Life in the law has many positive sides, but it is rarely easy! Standing up to the challenges which legal life throws at you is a key skill to a successful career, and a happy life in general. This takes resilience.
Resilience is important because it:
- Helps us to maintain balance during difficult or stressful periods in our lives;
- Enables us to develop protection mechanisms against experiences which could be overwhelming;
- Allows us to adapt to change and thrive in unsettled times;
- Supports us to bounce back from adversity;
- Protects us from a number of mental health problems.
How resilient are you?
To help you answer this question, here’s another: have you ever had any bad days? I am certain you have! Everybody has; and this clearly shows how you also have a 100% success rate of surviving them.
However, ‘surviving’ a challenging or stressful situation may not be the issue, how you cope with adversity could be where the problems lie. What lasting effects do these experiences have on you?
As lawyers, we use analytical skills every day, so let’s put them to work identifying our resilience strengths and weaknesses. In this way, you can also recognise the current resilience/stress management strategies that you use to survive your ‘bad days’.
These steps can help you in your analysis:
Step 1: Write out 3 situational factors, which test your resilience, the most. This will identify the main problems you are up against, so that you can plan your new resilience strategies accordingly.
Step 2: Review what you are currently doing to manage your stress and/or build your resilience. This will help you to see what is working, and what is not, in the situations you wrote out in Step 1. How do you act when these situations arise? Do you act at all?
For each situation, take a piece of paper and divide it into two columns headed ‘What is working’ and ‘What is not working’.
In the first column, write down the positives that you feel work particularly well for you. Naturally, the second column should include behaviours which you feel do not help. For example it maybe that you are eating well but not sleeping well, or it may be that you have a good intention to exercise– but you are not the doing the activity itself.
Developing new resilience strategies
Once you have analysed your current approach, you can develop new and improved strategies to help you. Different resilience strategies can:
- Prepare you;
- Enable you to be effective in the moment;
- Help you to make the best of things;
- Then assist with moving on afterwards.
Choose one aspect to work on then work on it every day for the next 7 days to ascertain if and when this makes a difference. It may be one from your ‘working’ list that you want to reinforce or something from the ‘not working’ list, which you may want to turnaround.
If you are stuck on choosing something from your lists, try this simple one: taking deep breaths waiting for your train or at traffic lights. You can start with 3 and move up to 10 as a regular habit.
Good breathing habits will train your brain and body to relax more. Deep breathing acts as an instruction to your sympathetic nervous system and amygdala (in the Limbic area of your brain) to relax. The more you relax on a regular basis, the more the blood flow to your ‘thinking’ frontal cortex can get through, helping to keep you alert and resourceful.
If it’s exercise that you want to increase – choose to walk up the stairs daily, rather than promise yourself you will go to the gym more if this is something you recognised as ‘not working’.
If you prefer to learn from others then make use of those times when you are waiting (for whatever reason) to think of inspiring people who have shown resilience in the face of challenging times or adversity. You could daydream about having a conversation with this person as to what they thought, felt or did to enable them to be resilient. Perhaps this is something you could adopt for the next 7 days?
It may also help you to stay off the mobile – texts/emails or even social media, as your focus will be shifted to building your resilience. If you are using apps to support this then that’s great, but if you are using the phone as a distraction it will leave you very unsatisfied and stressed.
Making a lasting change
Whilst I have suggested doing something new for the next 7 days – this is to get you started. It generally takes at least 21 days to embed a new habit. It is consistency, which is important to build resilience.
As Aristotle said ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is a habit not an act.’
So lasting change comes from commitment! To help you on this path:
- I can deliver my two-hour ‘Mindfulness and Stress Management’ at your office at lunchtime. In the meantime you might want to read my series of mindfulness blogs: Part 1, Part 2 and Part3
- If you feel that you and your team need a resilience boost in this time of great change then I have a one-hour workshop via zoom. Just check my public events page for current dates.
It would be great to welcome you to any of the above events or to coach you to stay on track – telephone me for a friendly, no-pressure chat on 07921540039.
YCFL delivers strategic coaching, leadership; management and interpersonal skills training for the legal profession. Since 2003 Ann has trained nearly 7000 lawyers in leadership, management and interpersonal skills. She has also trained with the Coaching Academy and holds a H.N.L.P. certificate in coaching as well as being an N.L.P. Master Practitioner. She is a member of the Professional Speaking Association and Professional Speaker’s Academy.