Governance & Membership
President's Message - April 2022
Changing the Conversation
By Jim Hicks
This issue of the Oklahoma Bar Journal is dedicated to encouraging open and honest conversations about attorney wellness. We must recognize that while everyone faces stress and anxiety, the practice of law is an especially stressful profession. We all have self-doubt, fears and occasional dark thoughts. This is simply part of being human, and everyone you know faces these same challenges. Changing the conversation starts with recognizing that stress can motivate you to open the door to taking actions designed to improve your mental wellness.
Just as eating well and exercising can positively influence our physical health, we can positively influence our mental wellness by giving it our attention. As legal professionals, all of us need to adopt practices aimed at improving work-life balance, reducing stress and increasing overall well-being. In its purest form, wellness involves doing whatever you need to do to feel better and be healthier on a day-to-day basis. Be it getting outside, playing tennis, cycling, running, gardening or just relaxing with a good book, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving a general sense of well-being and overall health. At its most basic, lawyer mental wellness includes anything that:
- Improves your work-life balance
- Helps you better manage stress
- Fosters positive thinking
- Promotes healthier habits
Legal coaches Allison Wolf and Terry DeMeo advise professionals that mental wellness is something you can influence and change for the better. Here are three of their recommended steps to improving mental wellness:
Talk to someone you trust about the difficult things you are experiencing, so you can feel that you are not on your own.
Learn to recognize, in the moment, when you are being caught up in speculative, negative thoughts – and how to interrupt those thoughts and analyze them from an impartial standpoint.
Execute tasks one at a time instead of trying to do multiple things at once, because studies show that people actually function better when they focus their attention on one action instead of multitasking.
For more detailed insight, read the article, “5 Simple Steps Every Lawyer Can Take to Improve Mental Wellness,” available at https://bit.ly/3MHd0XS. “Fears, shame and negative thoughts begin to shrink when taken out of the darkness in your head and brought into the light when shared with others. The simplest first step to investing in mental wellness is to speak in confidence with someone we trust about our experience,” writes authors Allison Wolf and Terry DeMeo.
The OBA is making a difference in lawyer wellness by offering all bar members up to six hours of free short-term, problem-focused or crisis counseling. The service is strictly confidential and available by calling the LHL hotline 800-364-7886 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, Lawyers Helping Lawyers hosts monthly small-group discussion groups. These meetings are designed to offer the opportunity for participants to ask questions, share information and improve their lives both professionally and personally.
Taking the first step toward wellness means changing the conversation. On a personal level, you can start making wellness a priority by:
- Implementing mindfulness practice as part of your daily or weekly routine
- Studying your personal nutrition habits and eating food that makes you feel energized
- Committing to give your body the regular exercise, rest and care it needs
- Experimenting with various wellness strategies and practices to see what works for you
- Reaching out for professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness or substance abuse
The OBA is committed to advancing wellness in the legal profession. Our goal is to assure that every lawyer has access to support and assistance when confronting stress, substance abuse or mental health issues so they are able to improve and recover. This further ensures families are preserved, and clients and other members of the public are protected.
Let’s change the conversation and get to work!
President Hicks practices in Tulsa.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 4 (April 2022).