According to a 2016 Hazelden Betty Ford/ABA study, 19 percent of lawyers suffer from anxiety. It’s a familiar territory (after all, I wrote a book titled, The Anxious Lawyer.) I regularly talk to lawyers who are struggling with anxiety but interestingly, when I ask what tools they have for managing anxiety or if they have sought help, I get a lot of blank looks.
Many lawyers seem to think that anxiety must be part of a law practice as if there is no choice in the matter.
It’s helpful to talk about what anxiety actually is. Anxiety is the reaction to situations perceived as stressful or dangerous.
Change the reaction, get rid of the anxiety.
Of course, it’s one thing to tell yourself that you shouldn’t feel anxious about that upcoming hearing, or performance review, another thing to actually change the reaction.
We can’t change the reaction through sheer will. In fact, often, we might notice that trying to force the anxiety to change will only result in secondary anxiety. We can also experience anxiety about the anxiety.
You’re fretting about that hearing on the motion to dismiss and notice you’re anxious. You then become anxious about the fact that you’re anxious. It’s a vicious cycle.
Fortunately, there are practices and habits we can incorporate into our daily life to soothe the anxious mind. One such practice is meditation. In a 2016 study, lawyers noticed a 30 percent drop in their anxiety after an 8-week meditation and mindfulness training program.
It’s important to approach the practice with meditation with friendliness. An analogy that I found to be useful is to invite your mind to sit down for tea.
You may be wondering, what does it mean to meditate? There are many different traditions and instructions on how to meditate. However, all meditation practice at its core is about stilling the mind. To focus the mind on the object of attention. The object might be the sensation of the breath as it moves in and out of the body, sounds, mantra, loving-kindness, and so on.
With practice, meditation can help to lessen the grip and identification you may have around anxiety. You begin to see, anxiety is just a set of physiological experiences and mental thoughts that you label as anxiety. It will pass with time. And that you are NOT your anxiety.
If you’d like to learn more about ways of working with the anxious brain, please join me for a 1-hour online workshop — 3 Proven Ways of Overcoming Anxiety on February 15th. Learn more here.
Here’s a short guided meditation to get you started.