Today is #TimeToTalk day, and what better way to mark it than a short piece on a free and new online course jointly created by LawCare, the Open University and academics at the University of Sheffield: Fit For Law. (To find out more about LawCare click here for an article where I interviewed their CEO, Elizabeth Rimmer.)
Fit For Law is a course of “online educational training designed to up-skill legal practitioners and employers by developing a better, evidenced-based understanding of emotional competence and professional resilience. The overall aim…is to help support emotionally and psychologically healthy ways of working within the legal profession.”
Much has been written, especially of late, about the emotional stress and strain lawyers experience. The Fit For Law course aims to arm students and practitioners with tools to help them navigate legal life while promoting transparency and awareness within firms, chambers and the rest of the legal arena. The course takes around six hours to complete and is well worth spending an evening or two on.
The more everyday (and every day) conversations that take place around mental health and well-being, the less stigma and shame attaches. We feed our bodies, but do we feed our souls and our minds? We have normalised healing physical pain and injury, but do we place the same amount of importance in trying to heal emotional/mental pain and injury? We judge a book by a cover and assume that our smiling, happy-go-lucky neighbours, colleagues and friends never struggle, suffer or feel unsteady. When someone asks us (and truly wants to know): “How are you?” we smile and say, “I’m fine” – when we really aren’t. While there are times and places where it isn’t the most appropriate to share how we are deep-down, I think there are also times and places we can open up, and people who want to/can hear the truthful answer.
Next time you really ask someone “How are you?” why not really listen to their answer – not just the words they say, but the way they say it; the hesitation before the “I’m fine”, the quick glance away, the fidgety movements, the smile that doesn’t quite reach the eyes. Perhaps this is someone who needs to hear a simple: “I’m here if you want to talk.” While also showing them that you are there if they don’t want to. When someone you trust/know asks you, “How are you?” why not test out saying, “Actually, I’m not having the best day today.” and then take the conversation from there. You might just be pleasantly surprised by the response.
It’s not an easy thing to be honest when we aren’t feeling 100%. It can feel very exposing, like we are being ‘weak’ or are burdening that person with our troubles. However, I actually think it is the reverse; it shows bravery to let someone really see you, bravery to own the ‘negative’ or ‘distressing’ emotions and bravery to share that side of yourself with another person.
If you’re struggling but not sure where or who to turn to, or you want to read more about strategies you can employ/deploy by yourself then click here for a whole array of articles covering exam stress, how to cope with curve-balls, the power of exercise, a list of well-being organisations and much more.
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