Resilience is the ability to adapt or ‘bounce back’ from negative experiences such as criticism, rejection or significant sources of stress arising from family issues, health problems and, as lawyers, all of the stressful elements that we face everyday in the workplace.

While each of us is born with a certain degree of resiliency, environmental factors can also influence our ability to move past difficult life experiences and recover more quickly. As a result, some people are highly resilient while others are not, if at all. Unfortunately, studies have shown that lawyers overall have low levels of resilience which likely provides some explanation as to why we, as a profession have higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. Some theories also include the view that lawyers are often more cynical, skeptical, critical and negative due to the nature of our work.

All hope is not lost. There are proven ways to boost one’s resilience allowing for a greater ability to deal with and recover from unsettling and upsetting situations and will become a key skill for tackling anxiety and depression in the profession. In his best-selling book, The Resiliency Advantage, the late Al Siebert, PhD, writes that “highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change. Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will. They have a knack for creating good luck out of circumstances that many others see as bad luck.”

The importance is to identify those things that will work best for you in developing a strong(er) level of resilience. Some include:

  1. Connections: Positive relationships have proven to be extremely important. Having supports who you can speak to and who actively listen helps strengthen resilience.
  1. Accept that Change is part of living: Things may not always turn out how we would like. Learning how to accept the things we cannot change allows us to focus on those things we can.
  1. Keep things in Perspective: Even when you’re dealing with extremely difficult circumstances, try to consider the bigger, long term picture.
  1. Take care of yourself: Be kind, don’t beat yourself up. When you’re well rested, eating healthy and getting exercise. you’re more likely to maintain a healthy way of dealing with traumatic situations when they occur.

Our physical resilience depends heavily on our baseline mental and emotional well-being. One of the best ways to nurture that, says Carol Orsborn, PhD, author of The Art of Resilience: 100 paths to Wisdom and Strength in an Uncertain World, is to take regular mental breaks: ‘It could be something as formal as a regular meditation practice or….simply taking time to day dream.

While this may seem like common sense, for those struggling, it’s a daily challenge. It certainly is for me. Fortunately, help is always available.

— Colleen McDuff, McDuff Law Office
Winnipeg, Manitoba
On behalf of CBA Wellness

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