Hey everyone! Welcome to part 3 of our mental health and the bar series. This posting marks the end of this series and, if you’re reading this following the bar exam, congratulations! You have tackled an enormous feat, and you have now begun the transition into your legal career. This transition, however likely, begins with the dreaded “results waiting period” and follows with a legal career which may possibly involve some sort of stress inducement. Unfortunately, these factors can certainly bring up some mental health issues, regardless of a predisposition or an overall stable state of mind. Therefore, developing and maintaining good mental health practices is crucial, especially during this starting point of your career.
In the first two posts of this series we focused on mental health practices that would be beneficial during bar prep study. This post, however, will focus on realigning those practices into a lifestyle and not just a ten-week study period. I do recognize that developing and maintaining a lifestyle change will take some time. Depending on your commitment, it could take months or even years to get into the swing of things. Realistically, even when you’ve formed this habit, it’s very easy to fall off the bandwagon. Therefore, the tips below are by no means foolproof. Instead, review these tips as supplements that you can incorporate into a treatment plan from a medical professional who can help to keep you on track. So, with that said, let’s jump in!
As you transition out of bar prep and into your legal career, consider these three tips: 1) Using your “results waiting period” to practice and begin the development of good mental health habits, 2) incorporating self-care into your work schedule and 3) getting a workplace mentor.
1. Use your Results Waiting Period to Develop Good Mental Health Habits
I know that the results waiting period is an extremely dreaded time. The stress of not knowing your bar exam fate could drive the most mentally stable person insane. With that said, this is the perfect time to continue the good mental health habits you started during bar prep. During this time you may have some extra hours if you have not yet started working a full time job or, if you have started, you may have some flexibility being a newer associate. So how about taking this breathing room to throw yourself into a mental health routine? This is a great time to ramp up those therapy sessions you started or to throw yourself into a good exercise routine and a positive thinking plan. I can personally attest to how draining this wait can be so turning your time to the development of a healthy lifestyle can be a beneficial distraction.
2. Incorporate Self-Care into your Work Schedule
The start of your legal career can be a whirlwind. Once you get going it’s very easy to get swept away into the stress of the daily grind. Therefore, I recommend being deliberate about your mental health and incorporating self-care into your daily work schedule. I know your schedule is already flooded by an overload of deadlines that you must get to, but trust me that a weekly therapy session or mid-day meditation is just as important as that upcoming deposition. Being mentally healthy means that you will be more efficient and being more efficient means that you will be far more successful at your job.
As you put together your schedule for the week, literally incorporate your selected self-care routine into your time-table. Assigning a deadline for each task will likely make you more inclined to get it done. Now I do recognize that there will be times that completing all your self-care tasks may be next to impossible. I recommend incorporating easy to implement tasks within your self-care. These tasks could include taking a moment to get up from your desk and walk around for a few minutes, taking a break to talk to your office mate or a workplace mentor, taking some time to meditate by using one of these awesome apps or simply taking a moment to just close your eyes and breathe. These simple tasks could do wonders for your mental health.
3. Get a Workplace Mentor
It’s no secret that simply talking to someone else can do wonders for your mental health. Hence the reason why having a therapist is probably my number one tip for maintaining a mentally healthy lifestyle. However, in the context of work, it may be beneficial to speak to someone who understands specifically what you’re experiencing on the job. Therefore, my final tip in this series is to get a workplace mentor. As a new attorney, getting a mentor is an excellent idea because, let’s be real, you won’t have any idea what you’re doing. However, having a mentor is even more important in helping you to keep a sound mind. Someone who can tell you what to expect within your job, the pitfalls to avoid and how to balance it all can make a huge difference.
I recommend selecting a mentor who is just a few years ahead of you. It’s beneficial to have a mentor who can still clearly remember what it’s like to be a new attorney. I also recommend choosing someone who is either in the same practice group as you or in a practice group that you aspire to be in. Once you’ve selected this person, be very clear about your intentions for them to guide you. Then, here comes the fun part, set time aside each week to simply talk to this person. Also, be sure to include these talks in your self-care plan. Over time you will see how actively meeting with your mentor can benefit you with a sound mind which will overall contribute to sound mental health.
I hope this series at the very least opened you up to thinking about mental health. While I’m unable to provide any kind of medical advice on this issue, I hope that these tips are at least somewhat helpful in supporting a calm state of mind.