5 Tips for Unplugging and Prioritizing Your Well-Being
By Natasha Tucker
February 02, 2023 | 6-minute read
Business of Law Attorney Talent Recruitment, Compensation, Professional Development and Retention Content Type Article Additional Options Content Level: Essential
According to Glassdoor, many people have trouble disconnecting from work. In a recent survey from the company, 71% of lawyers said they can’t unplug. But this trait is not just associated with lawyers — it seems that legal support professionals in marketing, events and communication also have difficulty switching off.
Today, “nomophobia,” or the fear of being disconnected from our mobile phones, is a recognized psychological condition. It’s not surprising, then, that with technology making work accessible 24/7, people often use their weekends to catch up on work.
In Canada, the third Monday in February is observed as a regional statutory holiday known as Family Day. It is also celebrated in other countries such as Australia, where the purpose is quoted as a way for "workers to take a break from their hectic work and to spend some quality time with their family and friends." One colleague, a former lawyer who lived and worked in Australia, commented that with these types of days off, it was highly likely she would have actually spent it working.
This trend is troubling, as research shows that not being able to switch off can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression and burnout. What is clear is that devoting time to family, self-care or hobbies is not just important, but necessary. In addition to health benefits, after taking a proper break, people feel better equipped to face whatever is next. The following five tips suggest ways to switch off.
1. View relaxation as an investment.
Like other parts of your body, your brain needs time off to recoup. Constantly going at full speed means that, at some point, you’ll burnout. Resting is not being lazy; it is in fact vital to your physical and mental health, helping boost productivity when you return to work. Rest is a form of recovery and is no different than taking it easy after you’ve just run a marathon. In both cases, downtime is not just meaningful but necessary.
“Legal marketing is hard work! You spin so many plates at once, you forget about your own health and well-being because you’re so anxious about dropping said plates. Personally, I unwind through skateboarding. At least once a week, weather-permitting, I drive to the local Houston skatepark and spend a few hours flying through the concrete waves. It requires 100% of my concentration, and in those moments, nothing else enters my mind. Just me, my board and that scary looking banked wall!” —Nathan Smith, Director of Client Services, Kean Miller LLP
2. Think about your team.
What you do as a leader impacts those around you, especially those who report to you. If you send emails after hours and always seem to be available, employees will feel compelled to do the same. Technology has enabled efficiency by allowing us to be contacted anytime, anywhere — but it comes at a cost. Setting expectations and sticking to them such as turning off notifications and getting away from emails is a vital practice for you and your team.
I have found that standing up and walking away from my computer — and leaving my phone behind — is the best way for me to literally disconnect. Taking the daily opportunity to step away from work and wholly focus on something else is a great way for me to rest and reset.” —Andrew Laver, Manager, Business Development, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
3. Schedule downtime.
Be intentional and truly unplug. With the virtual (or even hybrid) models many of us work within, it’s easy to stay later and work longer hours, especially when you’re already home. It’s important to set boundaries and intentionally log out of all work programs at the end of the day. Some people find that shutting down their computer and putting it in a different room helps so they’re not constantly reminded of work. Alternatively, turning off all notifications and putting your phone away can help to physically and mentally disconnect.
"With mobile phones, we have constant access to our email. I’ve turned off all push notifications related to my email accounts so I’m not distracted by notifications. Even though I still regularly check my email, I do it on my own terms. I also try to only respond to emails that need an immediate response. If there is anything that can wait, I won't respond until I’m back in the office.” —Felicity Aston, Business Development Director, Field Law
4. Seek out nature.
Staying physically active has many benefits, and even more so when outside surrounded by nature. Nature stimulates a feeling of well-being and has been known to get the creative juices flowing. It has also been recorded that people who regularly exercise throughout life are less likely to experience a decline in mental function, such as dementia, as they age. Taking regular 20 minute breaks, having plants in your office or even sneaking in a few squats at your desk will help you build better habits.
"Living within walking distance of a wonderful park, I go for both short and very long walks there whenever I need to clear my head." —David Cohen, Senior Director, McCarthy's
5. Eat well and sleep well.
It’s been said many times before that having a varied nutritious diet and a regular bedtime routine, which does not involve looking at a screen, helps the body de-stress, relax and unwind. Think about a wind-down routine about 30 minutes before you intend to sleep; this could involve reading a few pages of a book, filling in an adult coloring book, listening to soothing music or taking a bath.
"I love cooking. My friends and family know that if I start cooking risotto it's been a tough day — there's something about stirring repeatedly for half an hour that sooths the soul. But I'm a sucker for a hot deep bubble bath, and either a great book or watching a Netflix show on my tablet while I soak." —Katherine Hutchinson, Senior Manager, International Business Development, Bennett Jones
While the demands of work and the technology associated with it can easily consume our attention, we should strive to live in moderation. The key to unplugging is to retrain our thoughts, actions and schedules, so we are comfortable being offline and to let work wait — occasionally even stopping to smell the roses.