Legal Practice,  Work Life Balance

Re-Gaining Momentum: How to Keep the Winter Blues at Bay

When I started at my first job post-law school it was a week from Thanksgiving. By the time January and February rolled around, I was still so immersed in learning new material, getting accustomed to my work’s culture, and just being thrilled to have a job that everything went smoothly. Imagine my surprise, when a year later, I started feeling a sense of ennui and lack of motivation. I think most people experience a type of post-holiday funk or a mild case of the winter blues.

beating the winter blues

Once the shine of being a working attorney wears off, the reality is that we’re working long hours and often aren’t home until it’s dark outside. Perhaps we get stuck in a routine or become lethargic and sedentary because all we want to do after working a full day is come home and relax.

It was about a year into my job that I had this sense of dissatisfaction and I never had experienced it before–hello, I had been in school for every year of my life and had always gotten to go through the excitement of a new semester. Once I realized that all that was facing me was more of the same routine I quickly decided I had to do something.

If you’re feeling a little bit of a post-holiday funk or generally feel bummed at work, what I have found helpful is first recognizing that I’m not feeling like my normal (usually positive) self, and then deciding how I’m going to counter these new feelings.

At work, I have found it useful to stop and assess what I’m doing. I take a moment to look at the long-term and short-term goals I have set and then make a plan to ensure that I’m working on achieving those goals. These goals can pertain things you were asked to work on in a performance evaluation or they can be personal career goals that you would like to achieve. The point is to recalibrate and assess what you’re doing, rather than just going through the motions every day.

Another simple step I take is trying to add some excitement in my everyday routine. Note, excitement is used very, very liberally here. Maybe I set up more lunch dates with friends (even though it’s freezing out); or I buy myself a nice lunch or a baked good during the work day. Some days I just close my office door and do very simple and quick yoga poses to stretch my muscles and give my mind a break.

Sometimes the winter blues are bad enough that they seep into my home life as well. In those instances, I opt to take a mental health day and just chill at home for a day. This gives me a chance to relax, take a break, and re-energizes when I return to work. I’m a big proponent for mental health days and encourage people to take them when they can.

The most important thing that one can do is always keep in mind that we’re not our jobs. Yes, we’re attorneys, but we’re not the day-to-day job. So it’s essential to find something–anything–that can be a healthy outlet. For me, I try to make sure I cook a meal at least three times a week. Cooking gives me a break from thinking (or talking) about work and any issues I’m facing, but more importantly it gives me structure and a sense of accomplishment when I make a new dish or improve on an old one. It’s a simple approach but it really helps balance out the bad–like the fact that I’m face two degree weather during my commute this week. 🙁

What do you do to stay energized at work?