets me around other people, gets me away from work. And it's something that's very challenging because when you're doing these big inclines and you're sitting at the top of a mountain, that brief, or that adversary, or that client really pales in comparison. And so when you have stressors that come up during the work week, if you have taken the time to challenge yourself, then those things don't seem all that terrible 'cause if you've literally just been sitting on a mountain, who cares what this person has to say? I also recommend non-legal reading. I am obsessed with Audible. I shy away from monthly memberships because they add up, but I'm constantly listening to audiobooks. I personally just listen to Steven King's "Dark Tower" and I'm looking forward to listening to the next one. And it really helps. Again, it's something that slows you down, gets you to the present moment and it's an enjoyable activity. And then finally, removing stressors from your life, limit media intake, and by media, I mean social media. Pay attention to how much you are doom scrolling or zombie scrolling, comparing and despairing with other people that you see on social media. It's just something that can be really draining if you don't limit yourself and slow yourself down to stop watching. And I also mean news media. There is no problem with being informed, but when you are inundated with news all the time, it just really messes with your mind. I cannot tell you how much anxiety I will get if I turn on the news and let the news cycle go for a full hour, I just feel so terrible after that because my brain is now looking for things to be afraid of, things to avoid, things that are going wrong, things that are horrible. So really just do a mental audit of what you're listening to and what you're watching and just be very aware of what that creates for you. If you have any questions about any of the studies I talked about, I have all of the references, you can reach out to me. And speaking of reaching out to me, I am at the law firm of Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo in New Jersey. You can find me and send me an email at [email protected] or you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Let me know that you found me on Quimbee. A few people have done that, that's so cool when you do that. If you are interested in what I talk about with life coaching, I primarily focus on coaching lawyers and primarily focus on helping women make partner without burning out. And so you can find my website at www.spirituallitigator.com. You can find me on Instagram @spirituallitigator. I spend most of my time on Instagram and you can also find me on facebook.com/spirituallitigator. I wanna thank everyone so much for listening. I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to connect with me, reach out to me. And I want everyone to have a great day.

Presenter(s)

Cheyne Scott
Partner
Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo, PC

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