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As a former criminal barrister with 19 years’ experience and now a specialist coach empowering female lawyers, here are 6 tips to avoid feeling overwhelmed and improved wellbeing at work.
Identifying a need for, and seeking, support
15 years ago, after working in Kingston, Jamaica as a volunteer barrister supporting attorneys defending capital murder cases, I returned to a UK practice mainly dealing with child sexual abuse cases, I hit a career crossroads. Did I want to continue in a career with such grave responsibility and depraved subject matters? What could I do to make my everyday working life more palatable and edifying? I sought assistance from a coach.
My first tip is to recognise the need for, and not be afraid to ask for, support. Far from a sign of weakness, it demonstrates a significant degree of emotional intelligence and is a matter of good sense to preserve a healthy state of mind.
This support can come from any number of valuable sources. If not a coach, perhaps you are a member of a Women’s networking group or have access to a mentorship programme?
Either way, talking is a helpful outlet to keep perspective and avoid overwhelm. With support from my newtworks, I continued in my career at the bar for another 10 successful years.
When returning to work after maternity leave, or when deciding to go for, or having recently received, a promotion, does confidence hold you back? Time and again clients talk to me about not feeling ‘good enough’ and that at any given moment somehow they are going to get ‘found out’. This is known as imposter syndrome, and can have a negative impact on feelings of work-place wellbeing. By recognising that self-limiting beliefs hinder our own wellbeing, you can work on strategies to make you feel confident and happy. Become aware of, and make strides to silence negative internal chatter by changing the way you talk to yourself. Focus on, and remind yourself daily of your strengths; keep the company of a supportive, encouraging network.
Adopt a non-negotiable wellbeing routine, whatever works for you, whether that be meditation, exercise, yoga, keeping active and well-hydrated, practising gratitude or journaling, the list is endless. Whilst some things may slip due to unexpected deadlines and workload, the sooner regular patterns are established, the quicker they become second nature. The benefits become obvious, and a powerful motivator to embed in your life.
Priorities and planning
Prioritise workloads and plan the working week with care. It is so easy in this 24/7 digital world to become needlessly distracted. If you have a clear plan of your day/ week with tasks put in order of importance, this will help you stay on course, even when the inevitable interruptions occur.
Get back to basics
Strip things back to the bare essentials to avoid overwhelm. Firstly, identify and stick to clear boundaries, particularly important in preserving a healthy work life balance. Then learn to say no and, through practice, work out effective methods of doing so without cutting off future opportunities.
At all times live a life true to yourself, not the one others expect. Without authenticity, the risk of internal conflict is high, and likely to cause frustration or stress.
Practice = progress. The tips that resonate may take time to incorporate daily but over time, the positive benefits will outweigh the effort.
Nikki Alderson is a former criminal barrister, now Corporate and Executive Coach supporting law firms and Chambers to attract and retain female talent within the legal profession, and empowering female lawyers to achieve career ambitions. Having gained great insights into the responsibilities, pressures and “expected” career paths of those, particularly women, working in law, Nikki sees a challenge within the profession, which she hopes to address through coaching, of retaining talented women role models, given the dearth of women in senior partnership roles and within the judiciary. She is also author of “Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching”, available on Amazon.
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