The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted mental health and well-being. Despite shorter (or no) commutes, many people report feeling more anxious and stressed in the past two plus years. People have been living in close quarters, and many parents had to deal with their children being home and having to get them set for online school while also managing their own work responsibilities. Others reported feeling confined and unable to relax, especially those living in unhappy or unsettled households.
What does this have to do with law, being a lawyer, or anything else?
Read more and find out.
The Struggle is Real
Most of you probably think that I am a happily married 57 year old lawyer with an old house and a bicycling habit. I am. But I am also someone who feels stress frequently. Things that upset me are changes in my routine, too many demands on my time, not enough sleep, and a lack of control of my surroundings.
Well, did I just survive the most amazingly stressful four months or so!
We began a long-delayed gut remodel of our kitchen. To accomplish this, we moved out of our house for three months to a small Airbnb condo. Our cat, who also hates her routine being changed, freaked out and hid in the closet for a week and did not understand why she could hear noises outside of our unit. We also were not used to the concept of shared walls and ceilings (we were on the second of three floors, so we heard both above and below). While our host was generally wonderful, there were occasional guests who used their stay as an excuse to party til the wee hours.
There was also an incredibly sensitive smoke detector that erupted every single time we used the oven or the stove. It was difficult for me to reach while standing on a chair, so every time I cooked it felt like the highwire Olympics, while watching my cat freak out and hide under a bed or in a closet for hours. If I wanted to go bike riding, I’d have to walk to our home, wade through the dust and debris, change into riding clothes in the basement, then walk home dirty. The fridge in our rental froze many items, meaning half our weekly groceries would be unusable.
Did I mention that my car died during our stay (and days after I’d agreed to sell it)? It simply would not start and needed costly work.
Did I also mention the bathroom in our house we’d begun remodeling in February of 2021 that still remained unusable due to a combination of worker screw ups and supply chain and breakage issues?
Despite my ability to handle lots of stress with exercise, a healthy diet, and a happy relationship, this was simply more than I could handle.
Spinning Out of Control
Before we even moved out, my anxiety was unprecedented. In 2021, we’d lost my father, my cousin, and our beloved dog. In 2022, I still have a family member with a terminal illness. While I thought I had mourned sufficiently, apparently, I was still not “over” all this loss and illness.
Oh yeah, and I was still dealing with my father’s estate, which involved working with my sister. My sister and I love one another, but we have always gotten on one another’s nerves after a while. We had to deal with the estate lawyer, the financial people, the real estate people, my father’s life partner, and it just magnified the angst.
Out of nowhere, I began having what I assumed were heart palpitations during exercise. I assumed they were related to a valve issue I’d had for years and resolved to be more mindful of my electrolyte intake.
But they didn’t stop. I could not get through a difficult bike workout on any regular basis without feeling shortness of breath. I finally went to a cardiologist, who monitored me for a month. Despite numerous tests and the aforementioned monitoring (try wearing a heart monitor and carrying it around all day and all night, removing it only to shower!), no defect was found.
The only logical conclusion, which my wife Beth (who knows me all too well) posited, was that the overall anxiety and stress had gone into overdrive to the point where it affected my health.
Fortunately, once we regained a bit of control and certainty in our lives by moving back home in late April, settling on a new car (which we are still awaiting delivery of), and seeing the house come together and get cleaned top to bottom, I began to feel more like myself.
I even took a step back on my upcoming bicycle racing season. I purposely skipped the first two races, and began my season “late,” in May. Knock wood, but I am back to whatever qualifies as normal for me (I am wearing a “poop emoji” t-shirt as I write this, so you be the judge). I am racing well, training hard, and in complete control of my law practice. I’m happy.
I guess I forgot to mention my wife, in her inimitable optimism, thought getting a new puppy just after moving back in, with workmen in the house regularly, would be doable. It was, but only after dragging our sleep-deprived, exhausted selves through the first three weeks of puppydom.
All the while, I am trying to keep my thriving law practice thriving. I take it very seriously that I am able to talk to my clients as often as possible, that I know their cases inside and out. That I work extremely hard to resolve their cases for top dollar.
I did that while I was “living away.” I worked hard at it. I accomplished much, settled some cases, took in new ones, and kept the practice thriving.
But it took a toll on me.
What Does This Have to Do With You?
I’m so glad you asked and kept asking. I’m now finally ready to answer.
Because you are a human being, as am I. We all feel stress in some way or another, although how it manifests itself varies greatly.
We talk about mindfulness, getting enough exercise, eating right, sleeping well.
And then we don’t practice what we preach. I slept in a bed that was not my own, with ambient noise, dealt with limited ways to prepare and store food, and tried to be there for our confused cat.
And I freaked out physically.
You may be thinking, well, that’s a nice problem: to have the money to redo a kitchen, have the money to move out for three months, still earn a living, and then complain about it.
And you’d be right. My problems are not really problems for so many people. Many people would be thrilled to have such “problems.”
But the central theme is that every single one of us needs to remember to stop trying to do too much (more than we can handle), take time for ourselves both physically and mentally, seek help if we are not doing well, and change what we can so that our environments are not overwhelming.
Don’t try to do something you can’t handle, even if someone else thinks you should.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew without recognizing that you may be choking on it.
Be realistic in what life changes and stresses you can handle.
Discuss a game plan for how you will get through any planned challenges, and do not go forward unless you are certain you see a realistic path all the way to the end.
Know Yourself; Care For Yourself
With age comes a degree of wisdom. Now that I’m older, I’m much more in touch with who I am and what I can handle—what I’m willing to handle.
So what did I do wrong?
There was no way the kitchen would be redone without lots of pain. We knew that going in. There was no way to do it without huge commitments. We were prepared for that.
Or were we? Maybe I was not self-aware enough to recognize that I simply would not be able to handle that without going off the rails. Maybe it was the cumulative effect of so much loss and heartache, the stress of handling dad’s estate, the fear that I would not be in sufficient shape for the upcoming season, the unknown and open-ended timeline of the remodel coupled with the very definite move back date, the loss of my vehicle and autonomy, or a few dozen other things.
Perhaps I am not as strong as I believe I am.
I simply cannot handle some stresses very well.
Know thyself. Know what you can and cannot get through.
There is no shame or weakness in living within your means emotionally and physically. In fact, it’s the smartest thing you can do!
Lessons To Pass On
Discretion is the better part of valor. There’s your Shakespeare quote for this blog. Mark it on your bingo card. Sometimes, knowing when NOT to do too much is smarter than trying to stubbornly push through.
If you see your personality changing or you (or others around you) note a change in your physical well-being, take the hint. You cannot do this—it is making you sick!
Prioritize what is most important and eliminate what is not as urgent.
Find things that make you happy, comfortable, and healthier, and stick with them regularly.
Do your best to discontinue unhealthy habits.
Try online meditation. There are tons of videos out there and even a few minutes a day really helps.
Exercise. Do something. Walk. Take a workout class. It doesn’t have to be much; just more than you were doing before.
Eat right. We all eat poorly at times. I admit to putting chocolate chips on my oatmeal. Guilty. Make better choices. Don’t aim for unrealistic perfection.
To quote the mantra of the Obama White House, “Better is good.”
- Life is stressful for everyone. The pandemic has made things even more difficult for many
- Know when to say no to new projects, activities, endeavors, changes in your routine
- Know yourself. Don’t make decisions based on what others tell you—you know yourself best
- Get help if you can
- Take care of yourself personally and emotionally
- Be mindful
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you’ve been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.