Alyssa Invernizzi, our Summer 2023 Intern, reports on the 2023 DC Bar Wellness Summit. The webinar conceptualized the idea of balancing caregiving, personal life, and work life in the legal field.
On Wednesday, June 16th, I was granted the opportunity to attend the DC Bar Wellness Webinar Summit for the year 2023. As a new intern for IAWJ, I was unaware of what to expect entering these sessions. The noon session of the webinar was called "No Sandwich for Me: Managing the Stressors of Caregiving," led by the CEO and founder of Mindful Return, Lori Mihalich-Levin, along with the CEO and founder of Mom's Hierarchy of Needs, Leslie Forde. I developed a lot of respect for these women at the webinar's conclusion. As a college student, I was oblivious to the burnout and stress that new mothers experience returning to the workforce. The work/life integration tends to become more challenging than expected, and amidst the pandemic as well, a remote position can interfere with that. The thesis of the webinar discussed how extra pressure and no self-care contribute to widening the gap between parents’ place of happiness and their place of stress or depression. Balancing caregiving, partnering, and working are new skills they must obtain. They introduced a way to create stability by prioritizing things differently and at different times of the day. There are four themes to focus on in caregiving: managing our energy, figuring out the logistics, seeing the leadership opportunities, and building and staying in the community. These themes allow new parents to break down barriers and examine the critical assumptions of what they want to accomplish. This then becomes effective when finding a rhythm.
Firstly, the key is to start managing your energy, meaning that we are not just our heads; we must manage our whole bodies and energy. Levin and Forde advised that you practice 17-second micro-mindfulness practices. This channeling of thoughts brings you into an uplifted state and focuses on the power of centering (inhaling and exhaling). It is important to note that you will always have 17 seconds to check your phone calls or text messages. We can always say, "we do not have time," but, you can make the time. Mental health and mindfulness are vital for new moms and dads to practice when adjusting to an unknown schedule. Secondly, figuring out the logistics involves starting each day with an “MIT”, which is the Most Important Task. Getting done what needs to be completed first at the beginning of your day takes a weight off your shoulders. Then, later on, when you need to complete other tasks, it is advised that you practice the Pomodoro Method. This method is a timer where you are set to work on a project for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. I have used this method in my past studying in college, and it is very effective, mainly because I have a short attention span. While doing all of this, you want to ensure that before you start, you make a "brain-dumping list" to write down everything you need to finish for that day. Utilizing the Eisenhower Matrix can allow you to "do, delegate, schedule, and delete" what needs to occur for that particular workday. After a long workday, it is essential to prioritize your time to reset for the next day and focus on your family life. Encouraging shut-down boundaries to sleep and rest allows your energy to excel the next day at work. Declaring a time to stop working is essential to ensure you stay on task and receive that well deserved rest time. Having an activity to look forward to after work also helps this endeavor as I am sure most time at home is with your kids. They mentioned that taking the long commute home can be the littlest thing to help your mind reset after a long day.
By seeing leadership opportunities, caregiving can be more manageable for you. The keys to achieving this are through patience, organization, and active listening at work and home. From an outsider's perspective, this lifestyle and balancing can be effective for anyone, especially those undergoing stress from a new adjustment. They mentioned five critical career skills that parenthood could unlock, such as emotional intelligence, courage, resilience, productivity and efficiency, and ambition and motivation. We all experience work-life conflict, but we can enrich and improve those conflicts with these skills. As a new resident myself in the DMV area, these skills are essential to preventing burnout and loneliness. Being drowned in your work without organization and prioritization will only cause more stress. Lastly, it is crucial to remember to build and stay within your community. As I mentioned, being isolated in your work will not help you. You want to explore new places and meet new people. Connecting with them over similar struggles you've endured balancing caregiving and work can allow for a nurturing network. Mindful Return and Mom's Hierarchy of Needs offers summer sessions and 30-minute assessments to assist you in that transition. You can explore more options that are beneficial for you on @mindfulreturn and @momshierarchyofneeds on Instagram and Linkedin. Definitely a great resource to utilize if you are undergoing these patterns now.
Moving onto the second session of the DC Bar Wellness Summit, which was entitled "Remove Subconscious Blocks and Stress that Prevent Professional Success: An Emotional Freedom Techniques Experience." The CEO of Resistant Vision Coaching, Michelle Thompson, conducted this workshop. This session taught us an emotional freedom technique (EFT) of tapping to calm our bodies and reduce our heart rate. This was proven to be an effective tool when focusing on well-being in a professional and personal mindset. The tapping is said to provide emotional support, calm the amygdala, and bring you into a more relaxed state. The tapping has two parts: the balance phrase "Even Though….." and the reminder phrase "I am open to the possibility that this can shift." This is supposed to be done with constricted breathing, and you can tap with both hands to create bilateral stimulation. Each time we tapped, we were instructed to increase our "inhale, exhale" to double breathing capacity. Also, this was effective for most participants in the session; I felt calmer but did not see a dramatic shift in my heartbeats. Since the majority experienced a different feeling than myself, it is likely effective for full-time lawyers. It is known that they are susceptible to poor self-care and struggle with family-work balance. This tapping method gives this group time to think about what they want.
Thompson then explained the Resistant Vision Framework. The key terms within this framework include Calm, Clarify, and Commit. The framework intends to measure how the brain processes stress (i.e., perfectionism, personal vs. legal life, self-care, and health). These mindsets can cause weight gain, high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, infertility, and poor sleep and eating schedules. As your heart rate continues to elevate, we negatively build these mindsets. Therefore, we need emotional freedom in order to affect our ability to do our work positively. Thompson then used anatomy examples to show how effective tapping can be. She talks about how the brain stem and amygdala counteract to be the first part of the brain to retrieve information. The brain's frontal lobe is the most sophisticated part and the last to access that information. These parts of the brain are highly responsible for the fight or flight response, meaning we respond to our work the same way that happens to our bodies. What EFT does is help channel good energy receptors into our bodies so we can navigate these challenging situations more efficiently. Not only can tapping reduce stress in the work environment, but it can also strengthen your core and help when you are disturbed by something in your personal life or whenever you need it.
Overall, I believe the tactics from both webinars conceptualize the idea of balancing caregiving, work life, and personal life. These three ladies have introduced skills that I can possess moving forward even though I am not a mother myself. These mindfulness practices can be favorable to anyone who is balancing more than one lifestyle, and as a college student, I have personally used them in the past. After listening to both sessions, I have greater admiration for young moms in the legal field. In relation to our mission of representing women judges all over the world, these tactics reveal the admiration that we have for our members. The speakers depicted the realities of the everyday lives of women judges, and knowing this now will allow them to triumph. Being a female judge is never easy in a male-dominated role, and when it comes to balancing the struggles at work and caregiving at home, it's important to remember to use these techniques. Lastly, thank you to the DC Bar Wellness Summit team for organizing these webinar sessions, and thank you for providing the IAWJ team with some practical methods that we can link with our organization's mission in the future.