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The inability to unwind

Lawyers are generally strung pretty tight. The edicts of our profession require us to perform different roles depending on our audience. According to the Maryland Rules of Professional Conduct’s Preamble, “A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Add another layer of professional and personal requirements and one’s responsibilities grows exponentially.

work-relaxAs mentioned in my last blog post, the last six weeks have been a blur of late nights and long weekends. Between the close of discovery in more than one case ending within days of one another, a district court trial, and an arbitration (plus the high mileage training month for an upcoming marathon and another family-related issue), each day was a never-ending battle with the clock.

Fast forward to today (after the settlement of a case and the close of discovery) – the workload is manageable and I am no longer going 100 mph. Unfortunately, I have had a difficult time getting my brain (or stress level) to line up with the reality of the situation. I cannot unwind from the stress that has built up for the last few weeks and months. An underlying level of pressure remains on my shoulders and I have tried my best to shake it.

This past weekend, which I deemed to be a work-free weekend, was focused on time with the family and friends. Unfortunately, I could not stop thinking about work, cases, to-do lists, depositions and hearings. In an effort to unwind, I went for a nice long run on the NCR trail, only to spend the miles organizing a potential cross examination in my head. I enjoyed some cocktails with friends, but simply got sleepy. I tried to meditate (which I don’t normally do, but figured I should try to be in the “present”) and almost feel asleep before being interrupted by the screams of my youngest child. As crazy as it sounds, I considered coming in on Sunday to organize my work with hopes that this would help me unwind.  Obviously, I quickly quashed that idea.

In talking with a colleague in my office with whom I worked closely on a case, he admitted the same. He also advised that the last time he had resolved a large case, it took him a couple of weeks to “get back to normal.”  So as I try to shake off the aftereffects, I have turned my attention to the next case (or cases). The process begins again, with scheduling hearings and drafting of discovery. I wonder if there is a faster way to unwind than simply the passage of time (in the same vein as the old adage “Time heals all wounds”).  If you have a better way, I would love to hear it.

How have you shaken off the stress of a big case or huge deadline?