Gratitude for What Is

Hurricanes, fires, shootings, political and personal drama abound amid disasters both natural and manmade: this has been a traumatic year. Mental health has been an increasingly public part of discussions about workplace wellness in the legal industry. After years of talking about the incidence of anxiety, depression, suicide, and substance use in the occasional CLE, the discussion has moved beyond statistics as attorneys are beginning to tell their own stories. Whether in The New York Times or on social media, seasoned veterans of the legal industry are sharing how to cope with this year’s trauma. Protecting your mental health is key to functioning optimally in a highly charged profession. Amid the meditation retreats, the mindfulness classes and the other steps we take to stabilize, gratitude plays an important role. Gratitude implies accepting what is; not straining for what could be. Once we stop grasping so desperately for something just beyond our reach, we stand a chance of realizing that where we are is acceptable. Perhaps not entirely desirable, but manageable with the right support.

Linus knows that selfless giving is key to his own well-being.

The legal profession is becoming more adept at offering those. The ABA and others are looking at ways to help law students seek mental health treatment without compromising their chances of being admitted to the bar. Some firms now have, essentially, a director of attorney well-being. Lawyers I admire, like Ruth Carter and Joseph Milowic III, are sharing their own experiences. Joanna Litt, wife of Sidley Austin bankruptcy partner Gabe McConaill, wrote a searing piece last month, “Big Law Killed My Husband.” These pieces all bring mental health concerns into the open. And that’s an important first step in accepting what is. I’m grateful for these voices. I’m also grateful for this past year, with all its bumps and lumps. According to UC Davis researcher Robert Emmons, gratitude can be life-saving, and changes lives. It certainly helps me balance my outlook. It doesn’t take away loss; it just works to balance it out a bit. Gratitude is not a substitute for self-care and medical treatment. It can be, however, an important outgrowth of survival. Here’s to having survived 2018, and being grateful for the good that exists. --stet-- Susan Kostal is a legal marketing consultant and content strategist located in San Francisco Bay Area. Find her monthly column on Attorney at Work & check out more great content here.This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up here.

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