At this point in winter, even people who aren’t miserable lawyers are growing desperate. The eternal cold (except on the odd day when it’s 50 degrees), the oppression of snow, and the stingy daylight are, obviously, going to go on forever. Your life feels frigid, meaningless, and depressing. And that’s if you’re a fairly happy, life-ain’t-bad person.
For unhappy attorneys, the situation feels yet more dire. Your soul was already stuck in permanent winter before the actual cold and dark encroached. Now, getting out of bed and getting to work are sheer acts of will and heroism. More than a few of you may have sneaked a look at your insurance policy’s coverage for being a mental health in-patient, and wondered if you could convince someone you are a danger to yourself or others. Three days away from billable hours and all your other worries sounds like a sweet deal.
If you are at this point, don’t despair just yet. I have some tricks you can use to summon back a few flickers of light. Soon enough, actual sunshine will start to appear, the Heat Miser will again triumph over the Cold Miser, and life will feel a bit better.
1. Consider Hibernation.
Winter is a time of quiet and stillness, and of dreams. If we insist on keeping the same frenetic pace year-round, we miss out on the renewal time that is crucial to long-term, sustainable functioning. If you feel like you need to sleep more, then turn off the TV early, and GO TO BED.
2. Consider a Polar Plunge.
OK, I’m not really suggesting you do one of those crazy jump-into-a-34-degree-lake things. Unless that’s your thing. I am suggesting a plunge into something that makes you stretch and sweat and generally reach a bit, physically.
This can be as simple as finding a couple videos of some choreographed dances (maybe from someone’s Wii) and dancing in your living room. Or, maybe you harbor a desire to learn snowboarding or go cross-country skiing. It matters not what it is, just that it gets you out of your comfort zone, gets your pulse going, and gets some endorphins circulating.
3. Warm Up.
Personally, I am Sick. To. Death. of having arctic hands and feet. There is a reason that the rates for the Caribbean and Florida peak this time of year: The cold wears you down. Maybe it’s time to consider a quick trip to warmer and sunnier places.
If that’s out of reach, at least let yourself slip into a sauna (check out your local rec center) or a steaming hot bath a couple times a week. Splurge on an electric blanket or mattress warmer so you can crawl into a cozy bed at night. Get some silk long underwear—it feels fabulous and really wards off the chill.
4. Lighten Up.
Get some full-spectrum lightbulbs and put them in lamps in your office, both home and work. Maybe get a light therapy box. (But don’t be like Walt on Northern Exposure, S.5 Ep. 17.) Candles feel warm and comforting; consider getting a couple dozen, spreading them around your hangout room at home, and lighting them every night for a week.
5. Let Yourself Go.
Accept that you feel like a well-dressed, highly educated slug. Accept that you’re going to keep feeling this way until March at the earliest. Take yourself off the hamster wheel of looking great and seeming flawless. Put the ridiculous conference call on mute and don’t participate.
Wear bulky, ugly but really warm sweaters and socks. Men, grow a beard (just not a long hipster one you can roll beer cans in.)
Women, banish the stiletto boots, Spanx and uncomfortable stuff that you wear. (You can have it back when it’s regularly over 45 degrees, if you must.)
Let go of all those behaviors designed to impress, or to maintain an image. Instead, embrace your inability to move an eyelid before 8:30 a.m. Avoid all the people you “should” talk to, and only talk to the ones you actually find interesting. Let go of knowing the news, or the latest scandal, or anything else you watch/read solely so you can impress someone else with your ability to keep on top of shit. Or in the words of Brene Brown, stop putting on your armor.
6. Focus on Fun.
Make up your own version of Gunner Bingo, the Office Edition. (For those who didn’t play this marvelous game in law school: Create bingo cards with obnoxious buzzwords favored by self-important lawyers. You know,
- strategic global initiative,
- value-add for the client,
- emerging challenges,
- pro-active client relationships,
- growth-focused, and
- so, so many more.
Stealthily distribute cards to like-minded associates. First to get bingo enjoys lunch on other players’ dime.)
Just have some fun. And in case you’ve forgotten, fun is anything that a) doesn’t advance your legal career; and b) you’ve been at least vaguely curious about or interested in.
7. Consume Coffee and Chocolate.
Diet, schmiet. Dark chocolates, especially those higher in cocoa solids, contains flavonols, which have been linked to improved memory. Dark chocolates have also been linked to increased levels of endorphins and serotonin, which keep the depression monster at bay for some. Plus it tastes like a brief, but meaningful, moment in heaven! Euphoria from chocolate has been vastly underrated by science until recently.
Caffeinated coffee has been shown to increase memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, reaction times and general cognitive function. Indeed, studies show that most people get more antioxidants from coffee than from their total consumption of fruits and vegetables. To which I say, Mazel Tov!
Or, maybe you’ve stumbled upon some other magical way to lessen the blow of these last, sociopathic acts of winter. If so, leave it in the comments.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer whose brain is plotting a Caribbean vacation, even if her bank account isn’t. For help in thawing the permanent winter you feel has invaded your career and very soul, consider a discounted sample coaching session with Jennifer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.