My inspiration for sharing my thoughts on mindfulness and wellness in this blog is best encapsulated by a wonderful quote from poet, Maya Angelou:
“My mission in life is not to merely survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style”.
Just over five years ago was a time for me when I was merely surviving (rather than thriving). I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and looking back, I was in a work environment where there were conditions such that whilst I was surviving, I was unable to thrive. Quite simply I was letting the daily stresses, the conditions in the workplace and helping those experiencing relationship breakdown – who are usually going through immense grief and stress – get me down.
This was despite always having loved the work I do and having made a conscious choice to be a family lawyer (despite family law being seen by many as an undesirable area of law to work in). Assisting people in this way had always appealed to me. But amongst the stresses present in my workplace at that time, I had lost focus of what I loved about being a family lawyer.
For me these stresses had manifested in recurrent bugs, viruses and fatigue from which my body was not easily able to recover and my resiliency was at a low. Although not life threatening, the impact of stress and the fragility of my health at that time was a message to me that I needed to make a change. Whilst that time was challenging on many levels, it was a blessing in disguise. Why? Because it gave me a much-needed WAKE UP CALL and created an impetus for me to make some changes.
Since that wake up call I have completely refocused my priorities and curated the conditions in which I can thrive – aiming to do so with passion, compassion and some style along the way (as is Maya’s mission). When I set out the changes I made were gradual. But over time these small changes have had a profound impact on my outlook about my work and the importance of health and wellness.
It was only at that time that realised I needed to reframe how I approached the stresses associated with my work and the vicarious trauma associated with dealing with people who are stressed and prioritise my own health and wellbeing. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to continue to help others.
So I took a month off solely to refocus on my health. I started a course of personal yoga and mindfulness tuition with a wonderful teacher, Yatren, known as The Yoga Raj. To my surprise many of his students were lawyers (so I was immediately comforted that it wasn’t just me in need of some additional skills to unwind and better deal with stress). Initially I started practicing with Yatren two mornings each week, which quickly increased to three. His teachings and the environment he created profoundly changed my approach to dealing with stress and the “compassion fatigue” – of getting lost in other people’s problems or pain.
But for me this was only the beginning – with an increased enthusiasm for all things wellness I explored naturopathy, nutrition and other alternative therapies – after all prevention is better than cure.
For me integrating mindfulness practices into my regular routine have made me a better, more resilient person and lawyer. It has provided a place to retreat, to help me let go of unproductive, unhelpful thoughts and learn to respond rather than react when a difficult situation arises in a way in which, prior to then, I hadn’t contemplated was possible.
I can confidently say I am far better able to meet the needs of those that I am fortunate to advise, care and guide through the process of relationship breakdown. I am able to do so with greater empathy. I am more comfortable with people I assist showing their vulnerability, their emotions and human problems many of which are intertwined with their legal issues but which I cannot fix.
Since then the continuation of a regular mediation and mindfulness practice has been an ongoing investment into my own wellness – not only personally but also professionally. Sometimes keeping up with it is challenging, particularly so when I am feeling more stressed or tired than usual (as I have been lately) but I (and my wise teacher) does gently remind me that is the time when I need it the most. And as a result of this consistency I am continuing to get an excellent return on my investment.
My experience is not unique but often when we are in the midst of stress and feeling overwhelming there is a tendency for us all to think we are the only ones feeling that way. So I am sharing my experiences in the hope that in some small way me doing so may be an impetus for change for others who may be in a similar situation I was – that is, feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
So here are my 5 tips to making an immediate investment in your wellness.
- Get started now– don’t wait for a wake up call.
- Choose a contemplative practice that resonates with you. It doesn’t have to be yoga or mediation. The Centre of Contemplative Mind in Society has information about other contemplative practices you could adopt. There are many and there is something that will suit everyone.
- Be consistent. Schedule regular time each week for something just for you – and be sure to keep the appointment you make with yourself to do it.
- Accountability works – considering share the experience with a friend, colleague or mentor.
- Be persistent – it takes some time to develop a new habit but if you stick with it and allow enough time to see the benefits you will reap the rewards.
So ask yourself, are you investing in your wellness? And if not, why not? Don’t wait for a wake up call…make an investment in you now. Whether it is mindfulness or another contemplative practice, you and those around you will be better for it.
If you have had a similar experience to me or have tips to share with others about how you have benefited from adopting mindfulness practices and priorisiting your wellness, I would love to hear from you.