A Lesson On Mindfulness and the YLD Wellness Challenge

By Neubia Harris

This year, the YLD Wellness Committee instituted a Wellness Challenge between the Mountain, Piedmont, and Coastal regions of the state.  Each quarter, the attorneys in their respective regions will be highlighted for their efforts to engage in wellness activities such as physical and financial fitness, nutrition, mindfulness, and meditation.  This quarter we are shining a spotlight on the Mountain region, which includes Charlotte.  Next up will be the Piedmont region — Raleigh, Greensboro, and the surrounding areas — from January 2019 through March 2019.  Then, the Coastal Region — Wilmington, Elizabeth City, and the surrounding areas — will participate in the challenge from April 2019 through July 2019.  The region with the most engagement receives a free networking event sponsored by the NCBA YLD. Follow the challenge on Twitter at #YLDWellness.

If you, or any YLD-eligible attorney you know, has participated in any wellness initiative, please send either pictures or a brief description of the activity (or both!), outlining the nature of the activity and who participated to your YLD Wellness Committee Co-Chairs Neubia Harris or Kevin Pratt at neubia@neubiaharrislaw.com or kevinpratt13@gmail.com.  You may also contact them with any questions or concerns about the challenge.

Mindfulness, Even In Small Quantities

In addition to the challenge, on Sept. 7, 2018, the YLD Wellness Committee co-sponsored a CLE by Laura Mahr of Conscious Legal Minds to explore “What Every Young Lawyer Need to Know about Resilience: Using Mindfulness and Neuroscience.”

Mahr started by clarifying the term mindfulness, explaining that “mindfulness is the act of paying attention to whatever is happening in the moment, without judging what you notice.”  Speaking for myself, and likely many other young lawyers, I know being mindful is a challenge.  We multi-task, triage emergencies, and otherwise fail to fully engage (at least consistently) in what is happening in the moment.  Mahr encouraged participants to avoid berating themselves because of a perceived inability to maintain mindfulness; rather, Mahr provided exercises, that can be used anywhere, anytime, to help us be more mindful.  For example, Mahr asked us sign our names slowly. The assignment of writing the letters, with purpose and intent, caused each of us to step out of our heads for a second, and focus on the task at hand.  This simple activity takes less than a minute.  Yet, neuroscience studies indicate by doing this activity, or other mindfulness exercises, we change the shape of our brain and enhance our attention, emotional regulation, and self-awareness.  In essence, mindfulness, even in small quantities, helps us become better attorneys but perhaps more importantly better people.  As another example, Mahr recommended certain mediation techniques which she compared to a quiet time for reflection.  Mahr explained that the simple meditative exercise of five deep breaths can improve relaxation and focus. Having participated in the exercise, I speak from experience as I was noticeably more relaxed and focused on the content of  Mahr’s presentation.

Additionally, we discussed the many stressors facing young lawyers. Some are big stressors and others are little stressors with “big” and “little” being determined by each individual.  One stressor that was explored during the CLE was Imposter Syndrome.  The Harvard Business Review defines Imposter Syndrome as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”  Incredibly, most of the participants did not realize that other young lawyers were struggling with the same issue.  Moreover, a senior lawyer who was present explained that while imposter syndrome may change over time, attorneys still struggle with feeling like they are not smart enough, assertive enough, or accomplished enough.  However, as our senior colleague explained, we may get to the end of our careers without the public accolades or a laundry list of remarkable achievements.  Nonetheless, what matters is that we live good lives, are there for those precious moments with family, and friends and do our best to represent our clients zealously. I won’t soon forget our senior colleague’s candor.