By Katelyn Reszitnyk, Reszitnyk Law
“Hope you and your family are staying safe and
These sorts of phrases have become ubiquitous in
recent months. When we’re wishing each other good health, I like to think we’re
not just referring to the obvious. COVID-19 poses a significant concern to
physical health, certainly. But the pandemic as a whole has had an even broader
impact—on mental health.
Lawyers are hardly immune to this, though I’m sure
many of us wish we were. A quick web search tells me that depression and
anxiety are prevalent in the legal community, and have been for years. The
uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to our profession has surely only
magnified this. Right now, we’re in this strange limbo where we are both
stagnant and unable to move forward with various aspects of our files, and
incredibly active and needing to stay on top of the constant legislative
changes we’ve been seeing since March. It’s a lot to take in. Not to mention
the “zoom burnout” so many of us are likely experiencing on top of this.
As a new lawyer, I certainly am feeling the pressure.
So many clients are in greater need of legal assistance now than ever before.
Yet I feel like I am navigating a sea of unknowns, all while still trying to
learn myself and expand my network. I’m sure that these anxieties are not
exclusive to new lawyers like myself. We’re all in this together, after all.
While more experienced lawyers may be more assured in their knowledge of how to
practice day to day, they may, for instance, be struggling more with the rather
rapid introduction of technology in a field that for so long was reluctant to
do so. We’ve all got our new challenges in these times, to be sure.
So… what do we do about it?
Perhaps in some ways I’m fortunate. I’ve dealt with
anxiety and depression (in varying degrees of severity) for over ten years and
have always been quite passionate about making mental health a priority. As
such, I’ve collected a large number of coping strategies. I’d like to share a
few of these with you now. Not all will work well for each person. But my hope
is that even some of you can find one or two strategies that resonate with you,
and put them into practice. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how
can we hope to take care of our clients?
Put “Me time” into your schedule
It’s so easy to go through our day and determine that
we simply don’t have the time. But all this means is that we’re not making
ourselves a priority. If you struggle with finding the time to take care of
yourself, make some time. Put it into your phone, your day planner, or
wherever you keep your schedule. You can even set a reminder for yourself.
Focus on the present moment
There are plenty of different grounding techniques out
there that you can use to keep yourself in the present, rather than dwelling on
the past or worrying over the future. One of my favourites is quite simple—sit
quietly and try to name five things for each sensation. Five things you can
see, five you can hear, five you can touch. Taste and smell are trickier, but can
be done too, especially if you’re taking your lunch break!
Minimize use of social media
This can be a hard one, especially when many of us
make use of social media for networking purposes. But these days, it’s that
much more important. We are receiving a constant stream of information,
opinions, graphics, videos… Some of what we see is useful, while much of it
only adds to stress and anxiety we’re already facing. It can be so tempting to
scroll through social media for a “break”, but resist that urge. At times, what
is best for us is simply to go offline. Take a walk instead, or if you really
want to keep reading, pick up a favourite book. It’s often helpful to read
things we’re already familiar with as it reduces our sense of anxiety—we know
how it’s going to end!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Many of us can be too proud to seek help even when we
know we may need it. But sometimes, we need to set aside our pride and focus on
what is most important. As I said before, we can’t very well be our best for clients
if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. But there are plenty of resources out
there for those seeking help, even specific tools for lawyers. For instance,
the Law Society of Ontario has a fantastic Member Assistance Program which
offers access to counselling services in a variety of formats, including over
the phone and through video call. Many lawyers are unaware of this resource,
but it is absolutely worth taking advantage of, especially at times like
Although these may all seem like simple tips, many of
them are forgotten or overlooked. As we try and navigate this “new normal”, we
must all remember that our health (including mental health) is paramount.
I’ll sign off with the same words I said at the start,
and I truly do mean them—stay well!
Katelyn Reszitnyk practices Employment Law at
Reszitnyk Law. She can be reached at:
Suite 200, Burlington, ON L7L 5H6