Focus on Well-Being in the 2023 Home Stretch!
Welcome to December! It’s that complicated time of year where many of us try to celebrate holidays and fill our homes with peace, love, and joy while feeling the opposite at work!
We get to experience the competing emotions of joy and stress. As courtrooms and boardrooms grow quiet and firms prepare for the year's close, there's an almost tangible shift, a mix of relief and tension as personal and professional worlds collide. Feel like you’re trying to be everything to everyone all at the same time? You aren’t alone!
Maintaining personal well-being while managing end-of-year work and personal demands isn’t just a “nicety” — it's a necessity. A well-balanced lawyer or legal professional is a force to be reckoned with, able to show up fully for their clients, colleagues, and loved ones, feel better equipped to handle disruptions in routines, and set positive examples for others around them.
Holiday stressors for the legal profession
The holidays are stressful for most professionals of all industries, thanks to ...
Pressure to spend on gifts, travel, or hosting
Challenging family dynamics that tend to escalate during big family get-togethers
Emotional strain due to high expectations, letdowns, or painful past memories
However, for legal professionals, the end of the year comes with even more curveballs (lucky us!). In any given year, lawyers spend Q4 striving to seal year-end deals, push for those last billable hours, or wrap up client cases. Legal professionals are trying to manage calendar year deadlines and get ahead on the demands of the new year that are going to spring up as soon as everyone is back in the office after the holiday.
Meanwhile, there’s more pressure to work less than at other times of year from loved ones who might not understand just how demanding our workplaces can be at the end of the year.
And if you’re feeling it more than ever this year, you’re not alone. Law.com found that overall stress levels among lawyers are up as much as 5% from 2022, a sign that the stressors from the pandemic and recent economic instability may be contributing to a lack of job security or pressures to bill more hours.
Taking a proactive moment now to think about maintaining your emotional well-being through the holidays as a lawyer or legal professional can be your saving grace. Let’s look at some strategies.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and others
Before diving into the festivities, consider what you truly desire from the holiday season. Just because you’ve always celebrated a certain way doesn’t mean you always have to — especially if you’re experiencing higher stress right now. I encourage you to be a little selfish in the name of your mental health!
For example, identify traditions that resonate and those that might be worth skipping this year. Or, think broader and decide on the type of holiday that will feel most nourishing for you (e.g. relaxing and cozy or filled with fun, festive activities).
Embrace flexibility over perfection. While it's natural to want everything to go perfectly, expecting that some plans will have to change can lead to a more enjoyable experience. Adaptability in plans and having backup options can prevent added stress.
Finally, instead of dwelling on what might go wrong (... or already did!), focus on the positive. Embrace gratitude for the experiences and connections the season brings. Not only does this feel good at the moment, but gratitude can boost your ability to cope with stress!
Stay connected while prioritizing self-care
Especially during a time of unprecedented demands for your time and attention, you might have to do more than simply “set an intention” to do self-care. My advice is to schedule “you time” throughout the rest of the year — the same way you’d schedule any type of meeting.
I mean it: formally put it into your calendar as an “event” and hold yourself accountable to show up just like you would if you were meeting with a supervisor or client - someone you really cared about.
Other strategies to prioritize self-care include:
Make a priority list for events and activities so you can triage and know which events to cancel if your energy levels get too low (or your stress levels get too high!).
Opt out of social media during your holiday break so you don’t add any unnecessary noise, stress, or comparisons to your already full emotional plate.
Incorporate practices that ground you. This could be reading, meditation, or even simple stretches. These techniques can provide a necessary respite from the hustle and bustle.
Proactively planning how you want your holiday season to be can go a long way to reducing stress. Specifically, the harmful type of prolonged stress that leads to outcomes like burnout.
But, remember, perfection isn't the goal; finding joy and balance during this time of the year is. My advice to you is to embrace the season with understanding, flexibility, and gratitude.