Wish you were still on holiday? Then it’s time for change!
In this first article in their fortnightly column on well-being in the law, systemic coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister James Pereira QC invite you to use the post-holiday period to start the process of change to reinvigorate your life and its approach to work.
All lawyers know that there is a vast difference between theory and practice. The return to work after the summer vacation is no different.
You should be feeling refreshed, invigorated and energised, eager to tackle the challenges that face you in the months ahead. Bring it on!
In practice the outlook is often rather gloomy: inbox full, deadlines looming (particularly the ones you put off so that you could go on holiday in the first place), diaries packed with seemingly impossible commitments, and office politics as tiresome as ever.
Those lazy laid back days on the beach, the moments of pleasure with family and friends, the quiet time connecting with yourself and your partner, they all seem a world away; and the plans you made for yourself, they all seem increasingly unrealistic.
“It feels like I’ve been back for ages” you say to your colleagues, “why do holidays wear off so quickly?”
Before you know it, you fall back into a well-worn pattern of stress and anxiety, you struggle on until the next vacation, and so it goes on.
If this sounds familiar, then listen up: it does not need to be this way. A productive and fulfilling working life can and should walk hand-in-hand with happiness and well-being. The two compliment and support each other. Happy workers are productive, and vice versa.
So, as you ponder the post-holiday blues, here are some suggestions to support the process of change towards a happier, healthier life:
Tap into your feelings
Our feelings provide us with an intuitive sense of what is right or wrong for us as individuals. When we feel good, we feel strong, authentic and more like ourselves. When we are caught in patterns of behaviour that make us anxious or unhappy, we are weakened by them, and we can feel a sense of living a life that is not really our own.
Rather than suppressing or trying to manage your feelings, tap into them. Listen to them and respect them; they are every bit as valuable as your best legal reasoning. Use them as a force for change. Seek professional help in understanding them if you need to.
Change your perspective
Rather than facing the weeks ahead with foreboding, view your start back to work as an opportunity for change. Take stock of what you want to carry forward in life, what you want to leave behind, and what you want to create for your future. Nature starts the process of change and renewal in autumn, and it is therefore a great time to start the process of change and renewal on a personal level.
Blend life and work
The popular notion of “life-work balance” starts from the false premise that work is not part of life, and then sets one in perpetual opposition to the other, in an unending and fruitless competition. Instead of trying to balance your work and your leisure, blend them.
Build into your working day and working week activities that support your well-being. View these activities and your work as complimentary, rather than being in conflict. They should support each other. Value and respect them both equally.
Start now with small steps
Many people put conditions on their happiness, telling themselves that they will be fine once a significant event takes place in the future – when they finish a big case, get a promotion, get married or buy a house. This is really a formula to avoid change: if the future event ever comes to pass, something else will have already taken its place as the pre-condition to happiness. In the meantime, life passes by unhappily and unchanged.
Understand that happiness is a state of being, and you can only experience it by being in the present. Start now by taking small, achievable steps in your daily life that can support your well-being. In time, the incremental gain from these small steps can accumulate into big changes.
As with many things in life, talking about change is easier than actually bringing about change. Indeed, the very thought of change can be challenging, even frightening, for many people, particularly those attracted to a traditional profession such as the law.
In our next article, we discuss how our beliefs about ourselves and our situation can limit our ability to change, and how re-visiting and re-formulating these beliefs can expand our ability to adopt new, healthier patterns in life.
The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and james.pereiraQC@ftbchambers.co.uk