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4 ways to make the winter break more meaningful

The holiday season is upon us! It’s that natural time of year where people usually forget what day it is, and the weather is still deciding whether or not to drop any snow or too much snow. 

If you’re part of a legal team, this time of year can be especially stressful; the need to complete more hours or be available to partners or members of your firm may be overwhelming. The cost of being productive and successful, however, shouldn’t mean sacrificing your mental and physical wellbeing. Lawyers can often experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress without realising so. According to a survey from 2012 by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), 58% of lawyers, judges, and law students surveyed had experienced significant stress/burnout, 48% had experienced anxiety and 25% had suffered from depression. These symptoms can ultimately lead to a much more serious situation. The winter holiday season is a great opportunity to reduce stress and its toll on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Below, we’ve outlined a few strategies to bring balance to your life during the winter break. 

1. Setting realistic boundaries for work hours during the holiday season

The law profession has normalized excessive working hours, something that’s been exacerbated during the pandemic where working from home eliminated the ritual of commuting, and delineated working and non-working hours. Limiting your work hours to a certain amount of time per day during the winter break is a great start to practicing healthy work-life balance. 

For example, you can decide to have an hour a day from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. where you’ll have access to your devices for work related tasks. If you’re required to work in-person in an office, a great place to start is developing an agreement with your firm for when and how long you will need to be available for work. 

2. Separate work from home with space

Nowadays, technology has only amplified how connected we are to everything - including our work. If you are concerned about your work bleeding into your personal time over the holidays, separate the two with physical space. Perhaps you can move all of your work equipment, should you have a work from home set up, to another location in your home where you won’t be as tempted to check for updates when family or friends are over. If you are travelling or visiting friends, you can leave your work devices at home instead of bringing them with you to create a boundary between your work time and your personal time.

3. Take mindful breaks if you are unable to step away from your work

We understand that celebrating the holidays may not be in your calendar this year, for personal reasons or work reasons. In this case, we suggest taking small breaks throughout the day to feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. Small breaks can include going for a walk outside to grab a cup of coffee, connecting with family or friends over the phone for a quick chat, or setting a 10-15 minute alarm every few hours for “you” time. Your small breaks can equally be opportunities to implement mindfulness or practice meditation. Mindfulness for Lawyers provides guided meditations and handbooks to learn more about calming the mind and body. These small actions can ultimately reduce stress and help you be more present in the moment. 

4. Practicing wellbeing 

Becoming more aware of wellness and its place in your day to day life is crucial. Wellness involves doing whatever you need to do to feel better and be healthier. More specifically for lawyers, wellness can be whatever improves your work-life balance, helps you manage stress better, fosters a more positive mindset and promotes habits of consistent self-care. Prioritizing habits you may have been neglecting, such as personal fitness goals, lifestyle changes, or connecting with close friends and family, can help you achieve wellness. You can read the Clio article on lawyer wellness and mental health for a detailed overview of wellbeing habits and practices. 

We hope that this holiday season finds you well, and provides you with the opportunity to disconnect from work and reconnect with family and friends. 

Enjoy the winter festivities and the quality time with loved ones. 

The CiteRight team

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