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Help and Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing
Virtual Attorney Support Group
The Lawyer Assistance Program hosts a weekly virtual support group to help you structure a time in your day to connect with others, cope with stress and create healthy routines for maintaining psychological and emotional health during this time. Our groups meet on Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. via Webex, an online meeting platform.
RSVP by emailing Emily Lambert, Clinical Coordinator at LAP at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will send you a Webex invite with instructions on how to access the group.
Topics addressed in the group will include:
1. Combatting isolation and accessing support in a time of social isolation and distance
2. Techniques to manage stress and anxiety
3. Distress tolerance, emotion regulation and mindfulness techniques
4. Creating a routine to maintain physical and emotional health
5. Career/employment issues
6. Maintaining work/life balance while working from home
7. Family/relationship issues
8. Sustaining hope, looking ahead
Although our offices are temporarily closed, LAP counseling services and resources are available remotely to our legal community and your families during this challenging time.
It’s normal for stress, anxiety and panic to arise when we are working remotely, have changes in routine, are social distancing and have concerns for ourselves and our loved ones health and well-being.
If you or anyone in your family has a mental health or substance use issue, it’s essential to keep connected.
Please feel free to contact us by phone, email or text for a confidential chat.
Eileen Travis, Director
Emily Lambert, Clinical Coordinator
Confidential helpline: 212-302-5787 (leave a message)
Eileen Travis, call or text: 917-488-4890
We fully understand that the changes you are making to adapt during this time very challenging time can impact your wellbeing and effect your mental health. We offer these resources to help you address any issues you may be faced with.
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
The CDC site is likely to offer the most up to date information on the COVID-19 virus.
NYS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
This New York resource is continually updated with recommendations and data.
“The Leader’s Guide To Managing COVID-19 Panic” by Jan Bruce
“8 Strategies to Set Up Remote Work During the Coronavirus Outbreak” by Marten Mickos
"Stigma and Resilience" published by the CDC
“Dealing with Social Isolation” by Brian Cuban, author of “The Addicted Lawyer”
“100 things to do while stuck inside due to a pandemic” published by USA TODAY
The National Suicide Prevention Lifelineprovides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via a medium people already use and trust: text.
Text “HOME” to 741741
ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE RECOVERY RESOURCES
STRESS AND ANXIETY
“Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19” published by the CDC
“How do you keep down your stress levels at the office?” by Stephen Rynkiewicz
STAYING MENTALLY HEALTHY
“Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty” published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Staying Mentally Healthy During the Coronavirus” published by The Change Direction initiative
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers tips for people with mental illness
MORE WELLBEING TIPS
Our circumstances have significantly changed in the past month, exacerbating anxiety, fear and worry. Using any of the typical stress management strategies are excellent ways to reduce stress, such as: eating healthy meals, maintaining a routine, being gentle with yourself, taking time for activities you enjoy, getting outside in nature, exercising, avoiding self-medication with alcohol or drugs, using a relaxation practice (meditation, yoga, deep breathing), reaching out to others.
Another tool for managing stress is practicing gratitude. Taking time to recognize what is good in life helps shift our focus, reframe negative thoughts and allows us to express more compassion and kindness to ourselves and our families, colleagues, friends and clients. Even in this challenging time, we can find joy in the moment.
Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, morning or evening, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. Start a gratitude jar ( a box or any receptacle will do). Any time you experience gratitude, write it down and put it in the jar. Periodically empty the jar and review what you have written. Send a gratitude email or text to share your appreciation for others who have positively impacted your life.
True self-acceptance is embracing who we are without any judgement or conditions. It means embracing our whole self, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Accepting ourselves is even more important during this time of transition and uncertainty.
Being gentle with ourselves for not being perfect strengthens self-esteem. Having compassion for ourselves fortifies our ability to be compassionate to others, all the important people our lives, family members, friends, colleagues and clients.
Self-acceptance can facilitate resilience by moderating our reaction to issues that arise in times of crisis. It reminds us that it’s okay to do the best we can do each day.
- Be kind to yourself, no one judges us more than we judge ourselves
- Stay positive, soothe the doubting voices in your head by replacing them with positive thoughts
- Accept imperfection, don’t let obsessing about perfection prevent you from being productive
- Believe in yourself, remind yourself of difficulties you have gone through and survived and think of yourself as a strong person who can deal with any challenge that comes you way
If you are faced with a challenge
Refuse to be panic-stricken
Life has not ended for you
Life flows on. Declare for yourself:
I accept the reality of this situation.
But not its permanence
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Today the world is asking us to adapt to a new reality, one that requires us to leave our comfort zones and find new ways to work, stay connected, care for our loved ones and stay healthy mentally and physically. We are challenged with discovering ways to manage our thoughts, actions and feelings in this unprecedented time.
It’s a great time to treat ourselves and others with the respect we deserve. Practicing self-compassion is giving ourselves permission to be human. To acknowledge that we are all walking through unchartered waters and to accept that we don’t have all the answers.
Psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff is credited with defining self-compassion as having “kindness, gentleness and understanding towards yourself”, especially during times of uncertainty. Research has consistently shown that practicing self-compassion can create greater social connectedness, reduce anxiety, depression, shame and worry, increase emotional intelligence and help us choose between reacting out of fear and responding with kindness. Self-compassion is the first step in having compassion for others.
Ways to practice self-compassion:
- Treat yourself as you would a small child or a beloved pet, with unconditional love and acceptance.
- Develop awareness of when your “critical inner voice” is present without trying to change it. Understand that it was probably helpful to you in the past and you can now choose to let go of it.
- Remember that you are not alone. Whatever you are going through is shared by millions of others all over the world, it is our shared humanity, not one of us is perfect, we are all trying to find our way.
- Give yourself a “permission slip” to be imperfect. Focus on your potential. Remember other times you struggled through a difficult situation and not only survived but helped you to thrive.
- Reach out to others. Support and guidance can help you change your negative beliefs and take positive steps towards overall well-being. Being available to others with compassion and grace completes the circle.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
If you are having difficulty staying focused, you are not alone! Adapting to our “new normal” impacts us mentally and can compromise our ability to stay focused and productive. “Mind wandering” is a common everyday experience in which our attention strays from a task or project we are engaged in. Mind wandering can involve thoughts of the past or of an uncertain future. In either case, it veers us away from the present moment.
Michael McCreary, Associate Editor of Entrepreneur, in his April 16, 2020 article, suggests several ways to refocus a wandering mind:
- Add a deliberate distraction—play music without lyrics, adding background noise has been shown to boost concentration
- Allow your mind a moment to daydream—a Harvard psychologist suggests that pausing occasionally to think about something unrelated can invigorate focus when you return to your task
- Identify and eliminate stressors—stressors can draw your attention away from productivity (this is a hard one, better to acknowledge your stressors and put them aside for the time being).
- Count slowly as you breathe—Buddhist meditators laud the benefits of breath-counting meditation that cleanses distracting thoughts and builds concentration power
- Monitor your mind wandering and bring it back on task. Noticing when your mind starts to wander gives you a chance to think “my mind has wondered off again” which activates circuits that help you get back on track.
The American Bar Association's (ABA) Task Force on Lawyer Well-being describes well-being as "striving to thrive across these six dimensions"
- Occupational - cultivating personal satisfaction, growth and enrichment in work along with financial stability.
- Emotional - developing the ability to identify and manage our emotions to support mental health, achieve goals, and inform decision making. Seeking outside help for mental health when needed.
- Physical - striving for regular physical activity/exercise, proper diet and nutrition, good sleep, hygiene, and minimizing the use of addictive substances. Seeking help for physical health when needed.
- Intellectual - engaging in continuous learning and pursuing creative or intellectually challenging activities to foster ongoing cognitive development.
- Spiritual - developing a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
- Social - developing a sense of connection, belonging and well-developed support and social networks while also contributing to groups of families and friends as well as broader society and communities.
In challenging times such as these, it may be harder to focus on some of these areas of wellness and it may require some creativity and flexibility in how we can build up these various dimensions of well-being. It can be helpful to pick one or two of these areas to focus on and work on each day. For example, one day this week one could decide to focus on their physical well-being and try a new at-home exercise, and on another day shift to focus on social well-being and reach out to a friend via the phone or schedule a zoom get-together with friends to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness during the pandemic. By looking at wellness in a multi-dimensional way, it can help illuminate areas of strength as well as areas to improve in our lives.
This acronym was created in 1941 in AA as a relapse prevention tool. The idea is to ask yourself if you are feeling “hungry, angry, lonely or tired” and then to satisfy that need or needs in order to maintain balance. It remains an important part of recovery today and has been widely adopted as a mental health self-care tool to increase self-awareness and enhance well-being. When one or more of these basic needs are not met we are more susceptible to negative thoughts and behaviors. Adding HALT to your “toolkit” provides you with the opportunity to check in with yourself when you are feeling stressed, anxious, agitated, frustrated, or aren’t sure what’s going on.
HUNGRY — Hunger can be physical, emotional or even spiritual. We may simply need to eat to satisfy physical hunger, or we may be emotionally hungry and need to reach out to and be comforted by others. We can be hungry for an explanation of how the world we knew just a few months ago has changed and for a desire to return to normalcy.
ANGRY — Anger is a normal human emotion, neither good not bad. It is complex and can accelerate rapidly. It is often a reaction to frustration and stress. Anger can also be a defense mechanism masking other emotions (fear, sadness) that may be difficult to express. We may not be able to change the source of our anger, but we can change our response to it. We may be angry at the loss of our daily routines, or the lack of control we have about the future.
LONELY — Loneliness is particularly relevant to what many of us are experiencing right now. We are separated from family members and friends, our normal work environments, and the everyday tasks we take for granted. Staying connected to each other and having a support system is more important than ever. Checking in on others, especially those who are vulnerable and have fewer resources, can increase our own sense of well-being.
TIRED — We all know that lack of sleep effects every area of our functioning. The results range from feelings of stress to fatigue and the sense of being overwhelmed by life circumstances. Quality of sleep is also important. It’s a time to rest both your body and mind so that you wake rejuvenated.
Practicing HALT is one way to remember that taking care of our basic needs requires daily practice. It helps us recognize our vulnerabilities and take appropriate action to strengthen our wellbeing.
Practice the 4 A’s to Manage Stress
Stress is a normal human emotion and not always negative. We need some stress to motivate us, be creative and challenge ourselves. Too much stress, however, can impact our ability to function effectively and put our wellbeing at risk. The “4 A’s” provide guidelines for recognizing triggers, intervening and changing how we handle stress to preserve wellbeing.
The first step is to identify situations, people, places and things that stress you out. Spending too much time watching the news, getting into a power struggle with your partner or child, being unforgiving with yourself if you think you are not perfect. A lot of needless stress can simply be avoided.
- Take control of your space. Have a dedicated place to work as separate as possible. Other areas should be work free zones.
- Learn to say no. You have a lot of demands on your time and responsibilities. May sure you schedule in down time to relax and regroup
After you identify your stress triggers, you have the power to change your response to your benefit.
- Don’t react, respond. When dealing with others, communicate your feelings honestly and openly, with kindness. Keeping silent when something is bothering you can increase stress.
- Temper your expectations of yourself and others.
- Make your boundaries clear. If you are busy and someone wants something from you, you can say, “I only have a few minutes” or “I can get back to you later.”
- Manage your time efficiently and reap the rewards of having extra time for yourself.
“I have the courage to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to change the things I can.” This is one of many mantras in the recovery community and so apropos to the current situation we all share.
- Look at the big picture to determine what is beyond your control and focus on what is within your control.
- Talk to someone. You may not be able to change a situation, but still feel frustrated. Share it with family, friends or colleagues who will listen with compassion.
- Practice positive self-talk. One negative thought can lead to another and leave you feeling exhausted. This is a time to be gentle with yourself.
Changing expectations and adjusting your usual standards helps with stress management.
- Reframe an issue. Look at your unique situation from a new viewpoint. Instead of feeling frustrated by social distancing, think of new ways to stay connected to family and friends.
- Adopt a mantra. Create a positive saying that is meaningful to you, such as, “I have everything I need to cope with this situation.” Repeat it several times a day.
Mental Health Awareness Month - Tools to Thrive
- Allow yourself to feel – this is a good time to let go of any beliefs you have that feeling your feelings is not acceptable.
- Don’t ignore how you are feeling – don’t allow feelings to get bottled up to the point where you will explode. Take time to process strong feelings, but don’t wait too long.
- Talk it out – do this with someone you trust. It’s a great way to get perspective and guidance. It can help you to process your feelings and think about how you may want to respond to someone who may have triggered a particular feeling.
- Build your emotional vocabulary – how many times have you answered “fine” or “good” when that’s not how you are really feeling? It’s important that you have the language to describe your emotions beyond, “sad, glad or mad.”
- Try journaling – each day write down 2-3 feelings you experienced during the day and what caused them. It can help you become more comfortable with expressing your feelings.
- Consider the strength of your feelings – journaling can also help to clarify what is really going on. You may initially describe a feeling as “stress” when what was really going on was “annoyance.”
- Seek professional guidance – If you are having a hard time dealing with your emotions Mental Health Professionals are trained to help you.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We’ve been challenged by this pandemic to take many first steps as we struggle to adjust to changing everything about how we live on a daily basis.
As we get through, a day at a time, it’s easy to forget that we actually accomplished something important, met a goal or had a precious moment connecting with family, friends or colleagues.
There's no better way to celebrate the end of “May is National Mental Health Awareness Month” then to encourage everyone to:
“CELEBRATE YOURSELF” Accept-Encourage-Empower
Some of these wonderful insights can be found on: thriveglobal.com. Taking the time to celebrate who you are and honor your efforts and successes, no matter how small, can be a reminder of what’s really important.
You can make a daily practice of celebrating yourself by:
- Looking at your accomplishments no matter how small
- Focusing on your achievements
- Reminding yourself that you have inner strengths
- Being grateful for everything and everyone in your life
- Finding joy in the little moments of your day
- Identifying ways you are manifesting your purpose
Reasons to celebrate yourself:
- It reminds you to enjoy the journey. Pausing to be present in the moment is key to developing a mindset that allows you to appreciate the small things that make life worthwhile. Savor the moment!
- It’s an act of self-compassion, it increases self-kindness and decreases self-criticism.
- It reminds you to be grateful. Celebrating yourself means taking the time to be truly grateful. Celebrating yourself every day is a way to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” that can shift your entire perspective on life.
- It increases your confidence. The more you celebrate yourself, the more your level of confidence grows. Be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. Radiating positive energy inspires those around you to be confident as well.
When you take time every day to acknowledge the little steps that you are taking towards achieving your goals, you strengthen those actions. Do for yourself what you do for others, unselfishly and generously. Celebrate who you are now, not your future self or the person you wish you were. In what ways can you acknowledge yourself today and celebrate the very existence of who you are?
The staff of the City Bar’s Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) are all trained mental health and substance use professionals who are available to help you or someone you are concerned about, safely, confidentially and free of charge.
If you are having difficulty managing your stress, anxiety or have concerns about the uncertainty of our times, LAP is also offering a free and confidential Virtual Support Group, beginning Wednesday, May 18th at noon. If you are interested in participating, please contact:
Emily Lambert, JD, LCSW LAP Clinical Coordinator