PRESIDENT’S PAGE DECEMBER 2022
Secure Your Own
Oxygen Mask First
It has been nearly three years since the onset of the COVID-19
pandemic in the United States. Our lawyers were hurting before the
pandemic, and from the data available to the State Bar of Texas, our
lawyers’ suffering is only becoming more exacerbated. While many of us
adapted well to working from home during the pandemic, doing so blurred
the lines between our personal lives and our professional lives. As a
result, many of us are suffering from compassion fatigue because we
can’t remove ourselves from our work long enough to recharge our
batteries and revive our souls.
I confess to suffering from compassion fatigue, and I am committed to making time for self-care so that I can do a better job caring for my clients, my loved ones, and myself.
I know that I am suffering because I have noticed changes in the way I feel physically and mentally. My physical manifestations are that I have more frequent headaches, my sleep is disturbed, and I am exhausted. Emotionally, I feel overwhelmed, apathetic, and have lost interest in things I previously enjoyed. In terms of the effect on my work, I feel a reduced sense of accomplishment and joy, experience a sense of inadequacy, and have to buttress myself so as not to avoid clients who cause me extreme stress.
We have known for a long time that the law is a challenging profession. Research shows that lawyers are the most-often depressed professionals out of 105 professions. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in our profession behind only cancer and heart disease.
In 2015, the American Bar Association studied almost 13,000 attorneys to determine their mental condition. Almost 50% of the lawyers who responded reported having been depressed. Almost 30% reported suffering from clinical depression, over 60% reported suffering from anxiety, almost 20% reported having anxiety disorders, and almost 12% considered suicide.
To have good mental health, we need to secure our own oxygen masks first. We need to focus on self-care by making time to do things that we love to do. For me, self-care involves getting plenty of sleep, especially catching up on my sleep during the weekends. It also means that I need to make time for a daily walk outdoors where I can clear my head, get more exposure to sunlight, and focus on the beauty of the outdoors. It also means making sure to eat well, minimizing my portion size, and making healthy food choices.
Last weekend I started the process of making my own mental health my top priority. I made time to go for a long walk on the beach. This week, I will be taking a mental health day where I do no work at all and instead focus on exercise, rest, and reading a good book. I also intend to surround myself with people who make me happy and help renew my feeling of optimism.
I look forward to returning to my happy self, who rises early with anticipation of a full and productive day. I am excited to return to having a sense of gratefulness for all the gifts I have been given in this life. I am especially looking forward to my renewed energy that enables me to be a good lawyer for my clients.
We have just concluded the month of November, which is the time for us to be thankful. I am thankful that I was able to recognize the signs of compassion fatigue in my life and that I have the strength to reverse that process to allow me to secure my own oxygen mask first, so that I can be of service to others.
I hope that you will join me in making self-care a priority as we conclude this season of thanksgiving and enter December, the month of giving. What a perfect time for you to give the gift of self-care to yourself!
Thank you for your time, attention, and most of all, your support.
State Bar of Texas
Laura Gibson can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.TBJ