Wellness is a broad, all-encompassing word and each of us has our own definition of what wellness means. Wellness is vital to daily living and a key component of competency, as we cannot be competent and help others if we are not well.
This competency requires a lawyer to maintain awareness of his or her mental and physical health and wellness and identify ways to maintain a healthy practice.
It can be challenging to eat healthy, get regular exercise, practice healthy sleep habits, stay on top of finances, respond to family obligations, and tackle work challenges all at the same time. Stress is a regular feature of our lives but it does not have to be overwhelming.
Through small changes, we can see positive outcomes. From going for a walk at lunch, to doing simple stretching exercises every twenty minutes, to scheduling time for friends, family, exercise, or entertainment, these small things add up to big rewards for our physical, emotional and mental health. As lawyers, we seem to believe that it we’re not overwhelmed with work that we’re doing something wrong or that we have to project an image of being busy at all times. If you are constantly overwhelmed with work, this is likely taking a toll on your physical and mental health. By addressing your own wellness, you may be more effective at work and able to reduce negative stress caused by your workload. By finding time to do something enjoyable such as taking a break to go to a movie, a school concert, a hockey game, or another enjoyable activity, you can relax, decompress and take time to put yourself first. We all need to look after ourselves or we won’t be able to meet client needs and perform effectively in the office.
Many of us have seen the impact that physical and mental health issues and addictions can have on others. A number of lawyers have experienced these issues personally. These impacts can be devastating. By taking the time to include a focus on personal wellness within your Continuing Professional Development plan and within your daily life, you can improve your overall health, your effectiveness at work and your relationship with yourself and others.
While this competency is focused on your own wellness, don’t forget to take a look at those around you. Perhaps they are having struggles and need someone to ask how they’re doing, to invite them to take a quick coffee break, or to just offer some support. You could be the one to set up an office wellness program to benefit not only yourself but your colleagues. It is challenging to be mentally well in an environment that is anything but. As part of your CPD plan, you can be the one who sparks change for the benefit of all.
There are many suggestions within the online lawyer portal, in the CPD section, to help you create wellness for yourself, both through awareness and activities. When you expand the areas of learning and knowledge, as well as the activities tab, within this competency, you can find practical suggestions for how to incorporate wellness into your plan.
A focus on wellness will help create a healthy practice and overall competence as a lawyer. Your health and wellness are important to the Law Society and we hope that by including wellness in CPD planning, you will take the time to focus on yourself and incorporate healthy activities into your daily life.
Written by: Jennifer Freund, Policy Counsel