Happy New Year! Or Is It?

Last week I facilitated our first WLF cohort of 2022. I asked the participants to select the number associated with the Meryl Streep photo that best describes their current mood. Seven of eight women said #9. The one person who did not choose #9 chose #6 because she didn’t want to be the Meryl Streep in Kramer v Kramer (who had to give up her child in a divorce). This group of women is not at all unique. Why is everyone so down? 

Many WLF participants and alumnae did not get the break over the holidays that they so desperately needed and deserved. COVID impacted family gatherings, vacations, school schedules, and childcare support. So many holiday plans fell apart at the last minute. So much support, down time, and connection disappeared. And for many, the work kept coming. The result is that many women lawyers are entering 2022 feeling even more depleted and depressed than they were before the holidays. Now, they are facing into an uncertain and demanding new year. 

Our typical January newsletter involves a reflection on the past year and creating an inspiring vision for the new year. While we continue to believe that these are valuable exercises, we chose not to focus on them this January because so many of us are not in a frame of mind to create an inspiring vision for 2022. Many people are just trying to get through what is immediately in front of them.

As you know, we love to be pro-active about changing things for the better when they are within our control. However, right now, so many things are out of our control: COVID, re-entry schedules, childcare availability, work and personal demands, weather, etc. When we have no control over our circumstances sometimes our only option is to simply accept what is: a really hard time AGAIN! Jim Gaffigan, the stand-up comedian, said “The pandemic is like a TV show that you thought was cancelled then you find out it was picked up by Netflix.”

This is not to say that you shouldn’t look for what you can change. But while we may want to rail against what we can’t influence, wring our hands, and wish things were different, spending energy in these ways may leave us feeling more frustrated and upset. Remember one of our favorite quotes is “All suffering is resisting reality.” -Buddha.

Everyone on this mailing list has demonstrated the ability to effectively navigate difficult circumstances. In fact, this ability is probably one reason you have been so successful. However, research says that if you are having negative feelings, the best thing to do is to allow yourself to feel them. When we try to ignore negative feelings or push them away, they get stronger. When we validate and respect them, we can more easily navigate through them and see a way forward. 

We suggest you allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling now: depletion, sadness, confusion, anger, fear and/or lack of motivation. Offer yourself the compassion you would offer a dear friend. Our bodies have a miraculous way of taking care of us if we allow the feelings to come. This week one of our clients said she felt so much better after she had a really good cry. Accepting that there are times that are going to be sad and difficult opens space to feel better.

We know for certain this time will pass. We can collectively hold each other up through our community. Just knowing we are not alone can help. You might even want to reach out to your WLF partner/cohort to check in and see how they are doing. You can also look for other sources of support. This is not the time to go it alone. Resilient people know it’s okay to be vulnerable and seek help. Connection during this time is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

We offer a few other practices below that might help you bridge the gap between now and when things get better – and they will!

Here Are Some Suggestions That Are Within Your Control

Buy A Sun Lamp. For many of us, the cold, dark winter months can be depressing. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sun lamps can be a great antidote because they positively impact your body’s production of serotonin, which helps regulate your mood. You can find sun lamps on Amazon and many retail stores.

Get Some Fresh Air. Even when it is cold, walking outside for five or ten minutes has the potential improve your mood.

Schedule Some Fun. Put some fun things on the calendar so you have something to look forward to. Even a (virtual) drink with a friend or planning a future vacation can give you a little boost.

Slow Down. Sometimes, when we are carrying tension, we find ourselves rushing for no reason. Slow down just a little. Try adjusting the pace of your walk and other everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth, washing dishes, folding laundry, going up and down stairs, etc. 

Do A Quick Visioning Exercise. It might help you gain some perspective on this difficult period. Try this: Imagine it is January 2023 and you are looking back on 2022, with its ups and downs. Name 3 things that were satisfying and meaningful to you. Ask yourself, “what do I need to put in place now so that I increase the odds of those things happening this year.”

Are you an alum of the Women’s Leadership Forum? We’d love to keep in touch with you! Request to join us in our private Facebook group, or connect with Susan on LinkedIN and send me a note that you’d like to