4 Healthy Habits for Lawyers to Boost Mental & Physical Well-being

Published on January 11, 2023 Lawyer Life

This article was based on topics found in “ Healthy Habits for Lawyers ” by Erica Grigg, JD

The life of a lawyer is almost exclusively made up of long hours and stressful situations. In fact, U.S. News listed lawyer as the second-most-stressful job in 2022, trailing closely behind financial manager.

How many hours a week do you work? If you’ve lost count, you’re not alone. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most lawyers work more than 40 hours a week. Long hours and tough cases can cause tectonic shifts in your work-life balance, resulting in burnout and overwhelming stress.

You can overcome the negative effects of lawyer life and face every day with optimism by incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine. Need a place to start? Check out these tips below to take your mental and physical wellness to the next level!

Feeling Tired? Get as Much Rest as You Can

A person turning off an alarm on their iPhone

It may seem obvious, but not getting enough sleep can make you susceptible to a wide range of health issues, including illness, burnout, stress, and depression.

To improve your mental and physical health, strive to sleep seven to nine hours every night. Not only will you feel more refreshed when you wake up, but your body and mind will be able to heal and recover.

For a lawyer, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule may seem impossible, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s what you can do:

  • Go to bed and wake up at consistent times: Once your body gets used to going to bed and waking up at certain times, it’ll become second nature. After a week or two of consistency, your internal clock will “reset” to match this new routine.
  • Put away your tech: Laptops, phones, tablets, etc. emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Blue light stops your body from releasing melatonin, making it harder to feel sleepy at night. To avoid this, find a stopping point (30-45 minutes before bed) to put away your gadgets so your body can prepare for sleep.
  • Engage in a relaxing activity before going to bed: Presleep activities like reading a book, knitting, and journaling can prepare your mind and body for restful sleep.

You Are What You Eat: Fuel Your Body with Healthy Choices

A lawyer eating a healthy salad during her lunch break

With such a demanding schedule, it’s easy for lawyers to eat greasy fast food or unhealthy snacks that are within arm’s reach.

To avoid junk food’s negative impact on your mind and body, consider keeping an eye on what you eat. Here’s what you can do:

  • Streamline lunchtime by preparing your meals: By preparing your weekly meals beforehand, you won’t have to face the constant struggle of ordering out to get sustenance for the day. Try any of the countless healthy meal prep recipes.
  • Choose healthy snacks and drinks: Ensure that your firm’s breakroom pantry or fridge includes healthy and delicious options. Instead of greasy chips or sugary sodas, stock up on mixed nuts, kale chips, or air-popped popcorn.

    You can also replace soda with flavored sparkling water, iced tea, or, for a healthy carbonated energy boost, kombucha. Not only does this fermented, fizzy black tea drink come in a variety of delicious flavors, but it’s also full of probiotics and antioxidants.

  • Opt for grocery delivery or curbside pickup: Many local grocery stores offer free curbside pickup services and low-cost delivery options. Not only does this remove the often dreadful grocery shopping experience, but it also removes the temptation of buying nonnutritious, unhealthy food.

Keep It Moving: Stay Active, Even at Your Busiest

Young man going for an early morning jog

Fitting exercise into your ever-busy schedule may seem like an impossible obstacle, but it’s well worth it.

If you’re worried about spending hours at the gym or running a marathon every day, fret not. 20-30 minutes of daily exercise is all you need to start living a happier, healthier life.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate physical exercise to maintain your weight, which can be accomplished with only 30 minutes of exercise per workday, leaving the weekend for optional additional physical activity if you feel up to it.

Your activity can be anything from walking the dog after you get home from work to waking up half an hour early to do a bit of yoga in your living room.

  • Set goals you can achieve: To stay committed to your new workout routine, start by setting realistic goals. This is also a great way to see what works best for you. If you’re going to the gym, take it easy and build up gradually. This isn’t a race, so there’s no need to push yourself—especially at the beginning.
  • Schedule your exercise: Whether you want to exercise before heading to work, during your lunch break, or after you get home, make sure to set and commit to a regular time for your workout.

    Much like how your body will become used to going to sleep at certain times, you will also begin to look forward to workout time. Before long, you’ll be looking forward to your daily 6:00 A.M. run!

  • No time to go to the gym? No problem: Lawyers can appease their busy schedules with easily applicable exercise routines. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking in airports instead of taking shuttles or moving walkways, and walking around the courthouse during recess are all small ways to adhere to a healthier lifestyle.
  • Find a workout buddy: A great way to build and maintain your new workout habit is by finding a partner you can count on. This can be anyone: a neighbor, a close friend, your spouse, or your kids—even your dog can be your exercise partner! Humans are a bit better though, as you can encourage each other to get out of bed and go work out when one of you isn’t feeling it.

How to Foster Healthy Connections in an Ever-Busy World

A group of lawyers on a group outing

Proper diet and exercise, along with the right amount of sleep, make up the core pillars of healthy living. But did you know that connecting with friends and colleagues can also do wonders for your mental health?

As a lawyer, it’s easy to shut yourself away from the world so you can complete your work. While this is often necessary, isolation shouldn’t become a habit.

Even if your world is busy, it’s possible to connect with others in small ways. Go to lunch with a colleague, text a funny joke to a friend, or simply spark up a conversation while waiting for the elevator—these are just a few simple ways to connect.

Here are some other great ways to nurture healthy connections:

  • Maintain eye contact: For some, maintaining eye contact in person or over video chat can be difficult. For others, it comes naturally. Regardless of where you find yourself on this spectrum, it’s always beneficial to maintain eye contact when talking with friends or colleagues. It helps build stronger connections, resulting in a more positive, happier outlook.
  • Volunteer and help others: To boost your mental well-being, consider volunteering at local nonprofits or simply helping others through mentorship. Using your free time to help others will do wonders for your mental health. In fact, according to research, when we help others, our self-esteem improves, we feel needed, and we feel purposeful.
  • Don’t let your work-from-home space take over family time: If you’re working from home or splitting your time between home and the office, make sure your workspace doesn’t infringe upon your family life.

    If your WFH desk is your kitchen table, put away your work and documents at the end of the day to quell the temptation to go back and check on whatever you were working on.

Take Your Mental and Physical Health to the Next Level

While these habits may provide respite from seasonal stress and intermittent burnout, they may not be enough. If you’re struggling with substance abuse, dependency, or ongoing mental health issues, know you’re not alone. The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program provides judges, attorneys, and law students with confidential life-saving services. Call 1-800-343-8527 or click the link above for more information.

Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. The most important step you can take toward a healthier life is the first one.

For a closer look at health and wellness, consider registering for the following Texas CLE courses:

The information provided and the opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author. Neither the State Bar of Texas nor the author are rendering legal, accounting or professional advice and assume no liability in connection with the suggestions, opinions, or products mentioned.

Otto Nicli

Otto Nicli

Otto Nicli is part of the State Bar's Web team and serves as the blog writer for the Texas Bar Practice website. He also plays a part in marketing and video production. In his free time, he enjoys watching Top Chef with his wife, collecting records, reading, and going to shows.

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