by Jennifer Martinez
As Seen In the October 2021 NOTA BENE newsletter by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board
Wellness. What is it? How do you get it? How do you keep it? Is wellness the same as happy and balanced or is it simply not having ailments? Does wellness come from happiness and balance? Those are some of the questions that I asked myself when I was approached about this article. My first thought about wellness was that the wellness hype is everywhere. Be mindful! Meditate! Unblock your chakras! Find a work/life balance! Employers institute "wellness" programs for employees. Prospective employees inquire as to how employers will provide them a work/life balance. It has almost become taboo to work long hours. But what if work is something that you enjoy? Is that contrary to wellness? I do not think so.
At first, I scoffed at the phrase "work/life balance" because I thought it was for wimps. I thought it was a way to weasel out of working hard and that having a work/life balance required certain parameters for work and wellness because the two did not go together. After years of that internal battle, I finally realized that I was wrong. I realized that balance does not require rules or time constraints because such things are actually contrary to the ebb and flow of what it means to be balanced and to be well. Balance comes from choices that bring happiness. Happiness brings about wellness.
I cannot count the number of times that I have been told that I work too much. I, however, strongly disagree. I generally work as much and as often as I want to work, which, in all honesty, is quite a bit. But I love it. I love the challenge. I love collaborating with colleagues. And I love getting good results for clients. I am proud of who I am professionally and of my contributions to my profession. For me, work is invigorating. Still, there are also many times that I enjoy socializing, sitting around doing absolutely nothing, reading, watching movies, drinking a glass (or so) of good wine, and sharing good meals with friends and family. But sometimes it is not so easy to flip the switch. Sometimes we have to get creative. You are definitely a better judge of what you need to find balance and wellness in your life, but I would like to offer a couple of tips that I have learned over the years.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with work, which is often a daily experience in the practice of law, make a task list. A very wise attorney, friend, and mentor taught me to take a moment in the morning to write down the five most important tasks for your day. Yes, only five because a list of five looks far less daunting than a list of ten. Five is also practical considering the high probability that ten more tasks with priority will appear during the workday. As you finish each task, scratch it out and move on to the next one. Do not add other tasks until you finish those five. Sometimes the simple act of scratching out those tasks one by one and finally completing that list brings about the greatest sense of accomplishment. Sometimes the small wins matter the most.
Do not forget to breathe. When the going gets rough, take a step back and breathe deep. Long breath in and a long breath out. Repeat. Did you know that it is physically impossible to have a stress response and breathe deep at the same time? You would be surprised what a few deep breaths can do. Try it. It is worth a shot!
I am also a firm believer in "taking off well." I do not like to use precious time off when I am not feeling well or because something comes up that requires my attention. I have committed myself to "making up time" on a weekend or by working extra hours during the week if necessary because I want to spend my time off on my own agenda. Sometimes those days are filled with activities and sometimes they are "mental health" days spent watching movies by myself. Anything goes on your day off. Take those days because they are invaluable.
Someone recently posted on social media: "We all need to chill. I won't go first but it's something I've noticed." I have no idea why that person wrote the post, but I felt it in my own context of work. I might not always be the first to chill, but I do when I am ready and if I need to. Enjoy your work and be proud of it. Work hard but be willing to take care of yourself. Enjoy your life and be thankful for it. We all have a lot to face these days with Covid, stress, and hurricanes, so be well and stay safe.
To link to the article on the Nota Bene website, please click below:
About the Author:
Jennifer Martinez is an attorney at Pipes Miles Beckman in New Orleans. Since entering private practice, she has represented insurers, private companies and individuals in many different areas of law including construction, contract, bad faith, fraud, labor and employment, premises liability, and unfair trade practice disputes. She has also served as a hearing committee member for the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board. Jennifer is a graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and the University of New Orleans.