I want to thank the CBA Health & Well Being Committee for this past Friday’s Balanced Living Lecture.
As the holiday season approaches, it was incredibly timely for Sian Cotton, PhD, Director of the UC Center for Integrative Health and Wellness at the UC College of Medicine, to talk about a mindfulness as one tool to combat attorney stress.
Chronic stress produces many ill effects on our minds and bodies, which, as Dr. Cotton pointed out, does not enable us to work at our best selves. If we are unable to take good care of ourselves as human beings, and alleviate some of the stress and pressures we face every day, we may not be serving our clients in the best possible way.
Dr. Cotton presented some of the science behind the physical and mental benefits of even 1 minute a day of a mindfulness practice. She highlighted that mindfulness is as simple as awareness. Being aware of our bodies, the space around us, or how we are feeling, for even a few minutes. Part of the presentation included 2 practice exercises, where we were guided through a few minutes of mindfulness practice. When 2 people in the room each said that after those few minutes they realized they had headaches, Dr. Cotton said that just being aware of pains or discomforts—like headaches, or muscle cramps from sitting at a computer for too long--can direct us to treat physical issues before they become larger chronic health problems.
When asked how we can use these skills in our daily work lives, and how to address any nay-sayers, Dr. Cotton shared that the science/evidence is clear on the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness practices, and given the stressors on attorneys in their careers, adopting a practice that can help reduce chronic stress and calm the amygdala (center of the “fight or flight response” activated regardless of the stressor) down can only help us help others better.
But, this will take a culture change in the legal world.
Law Schools may be leading the way. Many law schools, including UC College of Law, offer mindfulness and mind-body seminars to help law students navigate the stresses of their legal studies, and prepare for practicing law in the real world.
The UC Law Library also has a libguide with resources on resilience and wellness for law students and for lawyers.
The culture change, where we make attorney wellness a real thing, has already begun. And, in our 24- hour instant gratification always on-demand world, a few minutes of a quiet mind is a welcome new adventure.