“Let’s talk about mind and body,” he said. The most important factor is sleep. Sleep is the only free physical and mental repair activity. Literally, sleep impacts the hormone system of the body, which regulates everything — our stress resilience, our appetite, our ability to recover and heal.
“We are basically recharging our iPhone batteries. When we miss charging, the results are obesity, depression and other physical conditions. If we don’t get enough sleep, our body is under stress. Many people believe you can miss out on sleep or make it up, and neither is true. Use it or lose it.
Then there’s exercise.
“We sit for 13.5 hours per day,” Breger said. “One recommendation is to stand up twice every hour, or be moving for five out of every 60 minutes. If we can start to peel ourselves away from the desk every 60 minutes, this is when attention starts to decrease anyway. Moving regularly keeps enzymes alive that burn fat — and it’s a natural way to energize yourself, because moving pumps the heart and gets more oxygen to the brain. Easy guideline: We need to move.”
What about ergonomics in the workplace? It all starts with your monitor, Breger said. Your computer monitor needs to be at eye level — even a small shift like this will improve your posture.
“Next is the way we sit,” he said. “When you sit in a chair, you lose the natural curve of the lower back. A lumbar support, towel or pillow, placed right in the lower back, will help to re-establish the natural curve in the lower back. We many times need more curve then is natural, even in chairs that include a lumbar support. Our body will morph into the unnatural chair position over time if we aren’t careful.”
This is a ton to think about, so how do we prevent from being overwhelmed?
“Choose one of the four categories,” Breger said. “Pick one that excites you the most, and work on it for 21 days in a row. Between Day 7 and Day 21, something called entrainment occurs, and you start to develop a habit. So pick one.
“Also, choose something that you can team up with co-workers or family and friends with, to stay accountable and motivated,” he said. “Law firms hold the secrets to long-term change. They just need to help get theses simple steps implemented.”
Are lawyers working themselves to death? Is the strain of being constantly connected through tablets, cellphones and social media wreaking havoc on our bodies? Yes, according to Lance Breger, an executive wellness coach and founder of Infinity Wellness Partners. Lance has counseled hundreds of law firm administrators and thousands of professionals about how to ease a growing health epidemic.
“There are two issues, internal and external,” Breger told me. “Internally, at work, the legal industry is a high-pressure, high-pace, high-demand environment.” Externally, “what I do outside of the office hours? Does my behavior put things more into balance?” If we don’t use our time off to seek balance, he said, we can create a vicious cycle.
So how do we put our life back in balance? Breger works with lawyers on four major areas: nutrition, fitness, mind and body, and ergonomics. “A couple of minor changes can make a big difference,” he said. “Let’s start with timing. Lawyers tend to skip meals like breakfast or lunch. They are on deadline, clients need attention, or other priorities. This creates a whole cascade of challenges. Nutrition is our fuel. Nutrition has a huge impact on your ability to concentrate, your emotional state, your ability to be resilient to stress. All our food breaks down into chemicals, and they make us work.”
We all know we should eat. What else?
“One nutritional thing that could make the biggest difference would probably be hydration. We are chronically dehydrated. Brain cells are made up of 85 percent water. Stress, sleep, chronic illnesses can all be reduced dramatically by simply drinking half our body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, a 200-pound person needs 100 ounces of water.”
Does coffee count? “No, because coffee and caffeinated drinks are diuretics. This means they dehydrate the body. Caffeine causes you to age faster — you are revving the system up. Do we really need to rev up more? It has a really challenging effect. Caffeine has a six-hour half-life in the body. Your 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. coffee is keeping you up at night.
“We also need to eat better food — meals and snacks that have sources of good fat and lots of colors.” And he doesn’t mean Yellow No. 5. “Anything foreign will create inflammation and will have a toxic effect. Processed and fast foods, simple sugars, create smoldering inflammation to the brain. When we look at our plate, we want to see good sources of fat. Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, putting out the fire in our brain and belly. Colors are antioxidants and prevent cell death and aging. Five great foods to eat include organic eggs yolks, wild-caught salmon, raw almonds, raw vegetables, avocados.”
Next week, we’ll discuss the importance of sleep and physical activity.