When we're stressed, at best we may be irritable, anxious and more prone to colds. At worst, we increase our risk of depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Legal professionals are especially at risk with constant deadlines, pressure to perform, and grueling hours. In fact, according to a study by the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, this causes lawyers to be nearly twice as susceptible to depression and addiction as other highly educated professions.
We're human. With little time to relax, rejuvenate, and refresh, being a legal professional isn't easy on the body. In a perfect world, attorneys and supporting staff would get a weekly massage which allows a release of tension. But the world is imperfect so, instead, you're served up 60-hour weeks or more, nonstop meetings, and endless demands. Who has time for a massage?
That's why you must do your best de-stress on the fly. Make it happen with these five quick and easy tricks that can be done in the office:
- Drink water. Drinking enough water throughout the day enables your body to function correctly. Dehydration exacerbates stress by increasing cortisol. Sufficient hydration improves brain function, increases energy, and decreases pain and stress levels. The Mayo Clinic advises drinking 64 ounces of water daily.
- Inhale essential oils. Create your own aromatherapy “breathe jar” by placing cotton balls in a jar with a few drops of essential oils. Open the jar, place it under your nose and inhale slowly and deeply. For a soft and aromatic touch, add a few drops of essential oil to a hand lotion. Want to calm down? Use lavender. Need to be uplifted and energized? Try citrus oils and wild orange.
- Breathe deeply. Sit back comfortably in your chair. Place one hand over your stomach and the other over your chest. Inhale through your nose; you should feel the hand on your stomach rise while the hand on your chest barely moves. Exhale through your mouth, feel your hand sink into your stomach while, again, the hand on your chest remains almost motionless. Focusing on each breath, try to do this for about 10 minutes. The time will speed by quicker than you expect.
- Tense your muscles. Although it sounds counterintuitive, deliberately tensing a certain muscle group and then relaxing it can release tension. For example, if you feel stress in your shoulders, inhale and then tighten the muscles in your shoulders Hold for ten seconds and then let your shoulders relax. Exhale and feel the tension melt away. Relax for 15 seconds and move on to another muscle group.
- Stretch: Take breaks to move and stretch. Stretching helps to break up muscle strain and to and enhance calmness. In fact, you can stretch nearly every part of your body while at your desk:
- Forearms - Move your wrists up and down or in circular motion.
- Lower legs - Do the same with your feet.
- Neck - Tilt your head up and down and left to right.
- Spine - Sit straight in your chair with hands clasped behind your head, slowly turning to the right so you are comfortably looking behind you. Hold for a few seconds then repeat on the other side.
- Shoulders - Shrug them and roll in a circular motion.
One or two of these tips will help when you find yourself stressed. When you're able - even though it may sound out of reach - take time for yourself to rejuvenate your mind and body. After all, the costs of not doing so are way too high.
About the author
Jessica Josephson is a massage therapist currently working at The Healing Place of Cottage Grove, Minn. She specializes in Swedish massage, Deep tissue treatments, Sports massage, Hot Stone and Prenatal massage. Jessica enjoys being able to help others decrease their pain and stress through massage.