More about Stress and COVID-19: Connect, Talk, and Take Control

If you are feeling anxious or stressed, you are in good company. The coronavirus is a triple threat of worry. We are concerned for our health, the safety of family and friends, and the viability of our practices. What can we do?

Don’t Brush it Off

Before you tune out … Are you having difficulty concentrating? Been making small mistakes? Is doing work the last thing you want to deal with right now? Do you sense staff or colleagues might be having some of these reactions?

Please read this post. Even if you’re powering through this like a champ, someone else may not be.

Make Safe Social Connections

Make regular phone calls – to colleagues, clients, friends, and family. Send texts, email, video conference. Do more than conduct business when reaching out for work. Offer support. You’ll get it back in return. It’s not just a saying – we really are in this together.

Once you start the habit of connecting, keep it up. Use your calendar to schedule time for daily calls and contacts.

Get Up and Out

Get out of the house. Take advantage of the uplifting benefits of going on walks with household family members or pets. If the situation dictates, walk alone. Give a friendly wave or exchange a few words at a distance with others who are out and about.

Take Care of Yourself

Walking will help. So will turning off the news and putting down devices. Keep a regular sleep schedule. Eat healthy.

Dodge the Myths, Rumors, and Hype

Rely on official sources for information, including your county health department, Oregon Health Authority, and Centers for Disease Control. Check out the World Health Organization myth busters page.

Ask a Lawyer Who Knows

If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just want to talk to someone who can relate to you, call the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. The OAAP is open for business. Call or schedule a video conference with an attorney counselor today.

OAAP services are free and confidential. Each OAAP attorney counselor is both a lawyer and a counselor. They’ve been there, they are there, and they understand what you’re facing.

Call the OAAP at 503.226.1057 or 800.321.6227 (toll-free), email one of the attorney counselors, or visit the OAAP website. You can also reach out to your county health authority’s COVID-19 hotline.

Take Control

Even when some things are out of our control, there are always things that we as individuals and communities can control.

Wise words from Deschutes County Public Health Authority.

  • Follow physical health recommendations made by the experts.
  • Read tomorrow’s post on suggestions for how to work remotely.
  • Schedule phone calls and other social and professional connections as noted above.
  • Review and prioritize work to do on specific files. Make a to-do list, then transfer the to-dos to your calendar by scheduling appointments with files to get the work done.
  • Remember to make time on your calendar to do admin tasks like billing. Set aside dates/times to get statements out. Feeling guilty about billing clients right now? Offer payment plans. You have a family to support as well.
  • Address concerns about getting new clients by revisiting your marketing plan. People still need legal advice, perhaps more so now. Be creative. Change up how you meet, interview, and collect documents. Use technology whenever you can. When you can’t, seek out alternatives. They may not be ideal, but if they work, so what? For example, sending a non-tech potential client a postage-paid manila envelope to obtain papers. (Remind clients to let mail sit without physical contact to protect their health, then take your own advice. The virus survives on surfaces for varying amounts of time. See tomorrow’s post on working remotely.)
  • Most trials and hearings are postponed until June 1, 2020. Statutes of limitation and rule-based deadlines are likely to be suspended. Our Chief Justice is seeking legislative authority to do this now. Video and phone appearances are likely to be the norm in the near future.

Tips for Parents from DCPHA*

Remain calm and reassuring. If true, emphasize to your children that they and your family are fine.

Make yourself available. Let your children talk and give them plenty of time and attention.

Talk to children in language they can understand. The CDC suggests telling children that, from what doctors have seen so far, most kids aren’t getting very sick. In fact, most people who have gotten COVID-19 haven’t gotten very sick. Only a small group have had serious problems. Keep the conversation going. Make time to check in regularly as the situation develops. Take cues from your child if they become afraid or overwhelmed offer comfort. If you need help, seek professional health.

Avoid language that stigmatizes or assigns blame. Remind children that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race, ethnicity or national origin. Monitor television viewing and social media. Try to limit children’s exposure to media and talk about what they are seeing. Use only reliable sources of information.

Teach strategies to prevent infection. Remind children to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (or the length of two “Happy Birthday” songs) when they come in from outside, before they eat, and after blowing their nose, coughing, sneezing, or using the bathroom. Find more information, visit this resource.

Maintain healthy behaviors and household routines. Serve nutritious meals, encourage adequate sleep and exercise, and maintain household routines to the extent possible.

When to Seek Help

Seek help if you’re struggling with persistent inability to sleep, increasing drug or alcohol use, an overwhelming sense of depression or panic, urges to harm yourself or others, or an inability to take care of yourself or those who depend on you.

Find help in your area

Find online help or crisis services here.

Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1.800.273.TALK (8255) (available 24/7).

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis with enormous appreciation to *Deschutes County Public Health Authority for their helpful words, suggestions for parents, and inspiration to write this post.

The Stress of COVID-19

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) provides confidential and free counseling assistance to lawyers, judges, and law students.

If you, or someone you care about, are feeling overwhelmed, the OAAP is here for you.

The OAAP remains open and attorney counselors are available for individual appointments by telephone or video conference. Set up an appointment today.

Meet the New Oregon Attorney Assistance Program

Well, not exactly. But meet the new OAAP website! Find events that meet your needs or speak to your interests, explore OAAP services, or learn more about the OAAP attorney counselors.

The OAAP can help with:

  • Well-being and stress
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Problem substance use
  • Compulsive and challenging behaviors
  • Career and lifestyle
  • Relationships
  • Challenging times
  • Planning for retirement

OAAP services are confidential and attorney counselors are on-call for urgent matters.

Help for yourself. Help for someone you care about.

If you are concerned about your well-being, or the well-being of another, the OAAP can help with short-term individual counseling, referral to other resources when appropriate, support groups, workshops, CLEs, and educational programs.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

 

 

MCLE Changes Coming

At its June/July 2018 board meetings the OSB Board of Governors voted to recommend a requirement for MCLE on mental health and substance use issues. The overall number of MCLE credits required in each reporting period will not change, as the proposed rule includes a reduction in general/practical skills requirements.

Why require education on substance abuse?

The pressure and stress inherent in the legal profession begins in law school and never fades away:

  • Lawyers are almost twice as likely to struggle with alcohol abuse when compared to the general population
  • In a 2016 study more than 1 in 5 lawyers reported that they felt that their use of alcohol or other drugs was problematic at some point in their lives
  • In the same study nearly 3 of 4 reported that their problematic use started after they joined law school.

Source: Indra Cidambi, M.D., “Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Legal Profession: Why Lawyers Are at Increased Risk for Addiction,” Psychology Today (June 2017).

This may not be you, but it may be someone you know. A friend from law school, your partner, or a colleague. As the Psychology Today article points out, members of the legal profession are at increased risk and “need to be proactive in reaching out and leaning on their support system before they feel overwhelmed and trapped.” Getting educated on the topic is a start.

Mental health issues affect us all

Not only are lawyers more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse, we also suffer from disproportionately higher rates of mental health issues.

  • Many law students show signs of depression, anxiety, hostility and paranoia within 6 months of entering law school.
  • After the first year of law school, 40% of law students suffer from depression, which persists through law school and their careers.
  • Practicing lawyers find that they have to compromise their ethical principles or moral values, which creates a conflict in them.
  • They may also have to take and defend positions that are contrary to their belief system.
  • In the 2016 study referenced above, 6 of 10 participants reported anxiety, 1 of 2 reported depression, and nearly 1 in 8 reported ADHD. 1 in 9 reported suicidal thoughts at some point during their career.

Source: Indra Cidambi, M.D., “Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Legal Profession: Why Lawyers Are at Increased Risk for Addiction,” Psychology Today (June 2017).

Getting help now

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program provides assistance with and referral for problem alcohol, drug, and/or other substance use; stress management; time management; career transition; compulsive disorders (including problem gambling); relationships; depression; anxiety; and other issues that affect the ability of a lawyer or judge to function effectively. Services extend to Oregon law students and are free and confidential. If you or someone you know is affected by any of these issues, call (503-226-1057 or 800-321-OAAP) or contact the OAAP today.

All Rights Reserved 2018 Beverly Michaelis

 

My Desk, My Enemy

Desks are the pedestals of our productivity. How we organize the stuff on them has a big effect on how well or if we get things done in a timely fashion. But just as important as these practical concerns is the impact it has on our mental health.

While researching content for a presentation, I came across this older post: My Desk, My Enemy: 6 Helpful Ways to Get Organized.  Written by Dan Lukasik and published at Lawyers with Depression, it contains helpful information that remains relevant.

Organizational Style

Dan begins by describing the four organizational styles identified by Kelly Lynn Anders in her book, The Organized Lawyer:

Stackers organize by topic in stacks. They are visual and tactile and like to give the appearance of order. The busier these people are, the more stacks they have.

Spreaders are visual like stackers, but must be able to see everything they’re working on.

Free Spirits keep very few personal belongings around the work area. They like new ideas and keep reports, books, articles and magazines near.

Pack Rats have emotional ties to things. They like the feeling of fullness around them and like to tell stories about what’s in the office.

These categories are insightful, and describe a fair number of people I’ve worked with. But they fail to recognize what happens when a lawyer is depressed, depleted of energy, and has no motivation to get organized.  Dan calls this “the depressed desk:”

When a lawyer has depression, motivation and organization are BIG problems. A lack of energy blunts motivation. We already know that it’s a good idea to keep our desk together, but there simply isn’t much neurochemical juice to get it done….

We must outfox depression. It would have us do nothing. So we must do something. 

Dan’s Six Simple Solutions [Abbreviated]

  1. Get rid of all those pens. Only keep three or four.
  2. Take home any books that you don’t use on a regular basis. [I would add: do the same with magazines and legal periodicals. Create a “free spirit” space at home if this is your organizational style.]
  3. Hide cords – use twist-ties or coil your cords up.
  4. Only keep on your desk what you need for that day. Then section off your desk and workspace so that everything has a specific space.
  5. Have a dump day.  Pull everything out, put it in a big pile, sort, and toss.
  6. Schedule a date and time to clean your desk.

Read Dan’s original “six simple solutions” here.

Parting Thoughts

It’s easy to be skeptical of simple solutions.  How could tossing excess pens or hiding cords possibly help?  What difference does it make to clean off my desk?  

Trust me, it helps.

  • Eliminating clutter reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Organizing and prioritizing gives you back a sense of control.
  • Compartmentalizing allows you to plan for what you need to do and when.
  • Freeing up space allows you to breathe, think, and work.

You owe yourself, and you deserve, a pleasant work environment.

If you are a lawyer with depression, consider following Dan’s blog and connect with one of the confidential attorney counselors at the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program.

[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]