The Body – are you in breach of contract?

Imagine you have a contract with your body – “The Body”.

You are obliged to take care of it, and feed, water and rest it.

The Body is required to be resilient, stay healthy and in workable (preferably good!) condition.

The agreed outcome is that you can function on a day-to-day basis with relationships, work, hobbies and activities and all the many other things you might choose to do.

Often we are in breach of that contract.

The Body often isn’t.

So how do we get to that point?

In considering this article I have been listening to the demands we place on The Body which could put us in breach of that all-important contract:

  1. I know you’re busy but could you just…?
  2. I’m a trainee/pupil and I can’t tell anyone that I am struggling with anything because I might not pass my training contract or pupillage
  3. I really need to book a holiday, I just don’t have time.
  4. I have given up my hobby because I am too tired at the end of the day.
  5. I need that order by 4pm today(!)
  6. I feel like I am running from one thing to the next.
  7. I’ve just had to put my well-being on hold and will catch up.
  8. I’m no good at drinking water – and lunch, what is a lunch break?
  9. I had a break at the weekend but needed to prep for Monday.
  10. I know what I am supposed to do, I just don’t do it.

Sound familiar? These are the types of things that compromise the contract with The Body.

As most people now know, over a prolonged period stress – whether physical or emotional or both takes its toll and impacts the way we function unless we manage it. By promoting the importance of ‘managing stress’ we are not suggesting a ‘laissez-faire’ approach, as proper stress management within the legal profession is likely to require a more robust and controlled approach to avoid potential burnout.

After all, they say we are our own resource.

I want to pause this article now.

A colleague kindly shared the following links. Links often appear at the end of an article or email and another one of those common thoughts is “Oh that’s helpful I will park those for later when I have time”. Later might not come.

So do take the time now to click on some links before you carry on reading this short article:

And don’t forget:

  • Equality and Diversity Officers and Welfare Officers
  • Your Inn’s resources (if you have one).
  • Your firm/company’s wellbeing policies and support packages
  • Colleagues in Chambers or firms, or inhouse, mentoring schemes, friends, family, mentors, even people you used to work with can all be an invaluable resource.
  • If you are a law student – your university.

How is your contract with The Body?

Perhaps you are feeling on top of the world and don’t need to think about wellbeing right now which is great. Storing up physical and emotional reserves through enjoyment and fun also helps resilience at times of stress.

If you are in breach of contract with The Body then some remedial action may be required. Sometimes something as simple as adjusting your posture when you are slumped over trying to type an order or taking a few minutes to get outside might not seem top of your priority list or that it would be helpful, but for The Body this might make a world of difference.

I mentioned earlier the word ‘burnout’. Another word that we think we know what it is and that we’d recognise it if it arrived with us. But is that really the case?

Of course working within the legal profession is stressful for plenty of reasons – people, dealing with sensitive information, negotiations, deadlines, court pressures, impact on our families and friends, feeling caught between demands, traffic, being away from home, managing expectations of others. These are just a few of the factors that contribute on a day-to-day basis and have potential to put us in breach of contract with The Body and lead to burnout.

Resources surround us.

If you need time, then take some time out.

If you need to speak with someone then find someone for a chat.

If you need to allow your brain to switch off when you get into bed, then give it permission to do so.

If you need to seek medical support, then please do.

If you are in breach of contract with The Body – take some remedial action.

Kellie Salter is a Barrister at 3PB. 

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