We are all disappointed to be starting the first month of a fresh new year with a third lockdown. The government’s guidance does, however, allow us to venture out once a day to complete one form of exercise. In this blog, I want to highlight some of the ways you can make the most of this daily break outside and, at the same time, continue rocking your legal journey!
Yes, you need to inhale and exhale as usual – it’s not a trick suggestion. But the public is also being encouraged to go outside and take deep breaths of fresh air, encouraging more oxygen into the depths of the lungs which reduces the chances of contracting infection. Breathing is also highly beneficial for combating stress and anxiety, something that many lawyers and students experience on a regular basis due to the high expectations of this demanding career. The Junior Lawyers Division wellbeing and resilience report for 2019 revealed that more than 48% of lawyers have experienced mental ill-health, up from 38% in the previous year, while The Law Society Gazette reported that 63% of lawyers are reporting daily stress. The need for breaks and calming influences and mechanisms to de-stress is demonstrably more important than ever. The NHS recommends taking deep breaths in through the nose, and out through the mouth, continuing this cycle for around three to five minutes, whether in a seated or standing position.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits of taking a walk, going for a run or completing a round of pilates, this can also be a valuable time to catch up on the latest legal podcasts. I find that listening to a voice that you are not used to can help to increase your attention span and concentration levels, (which might be waning given your reduced circle of people to talk to). Finding different and innovative ways to mix up your daily routine, especially during these limited circumstances, is crucial to maintaining good mental health and training your brain.
You might like to start with LawCareers.Net’s own in-house series, which covers a wide range of topics relevant to students and junior lawyers. From debating diversity in the industry to advising on how to build a personal brand outside of the law, this podcast has got something for everyone. Episode 20 focuses on how to best prepare for virtual events, and with in-person events off the cards for the foreseeable future, you definitely don’t want to miss out on the top tips in this one!
Going outside is "one of the best things you can do for your brain and your mood” especially during covid-19 restrictions.
Professor Sophie Scott (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).
Support bubbles and exercising outdoors
If you prefer real company on your journey, you could organise a walk, run or cycle, for example, around your local area with someone who you are in a support bubble with (“if you are legally permitted to form one”), with someone you live with or a friend who lives nearby (at a safe distance, of course). Even if they are not on the same career path as you, you can share a path around the park and talk about your respective days or weeks. It is widely agreed that sharing your thoughts and experiences with others is a key way to alleviate mental stress and strain. Unload and exchange your feelings with someone you can confide in, perhaps outside of your bubble (who, let’s face it, already know the ins and outs of your day in too much detail!).
Despite restrictions, we are all still busy in our own way, revising for exams, embracing new projects and tasks, adapting to new working conditions, and trying our best to cope with those typical and often unavoidable January blues. In the legal field, we are qualified to give others advice. That essentially means that people come to us (and moreover, pay us) to share their problems and seek solutions. Why not practice your empathy and advising techniques with that friend on a walk?
Please refer to the government guidelines on meeting others and exercising within your local area.
An indoor option
If you prefer a warmer, cosier option and would rather not brave the frosty mornings or outrageously early sunsets, check out my article “Time for a break?” for some reading recommendations.
There is no pressure to seize every day to the fullest, and sometimes we simply cannot go to bed feeling 100% productive or satisfied. I just hope that you can take away one positive and fulfilling option to choose from for those ‘filler’ days this January.