By Jeff Johnston
The month of May is Health and Wellness month here at the Alabama State Bar. All of May, through articles and social media posts, the Quality of Life, Health & Wellness Committee is working to promote and educate our legal community on the importance of physical and mental health. However, health and wellness cannot and should not be relegated to only one month of focus. Your health, in all aspects, must be a priority throughout the year!
A 2020 study by the California Lawyers Association revealed troubling statistics :
- Roughly half of practicing attorneys are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, with approximately 30% of those falling in the mild range and nearly 20% falling in the moderate/severe range.
- Over half of the attorneys in the study screened positive for risky drinking, and 30% screened for high-risk, hazardous drinking (which is interpreted as alcohol abuse or possible dependence).
I believe we all have seen a fellow attorney, or ourselves struggle with one or both of these issues. Focusing on your health for only one month does not lead to long-term improvement. We as a community and as individuals must prioritize our own health. Health issues, while ubiquitous, are highly individualized in how they are best dealt with.
I could create a list of exercises, stretches, meditation techniques, diet tips, or reasons to control alcohol use, but I do not know your personal health situation. Luckily, you do. Please consider doing the following assessment to evaluate where you stand with your overall health:
Grab a pen and paper and block out thirty-five minutes of time. For the first fifteen minutes, write down anything that you can think of that you KNOW are bad habits or things that you should improve upon. Then take the next fifteen minutes to list ways that you could address those issues in a positive way. The last five minutes of the assessment are the most important: prioritize those issues from most urgent to least urgent. You do not have to rank order every issue, but you should have three to five primary items on your list. Once you have prioritized your issues, you will be in a position to address them. If you feel overwhelmed or find that the list you have made is too difficult to handle on your own, seek the help and advice of a medical professional or those you trust. You do not have to do this alone.
There is another great resource of aid, one that created just for us lawyers—The Alabama Lawyer’s Assistance Program (ALAP). This program began in 2000 and operates with the utmost confidentiality. Too often we forget the number of resources our legal community has, and ALAP is a great one to remember. I have added a link to the online landing page at the end of this article . ALAP specifically operates to prioritize wellness at all times, not only one month out of the year. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life . Taking care of your health will need to become a habit. It’s time to make a commitment to prioritize our health. It is not always easy to do so, but it is well worth it. Our bodies, minds, family, friends and clients will thank us for it.