In this episode, I am excited to have Jane Springer on to talk about physical and mental health for the modern woman lawyer.
Jane is a Certified Life, Wellness and Style Coach who works primarily with women lawyers who are struggling with their weight due to stress eating. She helps them manage the stress and the eating by teaching them tools that change the way they think so that they can have more energy, lose weight, and have a calmer mind. Jane also serves on the Florida Bar Mental Health and Wellness Committee.
- The main stressors for a woman lawyer, the coping mechanisms they use to deal with them (like stress eating), and what the results are.
- How she helps her clients address the underlying feeling that can trigger their coping mechanisms, and how they can change the way they think and feel so that they get different results.
- What kind of fuel they need to be feeding their bodies so they get the maximum body and brainpower to handle the stressors.
- She also talks on which kind of movement will serve them best with a busy law practice.
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Jane Springer: [00:00:00] All the actions that you do come from a thought about it; you may not realize that it was a thought, but that thought generates a feeling inside you. And that feeling drives an action, which might be to grab some candy, or whatever you might go to. And that always creates the result, and the result will point right back to the original thought that you had.
Intro: [00:00:26] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:48] Hello my friends, thanks for being with me today. In this episode, I am really happy to have Jane Springer. She is a certified life wellness and style coach who works primarily with women lawyers who are struggling with their weight due to stress eating. She helps them manage their stress and the eating by teaching them tools that change the way they think so they can have more energy, lose weight, and have a calmer mind. Jane serves on the Florida Bar Mental Health and Wellness Committee.
[00:01:15] Before we get into the interview, if you haven’t listened to my last bonus episode go back and check it out. I shared a 6 minute guided meditation practice to help you let go of stress and anxiety. It’s a preview for my new course, Mindful Pause. So often I hear lawyers say that they know they should practice mindfulness, but they just don’t have the time. And I always tell lawyers, just start with six minutes or .1 hour. Of all the hours that you dedicate to your clients, work, and others, don’t you deserve to have at least .1 hour to yourself? Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you, to fit into your hectic schedule. Think of it like taking your daily vitamins to boost your well-being. Head on over to JeenaCho.com to learn more, or check it out in the show notes.
[00:01:58] And with that, here’s Jane. Jane, welcome to the show.
Jane Springer: [00:02:01] Thank you Jeena, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:03] So let’s start by having you give us a 30-second introduction of who you are and what you do.
Jane Springer: [00:02:09] Well my name is Jane Springer, and I am a certified life and wellness coach. I also do style coaching for busy professionals like lawyers, who want to feel put together and confident. So I sort of roll it all into one. My husband is an attorney, so this area of helping women lawyers was really a topic that is of personal interest to me. I have three nieces who are lawyers, so de-stressing and helping women lawyers lose weight is really a sweet spot for me.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:48] Great. So when we talk about wellness, what does wellness mean to you? I think so often we think about it in terms of exercise, but to me it means so much more than that. So I’m curious how you would think about wellness, and what that means.
Jane Springer : [00:03:03] To me, wellness is an overall, overarching, broad feeling that you are handling your life well, that you’re eating well, that you have energy, you have enthusiasm for what you’re doing, you’re taking care of your body, mind, and spirit. It’s a large, overarching viewpoint.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:34] And in your work with women lawyers, what are the main stressors that you see them struggling with? And how do they typically deal with it?
Jane Springer: [00:03:46] Well I’ve interviewed many women lawyers (in addition to my own family members), and what I have found is that their main stressors are worrying about deadlines; there’s a brief due, there’s an order due, there’s research due. So deadlines, demanding clients, and demanding partners. And now that you’re available 24/7 it’s even more so, because they can reach you at any time. Work and family life balance, trying to leave work in time to pick up your children, trying to have time to spend with your spouse, that’s another stressor. And then money. If you are an associate, you may not be making the kind of money that you would really like to make, so you may be worrying about money and your family. But also if you’re a solo or duo practitioner, you’re concerned about the money coming in and the money going out, and how to pay all the bills and pay your employees. There’s a lot of stressors going on.
Jeena Cho: [00:04:56] And what are the default tools that lawyers use, or what are some of the coping mechanisms that they use to deal with all the stressors?
Jane Springer: [00:05:07] What I have found is: stress eating. In the demanding world that they are in, they may reach for something to eat, something sugary, or a carb or processed food that’s fast so they can get back to work. So something to give them a little boost of energy. Stress drinking; that when they get home all they want to do is sit down and have their wine, and they may not eat the way they should. They may have very little time for exercise, or make no time for exercise because there’s so much going on. And there’s anxiety, depression, you may have weight gain because of all that you’re doing and trying to cope with. And it may end up in burn out, or even leaving the profession because of all the stresses involved.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:07] So these are self-soothing behaviors that they’re engaging in that are not helpful, and that are probably actually exacerbating the situation?
Jane Springer: [00:06:19] Yes.
Jeena Cho: [00:06:19] So when you start to work with a client, what are some of the first steps that you have them take? How can they change the way they think and feel, so that they stop doing the behaviors that they know are not working for them?
Jane Springer: [00:06:36] Back to your point that you just made, what they’re getting from those ways of coping (like in the eating and the drinking) is a dopamine hit. And yeah, that will give you energy and lift you up for a little while, and then you crash after that. So it is a habit that you develop. So what I like to do when I work with my clients first is have them explain to me what their main issue is; do they want to lose weight, do they want to de-stress? I find out what their needs are.
[00:07:14] I also almost right away will teach them a tool that they can use in looking and examining (because lawyers can be very analytical and critical thinkers, so I like to give them something that they can work with right away) that all the actions you do come from a thought about it; you may not realize that it was a thought, but that thought generates a feeling inside you. And that feeling drives an action, which might be to grab some candy, or whatever you go to. And that always creates the result, and the result will point right back up to the original thought that you have. So I like to teach them that first, so that they understand the consequences and the results that they get from the thoughts and the feelings that they have. That’s the first thing I do.
Jeena Cho: [00:08:10] Okay, so if we can actually drill down a little bit and use a specific example. Let’s say it’s Friday at 4 pm, I’m getting ready to run out the door and I have weekend plans, and the partner comes up to my desk and says, “Hey, I actually need you to work on this motion to dismiss this weekend.” What would be an example of a thought that would trigger this cycle?
Jane Springer: [00:08:35] I’ll never finish that by 5 pm, or by 6 pm that I have to pick up my child by.
Jeena Cho: [00:08:42] Right, and now my weekend is ruined; I’m not going to be able to go away with my girlfriends, or whatever it is that I had planned for the weekend. And then what is the behavior that follows that thought?
Jane Springer: [00:08:54] Well the first thing that happens after the thought is a feeling that you get inside. So the feeling would be either anxiety, because you’ve got this work assignment that you weren’t planning on having. But whatever the feeling is, disappointment that you can’t do what you were going to do with your family or your girlfriends, but you identify the feeling..
Jeena Cho: [00:09:16] So anger, frustration, outrage.
Jane Springer: [00:09:22] Exactly, all those things. And from there, what is the action that you take? You realize you’ve got to do this work, so you undertake doing the work; you either stay late, or you’re tied up over the weekend. But when you’re doing it, you are feeling very resentful and under more pressure because your family or friends are disappointed as well, it’s affected your whole weekend. So your feeling at that point is resentment, maybe still anger, it could be anything. And then your action is you’re doing the work that needs to be done, but you may not do it to the best of your ability or focus, because of the feelings that you have involved. And the result is, you may have a work product that’s not your best work; there may be errors in it, and it may not be your best product.
Jeena Cho: [00:10:28] And the action could also be, you know what I just don’t have the capacity to deal with this right now. I’m going to go home, open up a bottle of wine, and I’m going to treat myself for a few glasses, and then we’ll see how I feel in the morning about this whole work situation.
Jane Springer: [00:10:44] Exactly, that’s exactly what can happen as well. And then the result is your resolve to eat healthy for dinner may go out the window, your interaction with your family may be affected because you’re still angry and frustrated. So the results are less than ideal, for sure.
Jeena Cho: [00:11:15] So when you’re working with your client.. I mean, I understand that obviously going home and drinking to excess, or sitting down with a bag of potato chips or a pint of ice cream or whatever may not be the best way to soothe those feelings. Then I also get that you’re then saying try eating some pistachios or cashews, instead of eating that gallon of ice cream. But how do you help the clients actually address that underlying feeling?
Jane Springer: [00:11:47] The first thing I do is help them identify the process that they just went through, by using the tool. What I tell them is, let’s be curious about this; not with a spirit of condemnation, but with curiosity about how this process happens. And also, be compassionate. Because it always is better for yourself when you’re being compassionate than when you’re in a negative state of mind about yourself. First of all, we’re curious about what drove this action and all that, but then I help them to turn it around. And then we use that tool again, but in a way that has a more positive action end result.
[00:12:44] So let’s say this happened, your partner came to the door and said I need you to have this done by 8 am on Monday. Instead of immediately reacting, I recommend that they stop; take a pause, as you were talking about you’re Mindful Pause, stop and take five deep breaths. Take an inhale, hold it for a little bit, and just let it out so that you can decompress that moment right when that happens. Then think about what drove the thought, but then we’re going to think about what might be a better action? And you can attack it from the result-action feeling or thought. Or you can attack at the other direction, what thought would you need to come up with that would be better? Because what you’re doing is creating new neuropathways; you’re going to really develop and use your brain.
[00:13:59] And lawyers are smart, so they’re going to be able to identify with this. But you want to develop new neuropathways, and then the more you repeat that thought, that action, that feeling, the old thought is going to recede. So instead of reacting like, he’s so he’s so thoughtless to do this at the last minute to me, your new thought might be, “Okay I can handle this. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Perhaps I can work out a way to finish this and still have some family time.” But come up with a thought that turns around your brain, so that you can handle it better.
And then from that thought, I can figure this out (that’s a good one, I use that one a lot) and maybe still have some time with my family or my friends. And then the feeling from that is definitely calmer, you’re not going to have that frustration to that level. And then the action you take is, okay well I’m going to work on this from this to this time, and then from this to this time, I’m the set aside for my friends or my family. And the result is, you get the paper done, but you also got at least some time with your family. So I’m helping them work a model that turns around the negative.
Jeena Cho: [00:15:29] Does that also involve sometimes helping the clients to set boundaries? Because I think so often that happens with women lawyers, they let everyone pile work on them, without any consideration as to how much work they can realistically do, and do well.
Jane Springer: [00:15:48] Yeah, I totally agree with that. One option, and I know that it’s intimidating if you’re an associate and it’s the partner that comes to your door. But you can say I’m sorry, I need to do this right now, or I have plans for the weekend but I will come in early on Monday morning and do whatever it is that they assigned you to do. So yes, I definitely agree on setting reasonable boundaries for sure. Otherwise, they’ll just keep dumping that stuff on you.
Jeena Cho: [00:16:21] Right. So let’s shift gears a little bit, and talk about actually feeling the body. What are some of the suggestions that you have for feeding the body, so that lawyers can get the maximum body and brain power to handle all of these different stressors?
Jane Springer: [00:16:40] Well it probably won’t be a popular way of looking at it, but I would say limit your sugar and your flour, your processed foods. And the reason for that is, I mean everybody says you should quit sugar, but your body really does not need them. It wasn’t made for them, and it actually drains your natural energy. It’s going to give you a boost right away, but then it’s going to come right back down. What happens when you raise your blood sugar with sugar or flour products, it raises your blood sugar, but it also raises your insulin level.
And insulin is a fat-storing hormone, so you don’t want to eat those types of food because the result will be you’ll have more fat storing, especially around your middle and liver. So avoiding sugar and flour products, and eating whole foods; having a healthy fat, a protein, green, leafy, colorful vegetables, that will give you your maximum energy. And then my recommendation is to limit your alcohol, but that’s always up to the individual. It does take you out of a fat burning state into another state that is not as good for your body, and it also changes your resolve. You’re having empty calories; it may relax you, but it’s also going to relax you making good choices, in terms of diet and exercise. So yeah, healthy fat, protein, green, leafy, colorful vegetables, and limit your blood sugar, insulin, and alcohol.
Jeena Cho: [00:18:32] When you say limit alcohol, now the lawyer in me is like well how much is too much, and what do you mean when you say limit? So if you had to offer some general guideline, in terms of let’s say daily consumption, how many servings are we talking about?
Jane Springer: [00:18:47] I hate to even say that, because I don’t really know. I am not an alcohol drinker myself, so I can’t really address that. All I know is that the clients that I work with, they have a very tough time losing weight when they’re still consuming two or more glasses of a wine a day.
Jeena Cho: [00:19:13] Yeah, you know the food rule that I really like, that I think really kind of keep things simple is.. are you familiar with Michael Pollan?
Jane Springer: [00:19:20] Yes.
Jeena Cho: [00:19:21] He says, eat food, not too much, mostly plants. And I think that’s such a great rule to live by, eat real food. And he also suggests shopping in the outside of the grocery store, not in the middle where all the boxed and canned and frozen stuff lives, and sticking to the outside of the grocery store where all the produce is. So I think having these simple rules, because I feel like we are so bombarded with all these different things that we’re trying to keep in our heads, and I think having too many food restrictions is very taxing. At least I find it to be very taxing, to try to remember what it is a grain that I’m supposed to eat and I’m not supposed to eat? And I think obviously finding something that works for you is super important too.
Jane Springer: [00:20:17] Yeah, I totally agree with that. And that’s pretty much what I do as well. Anything you’re going to find in the middle of the aisles is going to be processed food for the most part. Anytime you’ve crushed and condensed any kind of flour down, down, down, and then made it into some concoction with chemicals and stuff to hold it together so it can stay on the shelf longer, it’s going to drive your insulin up. So I totally agree with you. Now I will say that frozen vegetables can be a real handy thing for busy lawyers, because when they freeze those vegetables they do it right away. Sometimes those vegetables are more fresh (as long as you don’t cook them to death) than the ones you’ll find that have been sitting around out in the outer.
Jeena Cho: [00:21:16] Let’s talk briefly about movement, and I also notice that you use that word movement and not exercise. I tend to be somewhat allergic to that word exercise because that makes it sound like something that I have to do. Whereas movement is just something that I naturally do. So what kind of movements do you recommend for busy lawyers?
Jane Springer: [00:21:38] First of all, I recommend that if you can do it early in the day, before work or on your lunch hour, you’re much more likely to continue to do it, because that’s when you have the energy. You’re going to be less likely to do it in the evenings, put it that way. So the time of day is important. And I recommend walking; even if you’re at your desk, you’ve got an assignment due or a brief to finish or whatever. Getting up and walking around, or getting up and walking the stairs if you’re in a building that has stairs, just take a break.
Walking, at a minimum. And you should do a form of movement that you’ll continue to do, and it’s something that interests you or is fun. So if going to the gym is fun for you and you’ll stick with it, do that. if you liked to bicycle as a kid, try cycling. If you like to swim, do that. Run, if that makes you feel good. Walking, yoga, any kind of slow movement like that will help your anxiety levels. I think you should go with what interests you, and what you’re most likely to stick with.
Jeena Cho: [00:22:59] Yeah, I think that’s such great advice. Also, I noticed throughout my life, I at different times I’ve felt more pulled to different types of movements than others. Like when I was younger I used to do a lot of rock climbing, and then once I got older I was like, you know it’s not really my thing anymore. So now I do more yoga and walking and hiking; I love going on long hikes, where I can free-up the brain. I find it to be very therapeutic, that physical activity and movement, that consistent movement. And seeing the beauty and being able to breathe in the fresh air and all that stuff. So I think that’s also important, to try to find something that works for you in that moment. Obviously, you know, if you’re pregnant you’re going to do something different than when you’re not, and all the different.. If you have little kids, you might also have to adjust what you do for movement.
Jane Springer: [00:23:54] And I totally agree with you about the hiking in nature, if it’s at all possible. I know for my husband, when he’s de-stressing from what he’s been working on, if we go on a hike on Saturday it totally changes his mood, and mine too. Because I love being out in nature and spending time together, but it does have a way of freeing up your brain, with the beauty and just getting away and being in nature.
Jeena Cho: [00:24:28] Yeah, yeah. And also, it’s a great time to chat with your spouse while you’re going on one. I find that when I’m able to have a little more spaciousness and talk to my husband, I tend to be more relaxed about it and I feel like the conversations go better. As opposed to if we’re sitting over dinner and we’re completely stressed out, and it’s like alright we have to figure this thing out. And then I get more snappy and more agitated.
Jane Springer: [00:24:52] Yes, we do the same thing. It may be 9:00 by the time he de-stresses and comes down enough to.. and then we don’t really feel like having a deep, meaningful conversation at that time. So we definitely have more meaningful conversations when we’re walking outside, for sure.
Jeena Cho: [00:25:13] Great. So one final question for you before I let you go. The name of this podcast is called The Resilient Lawyer, what does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?
Jane Springer: [00:25:25] To me, it’s a lawyer, a person who is able to bounce back from a disappointment. And they keep on going, but with a healthy attitude. There’s no self-imposed pressure or condemnation that they might have lost a case. And then one who’s a resilient lawyer is someone who knows how to take care of themselves, so that they can bounce back and have the maximum energy and their maximum brainpower. And also to tag onto that, the resilient lawyer is one who bounces back with compassion and kindness for themselves, because I think that’s super important.
Jeena Cho: [00:26:10] Great response. Jane, thank you so much for joining me today and for sharing your wisdom.
Jane Springer: [00:26:15] You’re very welcome, it was a pleasure being here.
Closing: [00:26:20] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It’s really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we’d love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and look forward to seeing you next week.