(Might as well give it a try if nothing else is working!)
If we are honest with ourselves, IP lawyers tend to be a bit obsessive compulsive or even control freaks at times. Attention to deadlines, details and nuances makes us great lawyers. Our greatest strengths can also be our weaknesses, particularly when dealing with uncertainty and lack of control. Most of us are swimming in a tsunami of uncertainty. We have no or little control over events or outcomes. It is a perfect storm of anxiety, depression and feelings of loss.
We hear a lot about mindfulness and meditation these days. Many of us blow it off as ‘New Age nonsense’. Given that many of us have time on our hands and a maelstrom of emotions and fears swirling through our minds, maybe now is a time to try it.
While I am not a mental health professional, I have been an IP lawyer for over three decades, and have had to manage my fair share of life challenges. I offer my vulnerability, practices and experiences to help create curiosity and, hopefully, assist you to get in touch with your emotions and humanity.
1. Celebrate life
Have you noticed how Holocaust films like ‘Life is Beautiful’ and ‘Jojo Rabbit’ find beauty (and even humour) in the most horrific of circumstances? People who have had everything taken away from them truly know that life is precious.
We and our loved ones are experiencing great losses. We only have what is here and now.
Find joy. Find beauty. Slowing down allows us to appreciate what previously may have been in the background or barely noticed, like a flower, a breeze on your cheek or a smile from another person. Even the most subtle connections to nature and others can seismically shift your mood and spirit.
2. Express gratitude
Study after study has shown that people who express gratitude tend to be more resilient. There are various ways you can express your gratitude. You can keep a journal. Each morning or night, write down 3-5 things for which you are grateful. It does not matter how small or big. A great meal. An inspiring conversation. A good hair day (even if no you had no Zoom calls that day.)
It may sound corny, but expressing gratitude can help shift your perspective and reframe your situation. If you do not want to keep a journal, consider writing a letter to or calling someone. Let them know how important they are to you. And think what you will get in return once you learn how happy you have made them!
3. Connect with others
We are all isolated, whether we are sheltering with others or alone. Try to have a meaningful connection with someone at least once a day. It does not have to be long. It just has to be meaningful. It may have to be over Zoom, Skype or the phone. But try to find that connection. It is core to our humanity.
Breathing helps us regulate our emotions and heal. Take slow, deep belly breaths. Pause at the top and bottom of your breath. Close your eyes and try to focus only on your breath. If closing your eyes makes you anxious, keep them open, or close them halfway.
You also may want to find a breathing app. HeartMath is helpful, particularly when having to manage anxiety or feelings of overwhelm. (You need to purchase a sensor, and I get no kickback if you do. See: https://store.heartmath.com/inner-balance/.)
You can also search for inexpensive or free phone apps. If you cannot find anything, put “prana” (the Sanskrit word for life force) in your search.
5. Listen to music
You know what the best music is to soothe your soul? The music you enjoy!
Artists from all over the world are giving concerts on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. You also can download a soothing, life-affirming or get-up-and-dance playlist from Spotify, Pandora or Tidal. Music stirs the soul and calms the mind. It is another way to connect to our spirit. Try dancing or using your hairbrush as a microphone. You might even have some needed fun!
Exercise is key. It helps manage depression, shift your energy, distract you from your woes and combat all of the snacks you may be eating. If your jurisdiction permits it, take a walk, but please wear a mask, particularly if it is mandated where you live.
There is also a myriad of exercise apps and online classes available. The choices can be overwhelming. Consider asking a friend who exercises for details of their preferred app or YouTube programme that he or she thinks will work for you.
Yoga studios are offering free, donation and for-pay online classes. Yoga, a moving meditation that links breath to movement, can be a great way to still the mind.
7. Eat well and hydrate with the right liquids
What we put into our bodies affects our mood, ability to sleep, and overall health. Now is a great time to cook and eat healthily. As difficult as it may be, try to minimise the intake of refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
8. Help someone
Most of us feel helpless, even though by staying home, we are helping countless others. Some of us want to do more. Especially now, small gestures can have a huge impact.
Is there someone who is isolated you can call on FaceTime or the phone? Can you reach out to a child and tell him or her how much you love them? Are you able to buy an elderly neighbour groceries? Even if it is through a window, are able to visit someone in need of a visit? Are you able to give blood? Are you able to donate to a food bank? Do you have sewing talents to make PPE?
Laughing has health benefits. It relieves stress while distracting you from your woes and anxieties. Watch a screwball comedy. Listen to your favourite comedian. I even dare you to even laugh at yourself and your neuroses during this time!
I saved the most challenging suggestion for last… but if you have made it this far in my list, there is a chance you might even try it.
You may already be meditating, but never considered the activity to be a form of meditation. Walking in nature, mowing the lawn, running rosary beads through your hands, praying, crafting, dicing vegetables, or ironing arguably are forms of meditation.
Meditation is a way to calm the mind and give yourself space from your emotions. If you are new to meditation, do not impose unrealistic expectations on yourself. Meditation is a practice, and it takes a lifetime of practice. Let’s face it; most of us will never be the Dalai Lama. (We have too many obligations and bills to pay anyway.)
There are numerous meditation apps. You may want to research a few online and try some free trials to see what works for you. You also may just want to close your eyes and sit in silence or stare at a candle.
Go easy on yourself. Do not hesitate to ask someone for help. Now is the perfect time to be vulnerable. It may even lead to a meaningful human connection, something we all need!
Register for the live webinar ‘Managing mental health during lockdown’ on Wednesday 13 May where Paula Jill Krasny, Clare Davis and Jim Denness will speak about their experiences and tips in a session moderated by Elia Sugrañes; times are 2pm England time, 3pm CET time and 8am Chicago time.
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