The life of a successful lawyer who travels constantly for work can sound attractive, even alluring … to those who don’t have to do it. They imagine going to exotic places, meeting with important people and dining in the best restaurants. But ask someone who’s actually living the road warrior life and you’ll hear about a different reality. Living in hotels, endless meetings, airport delays, traffic jams, fast food or skipped meals, the effects of multiple time zones—it’s not an easy life. While many successfully navigate through it, there can be significant negative effects on one’s mental health. How can you minimize the negative consequences? Careful thought and planning can help a great deal. Here are suggestions to help you overcome some of the “on-the-road stressors.”
- Exercise. Just as exercise helps with staying physically healthy on the road, it definitely leads to better mental health as well. Even short 10-minute exercise sessions can have a positive impact. It lifts your mood, increases your mental agility and helps reduce the effects of jet lag.
- Grab some sunshine. Just 15 minutes in the sun will help your mental health. If your schedule makes it tough to get any sunlight, consider purchasing and traveling with a light box. Verilux and other manufacturers make portable ones.
- Pack audiobooks and music. Plan some healthy mini-escapes from constant work. Download audiobooks of your favorite fiction and non-fiction subjects. Engaging your mind in something different has a refreshing effect. And don’t underestimate what music can do! Studies show that listening to upbeat songs can have a wonderful impact on your mood. Classical music in particular can have a very relaxing effect, lowering stress almost immediately.
- Stay connected. Use Skype, Facetime or other apps to stay in face-to-face contact with your family and friends. One of the hardest things about being on the road a lot is the way it affects personal relationships, which need nurtured through interactions. Plan out with your loved ones how you’ll continue to interact normally even when away. It reduces the loneliness factor, as well as the negative impact of re-entering home life after long stretches of travel.
- Create social relationships on the road. Are there locales that you go to often? Get to know your clients and others there on a social level. For example, my father-in-law, a former road warrior for an international company, would play tennis with some of the people he met with regularly in different places. This gave him exercise plus a social outlet, even when the job demanded his absence from home for long periods. Others I know use Facebook and LinkedIn to look up old friends and possible connections in locations where they must travel often.
- Try meditation. Being a road warrior is stressful. Although learning to meditate is not easy, once you’ve learned, it can be done anywhere. Neurological and psychological studies show that nothing has a greater impact on our mental health than getting our stress under control, and nothing does that better than meditation. Consider downloading some “how to” lessons on your iPod or other MP3 player.
You may have your own strategies for maintaining a healthy mind and mood while meeting the demands of a challenging career. The important point is to think ahead about how you’ll proactively do this, with particular emphasis on reducing stress, staying connected with family and friends—and finding ways to engage different parts of your brain through exercise, reading, music and meeting new people.
Marcia Pennington Shannon is a founding principal of Shannon and Manch, LLP, and has nearly 30 years of experience in lawyer career and professional development. Marcia’s latest book is The Lawyer’s Career Management Handbook: Your Bridge to a Satisfying Career.
Keep the Good Ideas Coming
You can subscribe here to Attorney at Work’s Daily Dispatch to make sure you get “one really good idea every day” in your inbox … no charge.