Five Methods to Transcend From Zealous to Zen

By Marie K. Sarantakis

While the age of technology has amplified productivity, it has endangered tranquility. As attorneys, one of our most vital tasks is to listen. We need to understand our clients’ needs, opposing counsels’ arguments, and judges’ instructions. In many respects, the digital age has enabled us to communicate more effectively; however, it is not without its own complications. We can become clouded by the constant inundation of chatter. Not only do we risk making mindless errors due to distractions, but nervous energy can make us more edgy and confrontational towards those with whom we communicate.

The modern era makes it almost impossible to find silence and solace in one’s own thoughts. We have become acclimated to a connected world of multi-tasking and being bombarded with massive amounts of stimulation. At any given moment, while a television is on in the background, we can receive a text message on our smart phone, an e-mail on our tablet, and a social media alert on our laptop, all while talking to someone standing physically in front of us. When we take in a great deal of content in a short time, it can lack depth and we risk only superficially processing what we hear. By failing to ever take a break and cut out the noise, we do a disservice not only to ourselves, but to our family, friends, and clients.

As lawyers we are used to high-stress environments. We have adjusted to operating under pressure while feeling overwhelmed. Many of us even find it comforting. Be that as it may, it is occasionally necessary to rejuvenate and attain a level of equilibrium. Here are a few ideas to empower you to become more resilient in an ever-connected and fast-paced world:

Yoga – Exercise, and yoga in particular, is a great way to center the mind and body. Lawyers are often portrayed as staunch, loud, and rigid. Yogis are the polar opposite. They release tension, embrace silence, and are flexible. Engaging in yoga can improve posture, mood, and overall well-being.

Cleaning – Whether it is your house, car, or desk, removing the clutter from your space, can often remove cloudiness from your mind. Studies have consistently found that a messy workspace increases stress. By organizing your surroundings you can reduce tension. There is something cathartic about being able to clear out the past and see how far you’ve come. Plus, cleaning requires you to tangibly focus on only one thing at a time.

Weekend Staycation – Sometimes there is nothing better than a mini-escape from reality and a weekend getaway near home can do just the trick. You can enjoy quality time with your loved ones while playing local tourist. A sense of familiarity is comforting, while the sense of wonder is exciting. A staycation can give you a new appreciation for that around you and a sense of serenity, without the burdens of planning a full-fledged vacation.

Spa Retreat– As lawyers we are so used to taking care of everyone else, that we may find it difficult to let go and be taken care of. Going to a spa requires us to turn off our electronic devices and be present in the moment. In addition to the mental benefits, a message can decrease anxiety and insomnia, which are two problems endemic to the legal community.

Meditation – Deep breathing and stillness can enhance mindfulness allowing us to better be able to stay present in the moment and adequately respond to our work and clients. Studies have even shown meditation to improve the exchanges between the right and left sides of the brain. For lawyers this is especially important since we are often using our analytical, problem-solving left brain while creatively and intuitively performing with our right. Strengthening the neural channels is particularly important to an attorney’s trade and well-being.

As law students and lawyers we become accustomed to coping with stress. Due to our busy calendars it is easy to justify ignoring, rather than relieving, anxiety. Despite our technological ability to work 24/7, due to an ever-connectedness to the outside world, ironically, sometimes we have to mindfully and intentionally disengage from the outside world in order to improve ourselves and our work.

This article originally appeared in the WBAI Fall 2015 Newsletter.

HEADSHOT OCT 15Marie Sarantakis is a third-year law student at The John Marshall Law School.  She currently serves as Co-Chair of the WBAI Communications & Social Media Committee.