I consider myself super lucky in that when I started working as a full-time attorney there was a more open philosophy re: vicarious trauma and attorneys. While there’s still an old-school though that nothing we do should impact us emotionally, the truth is that many of us that work in various areas of the law are exposed to ugly human behavior—there’s no question that can impact our own mental health. That’s reality. Then we add the atrocious, urgent, and infuriating state of our country in regards to how people of color are treated and it results in feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. It’s not a great headspace to be to carry around while you try to do good work.
We talk about self-care a lot, but I wanted to give some pointers on things that have worked for me:
One. Learn to de-stress your way. Don’t force yourself to “relax” in a method that may not work for you. Some of us like de-stress by cleaning, others exercising, etc. Find the thing that brings you peace and commit to doing it. I don’t mean anything grand either—I really feel calm when I’ve finished grocery shopping and have decluttered/cleaned up my home. Sunday nights, if I’ve done it right, are super tranquil for me.
Two. Give yourself permission to disconnect. It’s ok to draw the line at things that you can’t stomach. You don’t have to watch the video clips of people being killed. If you’re already acknowledging that these injustices are occurring, watching these clips won’t improve things, in fact if it proves too traumatic for you, it may end up hindering the help you could have offered. Your mental health is important and watching gruesome images very rarely makes you a stronger person. Tread carefully.
In the same vein, we all seem to have friends on facebook and IRL that love to play devil’s advocate, like for what? #eyeroll It’s annoying, but can also be exhausting to constantly need to react to ignorant or concern-trolling comments. Ignore it. You don’t owe them a conversation or explanation. I also like to avoid what I call Ghouls, people who just always have bad news and seem to love spreading misery and negativity. Block or delete it, life is too short to have to navigate that.
Third. Know what makes you happy. It’s important to know what makes you happy from small acts to indulgences. I love treating myself to new makeup (almost weekly lol) at my local drugstores. I don’t need it, I know, but it’s fun and harmless. I’ll admit, I purchase items even when things are going well because, like I said, it’s fun for me. I also make it a point to have dinner/drinks on Fridays with my husband when the week has been especially hectic. It’s a great way to de-stress (for me) and to let go of any bad vibes from the week. Knowing that I have some go-to’s that make me happy make things a little easier when things are super stressful.
How do you navigate vicarious trauma and/or de-stress from work?