Maryt L. Fredrickson 2017-12-07 03:24:54
A Hornbook on Wellness: Top Ten Tips A wise man once explained, “Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness.” Yet physical health and peace of mind seem to be elusive for many attorneys—crushed by client expectations, limited control over schedules, the billable hour business model, and the little time remaining to balance a personal life. As the year comes to a close and holiday schedules generate some extra stress, this seems like a great opportunity to review the ten topics covered so far in this column. Hopefully, one or more make sense for you this season and you put them into practice! Be Mindful Mindfulness is, according to one law professor, “a form of meditation in which a person focuses her attention on her breathing to anchor herself in the present moment.” High performance athletes do it. Therapists do it. Mindfulness is being taught in some law schools. Benefits of mindfulness exercises include improved focus, attention, and memory; lower stress levels; improved sleep quality; more resilience when dealing with the unexpected; and less emotional engagement with stress. Be Quiet Our mind has an operating system called the “default mode network” that always works in the background. It reprocesses and integrates information and enables creative problem solving. Its exhaustion “can be a critical element of poor psychological well-being.” The default network restores itself in periods of quiet self-reflection, daydreaming, or thinking about the future. Thus, incorporating moments of quiet into an otherwise busy day can allow the problem-solving mind to reboot. Be Outside Being outside in nature for five minutes refreshes mental function, reduces depression, combats anxiety, lowers cortisol levels, and lowers blood pressure. The impact on mental function is especially significant. Our minds experience something called “directed attention fatigue,” which many are familiar with as mental exhaustion—a person becomes easily distracted, less able to focus, and much less efficient. It also becomes more difficult to see solutions or to generate creative ideas. “Attention restoration theory” identifies the types of experiences that can be used to recover from directed attention fatigue. One of those experiences is being outside in nature. Be Grateful Taking a moment to reflect on what we are grateful for keeps us grounded during times of stress. Simple gratitude exercises provide a host of benefits including stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, feeling more refreshed after sleep, higher levels of positive emotions and optimism, and fewer feelings of loneliness. Sleep Well We do not succeed because we are sleep derived. We succeed despite a lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive performance. Decision making changes. After 17 hours of being awake, we can experience a cognitive impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. The ability of pilots, long-haul drivers, and doctors to work when sleep deprived is regulated. Lawyers’ sleep is not regulated despite dealing with client funds, custody of children, and in some cases, client lives. It is up to you to impose healthy sleep habits. Breathe Well You can control your reaction to stress by controlling your breath. The sympathetic nervous system is our “fight or flight” system. It engages when we feel stress. The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and restore” system. This system slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases digestive activity, and regulates hormonal activity. The breath is linked to the nervous system thanks to the vagas nerve which, among other things, connects the diaphragm to the brain. One way to use the vagas nerve, and thus trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, is through deep, slow breathing. Drink More Water Operating with a dehydrated brain can lead to depression, anger, emotional instability, impaired sleep, afternoon fatigue, and brain fog. Other effects of dehydration include impaired problem solving and memory. Conversely, full hydration leads to greater mental alertness and ability to concentrate. Hydration also allows for better production of serotonin, which is an essential component of fighting depression. Morning Time Morning provides often-elusive personal time and the opportunity for physical fitness, introspection, and the cultivation of creativity. Notable political and social leaders have specific morning mindfulness practices, and a survey of twenty CEOs found that 90% did too—walking a dog, reading, exercising, meditating, writing, working on personal projects, exercising, and snuggling with pets. Practices range from a full workout to a mere two minutes of stretching, breathing, or quiet self-reflection. Stand Up, Sit Less According to Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic, “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous that parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” The impacts of sitting include increased risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. Sadly, the effects of long-term sitting are not affected or reversed by increasing exercise. However, breaking up the amount of sitting each day may have an effect. Aim for at least five minutes of standing for every 30 minutes of sitting. Take a True Break Vacations are the reversal mechanism for burnout, both for yourself and for your colleagues. Vacationing provides a break from everyday professional stress, which then reduces the likelihood of physical and mental health issues caused by chronic stress. Top Ten Tips Breathing Break. Take ten deep breaths. Make the inhale and exhale the same length. So, if you breathe in for a count of five, breathe out for a count of five. When your mind begins to wander, refocus on the counting. Take an e-fast. Take a short fast from your smart phone, iPad, and laptop. Consciously shut off your devices, put them in another room, and do something else to occupy your time. Try it for half a day or longer. Walk to the coffee shop. The mental recharge of a short walk outside increases your efficiency and mental stamina. Cold, snowy, and windy? Dress appropriately and wear proper shoes. Relax to Sleep. Breathing slowly through your nose, consciously relax your toes, then the arches of your feet, your ankles, your calves, the back of your knees, your hips, your low back, middle back, etc. Continue consciously relaxing your body from bottom to top. Let your mind focus only relaxing. Repeat until you drift to sleep. Name Three Things. Pause for some gratitude. Close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Name three things you are grateful for. One should be big. One should be tiny. One can be anything—big or little, profound or silly. Exhale Longer. Take a deep breath in, and silently count how long it takes you to inhale. Make the exhale one or two counts longer than the inhale. This tells the brain to engage the “rest and restoration” nervous system. Drink Some Water. Right now. Drink a glass of water. Tonight, get a head start on hydration. Put a cup of water next to your bed. Drink it in the morning when you wake up. Morning Time. Spend a few minutes stretching your body. Take some deep breaths. Don’t check your phone yet—whatever is there will still be there in ten more minutes. Spend a few minutes of quiet, just for yourself. Stand for Phone Calls. When the telephone rings, make a habit of standing up. Sit down only after the call is done. Vacationing? Reconsider that Email. When a colleague, or you, is on vacation or taking time away from the office, support the mental and personal break by reconsidering if you really need to send a colleague an email or call. Likely whatever it is can wait.
Published by Wyoming State Bar . View All Articles.
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