This month, we published Part II of our estate planning blog series for young families.  We are also thrilled to share a guest post from Anne Haag.  Anne Haag is a Practice Management Advisor at the Chicago Bar Association. Anne worked as a patent paralegal at a Chicago IP firm before arriving at the CBA in 2017 as the Law Practice Management and Technology department’s trainer/coordinator. She is also a certified crisis counselor and volunteers as a patient advocate in the ER.

Check out Anne’s insights below on how to maintain calm during this time: 

2020 has been a stressful year, to say the least. In times like these, it becomes more important than ever to have a set of habits you can return to in order to find clarity and calm. Taking inspiration from Seinfeld, we all need our ‘serenity now’! Here are some habits you can develop that might help you cultivate a calmer mental state and better process stress triggers:

  1. Limit the amount of time you spend on social media or reading/watching the news.

In between the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place in cities around the country, it feels more important than ever to keep abreast of the news. I’m not suggesting that you tune out entirely, but it’s important to set boundaries if you find the news to be triggering or anxiety-inducing. Remember, social media and the 24-hour news cycles are designed to be addictive. Find your own balance between staying informed and obsessing over things you can’t control. You can use screen time tracking tools on your phone to examine how much time you’re spending on different activities on your phone and go from there. “Screen Time” is a function built-in on Apple devices. It’s a little more complicated on Android devices, but you can follow steps to access your screen usage statistics here:

2. Make your notifications work for you.

In keeping with the previous point, you might want to restrict the notifications you receive on your phone. You can set restrictions based on time of day, type of notification, etc. You can use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ setting to turn off notifications altogether or after a certain time of day. Personally, I found banner notifications (the kind that roll down from the top of your screen while you’re using another app or looking at your phone) to be an odd source of stress. I removed them altogether and feel like I have greater control over my attention when using my phone.

3. Get some fresh air.

If you’re working remotely, be sure to set aside some time each day to spend outside. Outdoor exercise is particularly beneficial to your state of mind. It’s been so hot in Chicago this summer that you may feel more inclined to stay indoors. Finding time in the mornings or evenings to breathe fresh air might take additional planning (and the resolve to get out of bed a little earlier), but you’ll reap the benefits without having to contend with the heat. Even just a 15-minute walk (with a mask, of course) around your neighborhood is a great way to remind yourself that your world isn’t totally bound by the confines of your abode.

4. Practice mindfulness meditation and gratitude.

The pandemic has brought home the fact that we have limited control over our lives. This is an uncomfortable feeling to sit with, and we might spend hours wishing we were literally anywhere else. The practice of mindfulness draws you in to the present moment and grounds you in it. This may seem like the opposite of what you want to do, but it might also open you up to experiencing joy in ways you might otherwise miss. When you’re fully rooted in the present, you’re better able to notice small moments of beauty and warmth – something we all need right now. Taking stock of the things you’re grateful for also unlocks this same sentiment.

5. Make safe socializing a priority.

The pandemic is probably not going to be resolved anytime terribly soon, and Chicago’s summer weather won’t last. Take advantage of being able to be outside while you can! There are plenty of ways to socialize while practicing social distancing. A weekly picnic in the park with friends might go a long way towards making you feel cared for and content.

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