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As if working through the middle of February wasn't difficult enough; long winter days, it seems to be getting colder instead of warmer and lingering resentments over the 6 Nations fixtures, we're all then confronted with Valentine's Day.
Red foil hearts and cutesy teddy bears everywhere, and that one colleague whose partner has a dozen red roses delivered to the middle of a busy working day.
Look, I'm not anti-Cupid, far from it, but feeling forced to gather around and coo over the romantic gesture (knowing full well that their partner has been press-ganged into it) can leave one feeling rather flat.
As lawyers, we put immense pressure on ourselves to be, to do, to achieve. Never has there been a more driven, results-focused group of people; and, of course, our work is never done.
So here we are, middle of February, holiday plans ages away yet, tired and stressed, never feeling enough and never feeling on top of the work.
Is it any surprise then that, by Valentine's Day, the pressure can show up in our relationships?
With our partners and closest friends we can truly be ourselves.
We are safe from the judging eyes of our colleagues and clients.
Be honest, are you cringing reading this and thinking of your last interaction with your nearest and dearest?
They so often bear the brunt of our frustrations, our exhaustion, our feeling less-than.
Perhaps instead you've simply failed to show up; cancelling plans because you're too exhausted to go out, forgetting important dates because you're head down in the work.
If you or your partner are struggling with stress and exhaustion this Valentine's Day, here are 3 simple steps to help you reverse it, before an inevitable bust-up over candlelight and steaks.
1. You are not alone - we don't talk about this often enough and it is one of my big missions to open up the conversation about stress at work. Talk to your partner and be honest about the stress and pressure you are under, invite them to share their own struggles.
2. Remove blame - you might blame yourself for not being enough, or your boss or clients for being relentless. Shift instead to responsibility and action-taking.
I ask my clients to change their language from 'I have to do X' to 'I get to do X'. It's a subtle change in language but a huge change in feeling capable, responsible and able to take action.
3. Boundaries - contrary to popular belief, we are lawyers not superheroes. Set a clear boundary around one evening to walk away from work on time, switch off your phone, and invest some time in the people who mean the most to you.
You will come back re-energised, refreshed and far more productive as a result.
Your time and focus means far more than a dozen red roses, any day of the year.
Formerly a stressed and exhausted solicitor, Leah Steele is the founder of Searching for Serenity, the international mentoring and training practice for professional women. Leah's mission is to open the conversation around perfectionism, worthiness and mental health and to provide guidance, training and support for women who are ready to shake off the do-it-all mentality in favour of a career they crave and a life they love.
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