The role of the barrister is a demanding one. Research conducted on behalf of the Bar Council has identified a number of factors that impact the wellbeing of members of the profession.
Main among them were:
Lack of personal autonomy
Lack of trust
Rumination and self-critical perfectionism
Lack of good quality sleep
Limited opportunity to eat well
Financial concerns relating to fees and availability of work
On the positive side there were a number of factors that the research found to be supportive of wellbeing & resilience. These included:
Personal support from colleagues in Chambers
Having the ability to share and discuss personal challenges
Having an opportunity for learning and development
Having a sense of purpose
Having an opportunity for progression
Raising awareness of these factors through this research was an important first step. Following on from this research the Bar Council has been keen to work with organisations to help them develop a supportive wellbeing culture.
It is equally important to the Bar Council to work with individual members; providing them with some practical tools to help them develop a strategy to maintain their resilience and support their wellbeing. Below are some of those practical tools that you can use to help you develop your resilience and mental toughness, so that you can maintain your wellbeing in challenging situations.
The Wellbeing Card
How to develop your personal Wellbeing Card
Step One: Map Your Personal Environment.
Your environment is everything you are exposed to from day to day. You could break this into three broad groups for which you can ask yourself a series of questions. These three groups are:
firstly, generic environments - which are the environments that are common to everyone and that we all need to only slightly differing degrees to help maintain our wellbeing;
second, we have our personal environments - which are the things that are very personal to us and may differ wildly from person to person;
finally, we have our working environments - which differ from person to person to a large degree.
Below you'll find a link to a Wellbeing Workbook where you explore these three environments for yourself.
The more effort you put into reflecting on your personal environment and how it impacts your wellbeing and the longer the period of time that you do it for, the better the results will be. A Wellbeing Coach would work with you over a number of weeks to help you raise your awareness of your personal environment and the impact that it has on your wellbeing. You can do something similar with self-reflection or by talking things through with a mentor, trusted colleague, partner or friend.
Step Two: Score your Personal Environment
Having mapped out your personal environment, you can then go on to score it. This is a simple, instinctive score, based on whether you feel comfortable in your environment, or not-so-comfortable.
Again, the more effort, the better. This will give you a really strong idea of the day to day challenges that impact your wellbeing and the aspects of your environment that you find stimulating and supportive of your resilience.
Step Three: Identify Your Triggers and Resilient Resource
Now that you have mapped and scored your environment, you can pinpoint the things that really challenge your wellbeing (your Triggers) and the things that support your resilience (your Resilient Resources).
You can now avoid, where possible, those things that threaten your wellbeing; and you can immerse yourself in the things that help you remain resilient.
Step Four: Develop Strategies to Strengthen Your Resilience in Challenging Situations
Sometimes, of course, we cannot avoid the things that threaten our wellbeing. So, we can develop strategies to help us stay resilient, even when our circumstances are challenging.
There are three strategies that you can work on:
Gradual Exposure – this is where you gradually expose yourself to something you find difficult. With the support of a coach, mentor or trusted colleague you can gradually overcome the challenge in a more effective way than if you address it head-on and without support.
Compensation – this is where you fulfil an obligation but you compensate for your challenge by collaborating with others or seeking support from others. Here you are effectively compensating for your personal limitations rather than pushing yourself beyond your limits to achieve something that it is not vital for you to achieve by yourself.
Brain Training – this is where you reflect on how you think about your challenges and work on reframing your thinking. This helps you to maintain a more positive inner dialogue about the things you find challenging.
You can read more about these strategies here. [LINK]
Now Develop Your Wellbeing Card
Having gone through these simple exercises, you can now develop a Wellbeing Card of your own, that is very personal to you. Add your own personal skills, talents and abilities to make sure you play to your strengths where you can. You now have an effective tool to help you focus on your resilient resources and build greater resilience for the things that you currently find challenging.
You can download a Wellbeing Workbook below. You can use this for personal reflection and to help you develop your own resilience & wellbeing strategy.
Resilience is a very personal thing. You might thrive in the sort of environment that someone else might struggle in, and vice versa. It is therefore very important for an individual to have a personalised strategy for resilience. Becoming more aware of those environments that you find challenging, and the environments that you find supportive is a positive first step. This is the foundation stone to being able to develop greater personal resilience.
The Wellbeing Card is a tool developed by Jonathan Phelan from Evenhood to help people discover their resilient resources and develop mental toughness. Jonathan first started using the Wellbeing Card to support clients who wanted to improve their wellbeing & resilience. The purpose of the Wellbeing Card is to keep a record of those very personal aspects that you find challenging, and those things that help you improve your resilience. You then use this to help you strengthen your resilience as well as to make sure that you have better quality conversations about your wellbeing.