December has set in, along with its cold blustery weather and long dark nights. Inside, it’s a busy time of year for law firms and legal departments. This combination of a lot of work and not a lot of daylight hours can be quite a downer.
When our mood drops, our thoughts follow in a negative turn. That’s why my topic for this month is don’t believe everything you think.
Waking in the morning darkness and thinking of the pressures of the day, we might start ruminating on our failings.
At the end of a long day when we are tired and facing a dark, seemingly endless commute home, our minds can easily turn to pessimistic musings.
My lowest thoughts come when I am tired at the end of day. I have learned to recognise them for what they are — signals that I have worked hard and need to rest and recuperate. I also know not to pay attention to what they might be telling me.
I don’t believe everything that I think.
Chances are you are in the winter doldrums when you find yourself thinking things like:
- I’m not good enough
- That was stupid of me
- I am going to fail
- I am going to mess it up
- I shouldn’t have
- This is hopeless
- I’m trapped
Don’t believe what you are thinking. Instead, notice that you are feeling low and engage in some simple self-care.
Get a good night’s sleep.
Eat delicious healthy food.
Enjoy some time with loved ones.
Go play outside. Walk, run, ski, or do whatever you like to do in the fresh air.
Take some slow deep breaths a few times a day to keep stress at bay.
A senior partner shared this simple breathing practice with me from Adam Hart, the author of the Power of Food.
- Get very comfortable – sitting.
- Eyes closed.
- Hand on heart.
- Breathe in for 4 seconds.
- Breathe out for 7 seconds.
- Smile while doing. Think a comforting thought while doing.
The partner told me, “I have done ten days and it has become a calming habit. A friend and I texted several times a day to ensure we did it for the first ten days to make it stick.”
If you’re facing some big challenges, consult with a friend, mentor, or coach for additional insight and a second perspective.
If you find your negative thoughts taking hold for days at a time, reach out to a counsellor for support.
I can tell you what I know is true. In those dark moments you don’t know yourself as well as you might think you do.
This article first appeared in SLAW on December 14, 2017.