LegalFuel webinar explores reducing stress and staying sane in the age of COVID-19
Adding the stress of social distancing and the fear of an “invisible enemy” to an already high-pressure career, the COVID-19 pandemic is putting the mental health of Florida lawyers at increased risk, an expert warns.
“We’re all pretty overwhelmed right now,” said South Carolina marriage and family therapist Amy Wood. “Having worked with attorneys for a while, I know attorneys are more stressed than pretty much any other profession.”
Wood said the unseen and ever-present nature of a pandemic can be especially challenging for lawyers.
“You probably know a lot about staying in control when a lot around you is out of control, but a pandemic is different,” she said. “It’s an invisible enemy.”
In a webinar sponsored by The Florida Bar and LegalFuel, Wood offers some helpful tips for dealing with increased anxiety.
Stress is helpful when it motivates people to avoid danger or address problems, Wood said, but too much of it leads to anxiety, which can cause over-eating or loss of appetite, insomnia, and other problems.
“While we’re wired to respond to threats, we’re not wired to respond to anxiety,” she said.
When stress and anxiety start to interfere with relationships and work performance, it’s important to see a therapist, Wood said.
Otherwise, she said, there are some easy ways to deal with anxiety.
Wood recommends maintaining a routine, go to sleep and wake up the same time each day, exercise daily, and eat healthy foods.
Take at least 10 minutes a day to meditate, by sitting quietly, concentrating on each breath, noticing the ambient sounds in a room, smelling the aromas, and feeling the sensation of feet touching the floor.
Don’t let fear exaggerate the true nature of concerns, she said. Wood likes to recall the Mark Twain saying, “I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
Another tactic is to, “take your fears to court,” Wood said. If a potential risk wouldn’t be admitted into evidence, it’s not likely to pose a significant threat.
Game out the more tangible concerns, she said.
For example, if job loss is a concern, consider the next step, such as obtaining a loan, and the next step after that.
“Play out whatever that worst-case scenario is, really go into detail, come up with a responsible plan,” she said. “And then when those feelings come up, you can say, okay, I have a plan.”
Resist the temptation to spend most of the day staring into a screen, Wood says. Constant focus causes eye strain and can be tiring.
Follow all social distancing rules, but if possible, run short errands to break up the routine, she said.
Taking on small projects, such as cleaning the kitchen, or doing laundry, can relieve anxiety, Wood said.
“It can be as simple as cleaning the kitchen, cleaning out the car,” she said. “This will make you feel accomplished.”