Take better care of yourselves – even if 2014 isn’t the summer of love.
Now please don’t get all stressed out over this, but wellbeing has gone mainstream. Wellbeing is a therapeutic process which an increasing number of businesses - including law firms - are encouraging employees to embrace to help counter stress and anxiety in the workplace.
Wellbeing frequently includes ‘mindfulness’, which is a form of meditation that proponents claim brings peace and calm to a frantic world.
All great stuff, but lawyers are realists dealing with the real world – and this all sounds a bit too hippy, a bit too redolent of incense, beads and flowers in your hair. (And here I confess: I made the pilgrimage to San Francisco in 1968.) So how to explain the legal world’s enthusiasm for the concept?
There is certainly a need to do something about stress and anxiety. A 2012 Law Society survey, for example, found that 95% of respondents reported negative stress in their working lives.
And another 2012 survey, this time by charity LawCare, found that around 750 of the 1,000 lawyers who responded said they were more stressed than they were five years earlier.
All this is well documented and, indeed, can be read in a feature that I wrote in August 2013.
The profession is to be applauded for taking the welfare of its practitioners so seriously, even if some cynics suggest that there is a profit motive behind the compassion: after all, a healthy workforce is a stable and productive workforce. Which brings me back to my opening line: wellbeing has gone mainstream. It is no longer the preserve of law firms and corporations protecting the bottom line.
Back in June, a London-wide arts festival, Anxiety 2014, explored and raised awareness of stress and anxiety and how to counter it through wellbeing/mindfulness.
An organisation called NOW appeared at the festival. It promotes mindfulness by encouraging people to participate in art, sculpture, reading, writing and performance exercises.
Right now (7-10 August) the Wilderness live music and contemporary arts festival in Oxfordshire will include 40 NOW events.
NOW will also have live events 16-17 August at London’s South Bank Centre Festival of Love.
Why this apparent plug for NOW? Because, as NOW founder Jana Stefanovska told the Independent newspaper: ‘With stress and anxiety spiralling as they are, we’re driving ourselves into a place that’s really dangerous unless we self-regulate. I know that people might come and think it’s a load of crap, but at the very least it might have registered in their heads that anxiety is a problem and that there are ways of dealing with it.’
Solicitors take heed: you have a stressful job that is crucial for access to justice and the rule of law. Take better care of yourselves.
Jonathan Rayner is Gazette staff writer