By Brittany Raposa • June 07, 2019•Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
Lately, in the craze of social media, "self-care Saturday" or "self-care Sunday" has become a phenomena. What does self-care mean? To many, it means working out, taking time to yourself, going for a hike, or meditating for 20 minutes. What it should be, however, is much more than this. We should participate in self-care every minute of every day, to the extent that we can, of course.
It's important to take care of your body, which includes working out, eating right, and taking care of each part of yourself. Most of us, I think, forget to take care of one of the most important parts of us - our minds. In the legal profession, whether you are in law school, a practicing attorney, or in a professional career, stress and anxiety is our counterpart. Everywhere we go, stress follows. In a profession where stress is so intertwined, we then find ourselves being negative. We had a bad day, or we have too much work to do, or we messed up an exam or a motion in court. Negativity, in turn, creates MORE stress. Stress on top of stress, anxiety on top of more anxiety, it becomes a vicious cycle.
So, I propose we all engage in self-care of the mind, every day and second that we can. This is as easy as just changing your perspective on things. Let's start with four new perspectives to have today and moving forward.
- Change any thoughts or words of pessimism to optimism. This is easier said than done sometimes, but it is so important. I think it's fair to say we all find ourselves being pessimistic. We think things like, "I keep getting questions wrong when I'm studying for the bar exam," or "I am going to mess up if I get called on in class today," or "Court is not going to go well today." Do you find yourself doing this? Let's change the perspective. Try: "I'm getting questions wrong, but I'm also getting questions right, and I'm learning from ones I am getting wrong." Try: "If I get called on in class today, I'm going to try my best." Try: "This is a difficult motion I have in court today, but I prepared well and I can do this." It's okay to acknowledge when things or difficult or when we are struggling, but changing your perspective from positive to negative can make all of the difference.
- Do not look at something as the possibility of failure, look at it as the possibility of success. This goes hand-in-hand with changing your thoughts of pessimism to optimism. When you're thinking about something you have to do, stop looking at it from the perspective of what will happen if you fail. Instead, think about what will happen if you succeed. Are you studying for the bar exam? We always find ourselves thinking, "If I fail, I will lose my job." Instead say, "If I pass, I will be a practicing attorney, doing what I love." If you're in exam period, we find ourselves thinking, "If I fail, I will lose my scholarship, or I won't be able to graduate with honors." Instead say, "If I do well on my final exams, I'll keep my scholarship and I can graduate with honors." Think about any challenge you face as an opportunity to do something great or succeed - and you will ultimately feel the difference in your attidude.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. We compare ourselves to other people way too much. Whether we compare our looks, our intelligence, or our accomplishments - we all do it. However, we should not and cannot do this. I repeat: we should not and CANNOT do this. It creates so much unnecessary stress in our lives, and we would ultimately be happier if we let these thoughts go. Wherever you are in life, whether it's in law school, or in your career, your competition is only within yourself to be better than you were yesterday.
- Let go of what you cannot change. All of these new mindsets or perspectives are important, but this may possibly be one of the most important ones. At some point, we all wish something was different. We wish that our professor was not so difficult. We wish that opposing counsel was nicer. Guess what? There are things you cannot control and will never be able to control. You can't control a third person. You can't control the bar exam. You can't control court procedure. We get stressed about these external things every day, and there's literally nothing you can change about them. Focus, instead, on the things you can control. You can prepare for your difficult professor's exam. You can act with civility to opposing counsel. You can prepare for court. Accept the lack of control you have over external factors and focus on what you can do.
So, what next? Make it a point today to change your mindset, even if it's just in one instance. Then, gradually change your mindset more and more about everything. Take some time at the end of the day and write down three things that went well. Do this every day. It will help change your perspective.
We, I truly feel, are our largest enemies, but we are all we have. Taking care of our minds is so important, so let's do self-care every day.