Looking ahead to 2021

Elizabeth Rimmer is CEO at LawCare

It’s been a very difficult and challenging year for all of us. No-one has remained unaffected by the fall out of the global pandemic and its impact on our health, our relationships, our livelihoods and our mental health. For most of us this has been the most significant event that will happen in our lifetime.

At LawCare we expect that 2021will also be a very challenging year. Although news of the vaccines on the horizon is heartening, many of us will not yet have processed the effect the pandemic has had on us. In times of crisis, we focus on survival, and sometimes we park difficult emotions and feelings until immediate danger has passed.

We know from the lawyers who are contacting us that existing mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression have been exacerbated by the pandemic.  People have lost some of the routines and support structures that kept them well. Isolation and loneliness are also an issue, many lawyers who’ve contacted us are experiencing emotional distress and boredom, particularly those who live on their own. One of the hardest hit groups have been trainees and junior staff who rely on regular contact and a close relationship with their supervisors.  According to the Mental Health Foundation Longitudinal Study earlier in the year young people aged 18 to 24 were most likely to experience loneliness since the first lockdown began.

Aside from the issues above many people who‘ve contacted us have financial concerns. People are worried about what happens when furlough ends and whether redundancies will be made.  Conversely many of those in work have seen an increase in workload as they struggle to deal with a backlog or surge in work, or are asked to cover for staff on furlough.

So what can we do to look after ourselves and prepare for the year ahead? The most important thing is to regularly check in with yourself – how are you feeling? Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Sometimes when we are struggling we neglect the basics of looking ourselves, believing we haven’t got time, but it is vital we practice self-care as a way of protecting ourselves from burning out. Number one on the list is to go outside every day without fail in the daylight. It will always improve your mood and make you feel happier and calmer. Exercise is also vitally important, even if you don’t feel like it. Research has found that low-intensity aerobic exercise – for 30–35 minutes, 3–5 days a week, is best at increasing positive moods. Even just a 10 minute brisk walk can increase mental alertness, energy and positivity. Finally we would urge you to share how you are feeling with someone, a friend, family member, a colleague, or contact us at LawCare  on 0800 279 6888, support@lawcare.org.uk or via our website www.lawcare.org.uk

LawCare are currently running a research study, Life in the Law. You can make your voice heard and help drive change in the legal profession by taking part anonymously at lifeinthelaw.org.uk by Dec 31

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