April 2016

In Case You Missed It: Stress Reduction Techniques


Building and maintaining a law practice can be stressful, especially for lawyers who are just starting out. On April 20, the SDCBA hosted a program to provide attorneys with tips to help manage and reduce stress. The presenters, Dr. Dennis Saccuzzo and Dr. Nancy Johnson, are attorneys-turned psychologists, and they shared their favorite practical techniques for reducing stress levels instantly and increasing resiliency against stress over time. Here are a few takeaways, in case you missed it:

Take a cleansing breath. Pause and take a deep breath in and exhale.

Immobilize your body. Relax your body and do not move for a few moments.

Be aware of your breath. Detach from yourself and imagine that you are watching yourself breathe.

Be aware of your body. Do a body scan – visually go through the body to find any stress and let go of it.

Find a mantra or affirmation. Any vowel sound works as a mantra – “ah,” “eh,” “om,” “ha,” “hm,” or the “ah-om” combination. Repeat it to yourself in your head.

Self-suggest. Give yourself positive suggestions. For example, “I can handle this” or “I deserve this.” Whatever negative suggestion you give yourself, replace it with a positive one.

Live here and now. Here is where you are. Don’t worry about something in the future that hasn’t even happened.

Take personal responsibility. We are the ones who are responsible for the way we feel - we control the way we feel. To the extent that we feel control, we feel that we can cope.

Lawyers can benefit from the same stress-reducing techniques used by Navy Seals when under extreme pressure:

  1. Arousal Control: When under stress, practice breath control and release body tension. When you slow your breathing, everything else follows.
  2. Goal-Setting: Narrow the focus of your task. For example, set a goal to get through the next five minutes. After that is accomplished, get through the following five minutes and so on.
  3. Self-Talk: Calm down with self-talk. Obey your own commands. Take control over your thought process and change the way you’re thinking. Remind yourself that everything always works out – you might not get what you want, but it always works out.
  4. Mental-Rehearsal: Whether it’s litigating in court, or presenting to an audience, mentally rehearse everything you are going to do and see yourself succeeding. Within reason, try to determine possible reactions to your presentation or litigation, and mentally rehearse your response.