In the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected victory, law firm leaders are struggling to figure out what a Trump administration will mean for business and for the profession. All seem to agree that, combined with Brexit, the effect is likely to be unpredictable. In a season already jam-packed with its own array of stressors, including the holidays, year-end performance assessments and bonus anxieties, this additional layer of uncertainty can deliver a crushing blow to your mental well-being.
So how do you cope? The answer is definitely not catastrophizing about the potential impact on deal flow and trade activity. While it's important to give yourself time, space and permission to feel and process all of the troubling emotions that might come up (e.g., fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc.), the key is to move through them with the goal of getting to a more helpful, empowered and less stressful state. So stay present, do your best to focus on the here, and the now, and try these seven methods to help get you through the final months of 2016:
1. A Gratitude Practice
The world can feel big, its forces scary, and the future out of your control. But if you can ground yourself in the aspects of your life that are positive – your health, your family, your sense of community – and find a moment to be grateful for them, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the rest of the world evaporates. Even if there's nothing about the current situation to be grateful for (although generally if you look hard and deep enough there might be), you can focus on other areas of your life where you can count some blessings.
Your gratitude can range from very big picture things like your relationships, your home or your level of education, to very small and minute things like the arrival of the red cups at Starbucks or the smile on the security guards face when you walk into your building. Some people prefer making a list each morning or night of what they're grateful for, while others like to do it throughout the day as they transition from one segment to the next. Either way, a gratitude practice is a great way to reframe how you're feeling or thinking about what's going on.
2. Meditation and Mindfulness
(Take a breath.)
Observe what’s going on.
(Take another breath.)
Understand that while you might not be able to control some of the external things happening in this moment, you do have control over how you respond to them. Although it may not always seem like it, you're at a moment of choice. You can choose to sit with, explore and process what's coming up for you so that you can let it go or you can choose not to attach to it in the first place. Both are helpful when trying to elevate mental and emotional states. What is not helpful is to attach and give power to unhelpful thoughts and emotions. Staying stuck in the negativity will only exacerbate your stress, preventing you from moving on and taking constructive action. A mindfulness practice can help you exert control by interceding prior to a negative emotional response and creating the space for you to make a conscious choice not to live beyond the present moment. Be in your life today. You’ll deal with tomorrow…tomorrow.
3. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)/Meridian Tapping
A tapping practice can help you face toxic feelings head on: to honor them, feel them, and then ultimately, free them. If you’re not familiar with this practice, it derives from acupuncture, and involves tapping on meridian points of the body in order to release energy blockages caused by negative emotions. By stimulating the meridian points, tapping helps lower cortisol and pull your body out of a stress response and into a state of relaxation. In doing so, it enables you to experience a challenging situation while coming from a more empowered place of calm.
For more guidance on how to tap, you can find a range of "how-to" videos on YouTube. I recommend these two on stress and anxiety by EFT practitioners Julie Schiffman and Brad Yates. You can also check out The Tapping Solution for more general information on the practice.
4. Constructive Conversation
Talking about how you’re feeling is a great way to move through an experience and feel better. That said, it’s easy to find a group of people to wallow with, but have you tried finding your way into a positive conversation? Instead of using the group dynamic to dwell on fears, commit to engaging with your family, friends, colleagues, and community members only in ways that support moving forward. Moods are infectious. Rather than engage in conversation that may keep you stuck in a stress response, make a conscious effort to connect with the people in your life whose energy will help to calm and ground you.
5. Feel Good
Expose yourself to all your “feel goods”. What do I mean by “feel goods”? I mean the things that bring you pleasure. Perhaps it’s exercise, a long-term hobby, or spending time with your loved ones. It can even be food and/or alcohol (in moderation of course). Sometimes our favorite savory meal (read: carbohydrate rich), a cherished dessert or even a beloved cocktail can be the quickest way to lift our mental or emotional state. As long as it's the occasional one-off and balanced by other healthy choices, I say go for it! But here are some guidelines: (1) check in on your intention for having it (e.g., Am I using this to cope or to feel better?); (2) enjoy it mindfully and slowly, savoring every bit or sip; (3) check in periodically and gauge whether it's truly elevating your mood and bringing you pleasure; and (4) don't make yourself feel guilty for having it – that will only make you feel worse and bring the opposite result. Even better, pair it with constructive conversation and add it to your gratitude list. I was grateful last night to share a nice bottle of wine and some fancy pizza with two girlfriends and help each other put things in perspective.
6. Productive Distraction
Find times throughout the day to take breaks or distract yourself from whatever may be causing you stress. One caveat: keep it productive. Often, when we're feeling stressed, engaging in active behavior – like moving a project forward or crossing an item off your to-do list – can help us feel better and more empowered.
My go-to productive distraction is to cross something off my “resistance list”– that is, the items on my to-do list that I've been putting off for long periods of time. It can be something simple like buying the water filter that I need for my refrigerator or making a doctor’s appointment. Another favorite distraction of mine is to declutter something like a drawer that needs organizing or old drafts of documents that are no longer needed and can be recycled.
7. A Media “Fast"
The internet can feel like a bottomless pit of content. Immersing yourself in it for too long can have the same “dwelling” effect as a negative conversation. Take several hours, a day, or even longer and detach yourself from the media’s saturation. Instead of checking social media or the news multiple times a day, switch it up with some of the other suggestions above. You’ll be surprised how cleansing and liberating an experience it can be.
These strategies may sound simple, but they’re not always easy. Try picking one or two that resonate with you, and see what happens. Once you see the benefits, it’ll be easier to make them standing practices. Whatever you choose, remember the most important thing: be kind to yourself.