It is Beyond Blue’s Mental Health Week
this week – which makes it a particularly good time to start a conversation about better managing depression and anxiety at your firm.
The effects of depression and anxiety are well publicised at all levels of the legal profession. For those new to the profession, resilience failure and depression are at alarmingly high rates. The Resilience Institute
research into Australian (and New Zealand) law firms shows a consistent message.
Our proprietary assessment instrument “Resilience Diagnostic”, compares an individual’s resilience assets to their resilience liabilities – a ratio called Resilience Ratio© . When viewed as an average, the Resilience Ratio for Law Firms is 1.3:1, well below that of other sectors such as Banking and Finance at 2.2:1 and an acceptable level for high performance teams of 2.5:1.
Why are legal professionals more susceptible to resilience failure and depression?
A productivity paradox exists in many firms. The harder we are seen to be working, the better the results.
The intense personal environment experienced by legal professionals, with constant emphasis on billable hours, high utilisation rates, attention to detail, and aggressive deadlines, represent only the initial challenge to balance for both individuals and firms. Mental health impacts can also take their toll, especially if the firm and the individual fail to create integral daily practices to sustain human performance and quality of life.
Add to this the lawyer thinking styles that focus on worst case scenario, pessimistic views and hyper vigilance can often become pervasive character traits. Add to this a combination of perfectionism and competitiveness and one can witness a recipe for eroding the resilience of individuals and the firms they operate within.
What can you do to build your resilience?
In fact, it is the value of regular renewal breaks, sleep, exercise and nutrition that serves individuals, firm and client with greater performance. Here are 11 practical tips that will help improve your personal resilience:
1. Breathe Deeply
Create 10 minutes morning and night to relax. Focus on a smooth slow breath using the diaphragm – 5 seconds inhale and 3 seconds exhale. Lower your body and mind into quietude.
2. Eliminate Confusion
Be draconian in your discipline to delete, delegate and focus on key priorities.
3. Ritualise Renewal
Take regular breaks through the day. Work in ‘Ultradian Sprints’ of 90 minutes with time out to rest, refuel and reflect.
4. See the light
Enjoy a walk of 15-20 minutes in the sunshine of late afternoon. The walk will provide creative thinking space and oxygenate the body. Sunlight boosts Vitamin D3, lifting mood.
5. Lock in Your Wake Up Time
Rise at the same time each morning, 7 days a week and aim for no less than 7-8 hours sleep per night. You will set a consistent circadian rhythm to energise your body and maintain essential recovery processes. Sleep is often the first item we give up when trying to cram more into each day. Avoid such a practice.
6. Bedtime Cool Down
Reduce the overactive mind and prepare for sleep with a brain ‘cool down’ 45 minutes before bed - a guided, audio deep relaxation is ideal. Prior to bedtime, Avoid laptop, TV, iPad, phone and electronic screens, as these stimulate our mind into wakefulness.
7. Avoid caffeine in any form after 3pm
This includes coffee, tea, cola, chocolate and energy drinks! Sugary stimulants will spike your blood sugar for a short term ‘hit’, but quickly subside, leading to irritability; poor sleep less productivity and focus. Caffeine after 3pm will ruin quality sleep and recovery.
8. Snack Wisely
Reduce temptation of sugar and snack cravings by eating a healthy, low GI breakfast with whole grains and/or protein (eggs). Choose nuts, fruit or low fat yogurt instead of processed chips, sugary snacks.
9. Get Moving
Cardiovascular exercise of 20 minutes for 3-5 times per week can contribute to reducing depression, boosting heart health and mental sharpness. Aim for something you enjoy, whether it’s running, cycling and swimming. Boost the benefits by challenging a friend to join you for added motivation and social connection.
10. Witness Your Thoughts
Most depression is a thinking disease. We talk our way down the spiral to depression. Monitor your thinking to observe when your thinking is optimist or pessimistic. Resilient people think with realistic, optimistic thoughts.
Make a conscious effort to list two or three positive things you did or experienced during the day. Boost positivity and realistic optimism by reflecting on two things that went well, rather than ruminating over the one thing that didn’t go according to plan.
The implementation of the resilience life practices and resilient leadership styles must extend to all partners and leaders. The critical mass of leaders operating with resilient life practices fosters a calm, healthy, and sustainable high performance culture rather than one characterised by overload, perfectionism and fear. The benefit is significant with more effective decision making, greater positivity, creativity, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism and retention of talent.
About our Guest Blogger
Stuart Taylor is the Managing Partner, Australia for The Resilience Institute
In 2002, while climbing the ladder to corporate executive, Stuart was diagnosed with Brain Cancer; prognosis 2.5 years. Far from accept the prognosis; Stuart embarked on a journey back to physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual health.
Part of this journey included creating The Resilience Institute in Australia to share his experience and philosophy with Australian organisations. Stuart has recently celebrated his 10 year milestone and is going from strength to strength. You can read more about his personal journey in "A Story of Four Hats" - Part 1
& Part 2
Prior to joining The Resilience Institute, Stuart was an Associate Director with KPMG and then worked as a senior manager in a global corporation. Stuart has worked with leading Australasian organisations such as GE Money, NAB, Citigroup and Vodafone and is regular presenter at ALPMA events.