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.

Create Distraction Free Time

 

All or most of these activities come with the job of being a lawyer. But we also need time to think and get work done. If you’re looking for answers, consider the following strategies.

Six Steps to Becoming a More Productive Lawyer

Set aside specific time during the day to respond to communications. Don’t allow the rings, dings, and beeps of technology to constantly interrupt your concentration. Check emails, calls, and texts when you arrive and before the end of the day. If a lunch-time check is feasible (or necessary in your opinion), add it in.

On days when your schedule won’t allow for check-ins, set up appropriate auto-replies to manage client expectations. If you have staff, let them screen and manage incoming requests. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period, inform clients beforehand.

Identify your most productive time of day and use it to do legal work. Schedule meetings during “down” time and inform staff of your preference (and when they can break the rules).

Set boundaries for using the Internet if you find that you spend too much time browsing, shopping, or looking at social media. Consider deleting cookies, logins, and bookmarks for pages that eat away at productive time.

Once a quarter, block out one week with no meetings so you can catch up. Don’t wait. Choose for weeks now. Use the time to clean up your desk and workspace, go through your to do list, attend to filing, scanning, or closing files – whatever you’ve been putting off. If you’re caught up, enjoy the uninterrupted time.

Delegate or outsource as much as you can, when you can, so you can focus on the tasks that only you can do. Billable time is precious and should be maximized doing billable work.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

There’s free help for that.

If you, or someone you care about, is feeling overwhelmed by stress, contact the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP).

OAAP attorney counselors can help you explore ways to reduce your stress, manage your time, and achieve a healthier work-life balance. If needed, they can also refer you  to other health professionals to make sure you get the help you need. All contact with the OAAP is confidential.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

 

Coping with Holiday Stress

You may feel there’s nothing you can do about stress. The bills won’t stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. However, you have more control over stress than you might think. No matter how stressful your life seems, you can take steps to relieve the pressure and regain balance.

How? By using the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

For specific advice on how to cope with holiday expectations and holiday-related stress, review these articles from the Oregon Attorney Assistance Program:

All Rights Reserved 2019 Beverly Michaelis

You Can Take a Vacation

Build time off into your work schedule now to take a vacation – no excuses!  It takes some effort and organization, but your body and mind will thank you.  Three-day weekends – like Memorial Day – aren’t enough. We all need true recuperative time away from the office. This is my annual nudge to encourage you to take time from for yourself.

Budget now to go on vacation later.

“If I’m not at the office, I can’t bill.  If I can’t bill, I won’t get paid.” True enough, but there is a solution: budget for your vacation.

First, calculate your vacation expenses. Next, quantify the lost revenue you need to replace during your time out of the office. Now that you know how much you need, begin setting aside funds every week to meet your financial goal. If necessary, find little ways to cut back that can really add up: like bringing your lunch to work, deferring your daily Starbucks fix, using public transportation, or telecommuting.

Saving weekly will keep you on track and help manage expectations. If you’re just getting started, then your plans this year may be more modest. Next year, you can begin saving for your summer vacation in January.

Clients are important enough to schedule.  So is your vacation.

Work will never go away, but I guarantee that if you look ahead in your calendar you will find a block of time with no commitments. Even if you haven’t made plans yet, block the time out now before your calendar fills up. If you have a habit of backsliding, enlist your family as enforcers. If you need an extra incentive, consider non-refundable travel reservations.

Preparation is key!

If you’re a member of a firm, going on vacation is a matter of meeting with other lawyers who will be covering cases during your absence.

If you are a sole practitioner, use the buddy system.  Find a colleague who is experienced in your practice area and willing to cover for you.

This arrangement is usually reciprocal and is helpful if you have an unexpected absence from the office due to injury or a medical condition.

Vacation Checklist:

  • Notify clients, opposing counsel, judges, or other appropriate parties that you will be out of the office;
  • Prep your files.  They should be well-organized and current, with status memos so your buddy can easily step in if needed;
  • Create a “Countdown Schedule.”  Identify what needs to be done when and whether certain tasks can wait until your return;
  • Allow for wind down.  As your vacation approaches, leave time in your schedule to finish up last minute work.  Reduce or refer out new matters;
  • Train staff.  Do they have a clear understanding of office procedures?  How will they screen client calls during your absence?  Give them parameters for contacting you or your buddy in the event of an emergency.
  • Resist constantly checking voice mail, e-mail, or text messages.  Technology is a God-send, but part of rejuvenation is taking a break from our instant Internet society. Checking in is okay, but stick to a schedule to avoid obsessing over what is going on back at the office.  Remember – you have an emergency plan in place.  If something happens, staff or your buddy will get a hold of you.
  • Avoid post-vacation overload.  Just as you blocked out dates to go on vacation, allow yourself time to get back up-to-speed.  Otherwise, you’re right back where you started.

All Rights Reserved 2019 – Beverly Michaelis