On Friday, I was supposed to fly home to Michigan at 6:30 am so I took the day off from work. Instead, the flight was cancelled and I had to reschedule for Saturday. After rescheduling my flight, I got back in bed and slept and slept and slept until around noon. I hadn’t slept that late in maybe a year. And for the remainder of the day I remained completely wiped out. I was detoxing from my work as I typically do during the weekends.
As lawyers, we don’t know what we are doing to ourselves because we work so much that we don’t have time to think about it. We are constantly in adversarial positions where either opposing counsel, a witness or our client is mad at us. We get emotionally attached to the outcomes of our cases. And it seems like the ones we are most invested in, the ones that we have spent late nights and weekends working on, are the ones that settle on the eve of trial or the ones that have the most fatal flaws that we have absolutely no control over. But we are addicted to the rush of it all.
We are hooked on the drug of panic to payoff cycle: get an emergent assignment, go through the panic of possibly failing, trying to find the right cases that will support the position we are arguing, put together a brief or memo, forward it to the partner for review, edit based on the partner’s edits and then get the product out the door. Take a few moments to bask in the payoff of the accomplishment, relief and positive feedback you may get for a job well done. Then rinse and repeat. We as lawyers thrive on this cycle. But it is also the source of our built-up stress and anxiety. We can’t really feel its effects until we get away from it for a while.
When I go home for any length of time, I spend the first few days detoxing from the panic drug. I sleep late and don’t do anything that requires much cognitive effort. Then, as the days go by, I’m better, but craving the drug again. I cannot spend more than a week away from work before I start going crazy and need to get back. I need to feel the rush of the practice of law again. I need the panic followed by the payoff. And, like most lawyers, I often ask myself whether this addiction is sustainable but have no idea what I would take in its place if I left it.
This is why I created this blog. For those of us who know that our jobs are stressful but love them nonetheless. For those of us who want to keep doing the work but want to learn how to manage the stress and anxiety with something other than alcohol.
It is so relieving to know that something as complex as stress and anxiety may be solved by something as simple as meditation or yoga. I’m obviously not a medical professional and cannot tell you that meditation can replace medication, but it has been a great alternative for me. And I hope to help other lawyers and busy professionals discover its benefits as well.
Are you also addicted to the panic drug? Please let me know in the comments!