Pippa Allsop
Posted on 5 Sep 2019

Five steps to self care in difficult times

Family lawyers regularly see clients who are having a very difficult time as they try to navigate dealing with the stress of relationship breakdown and other family problems. Of course, the primary function of the family lawyer is to advise on the law and to help clients achieve the best practical outcome in their particular circumstances. However, there are undoubtedly other additional, often non-legal, elements involved in being a family lawyer.

Recognition of the emotional impact that such problems can have is part of the acquired experience of the family lawyer. Good lawyers need to assure clients that, although it may feel that way to them, they are not the first to have such feelings. Often the lawyer can offer their own general 'life skills' advice and support: sometimes a recommendation and referral to a specific expert can be effective e.g. a counsellor, health and well-being professional, nutritionist etc.

It was reported recently that five experts in their fields were asked what advice they would give to those experiencing feelings of stress, excessive exhaustion, sleeplessness, anxiety, feelings of helplessness and the like. Each of the experts emphasised that for anything other than fairly conventional symptoms, they would recommend a consultation with the appropriate specialist.

There were, however some common themes that applied to the advice of each of the experts in terms of some 'self-help' that could help to alleviate the problems. None of the recommendations is ground-breaking: we all know them to be true, but sometimes to have advice repeated is reassuring and helpful. These steps are also free.

The most common recommendations were as follows:

Eat sensibly

It is well-known that those feeling under pressure can adopt unhealthy but temporarily comforting diets. Our moods, actions and ability to manage our lives can be affected, sometimes adversely, by what we eat and drink. Too much alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fat and processed foodstuffs can induce lethargy. This in turn can demotivate the need to exercise and/or undertake necessary household and life management tasks which in turn can have a negative impact on wellbeing.

This is in sharp contrast to the energising feeling that comes from eating fresh produce, fruit and vegetables and drinking sufficient water.

Sleep

How often did our elders tell us that sleep was important: how keen we were to ignore and disbelieve that advice: how well do we all now know the advice to be true. Of course, sleep, however well intentioned, can be difficult when issues concerning the mind is full of anxieties, such as those about financial problems and the children. There is much advice available to help with sleep deprivation but the most common is on established routine, which helps the body and the mind to settle and to register when the time has come to slow down and benefit from those essential 7 to 8 hours of rest.

Information and Communication Overload

Never before in history has the human brain been subjected to such a barrageĀ  of information and stimulation. Much of it is now regarded as essential but only a few years ago, not many people would have thought of walking to the local bank or telephoning their electricity supply company at 11.00pm. Now we have the ability to do both all through the night. Self-discipline is required in relation to these and other activities which involve the use of technology, but it can pay dividends if it helps to promote undisturbed sleep.

Exercise

No-one is suggesting that non-athletes should set themselves the target of running a marathon, but a regular walk to the nearest shop, instead of using the car, or a stroll before going to bed or in the morning, will be beneficial to wellbeing.

Everyone has their own idea of the way to improve their wellbeing "if only I had time". The truth is that most of us are able to find the time if we really want to do so.

N.B. If you are suffering from a health condition which you feel might be made worse by taking up any form of life-style change, we would strongly recommend that you check with your doctor.