Shabnam Ali-Khan: mental health in the midst of a pandemic

Thursday 12 November 2020

As England enters into another lockdown this month, mental health continues to be a great concern. With many of us working from home it is all too easy to feel isolated and suffer in silence. In this article I touch on some of the mental health issues affecting lawyers in the leasehold sector particularly in the face of the current pandemic.

It goes without saying that being a lawyer in the residential leasehold sector can be a pressurised and demanding job. It comes with frequent deadlines and formalities to follow along with many carrying a heavy workload and working long hours. This can take its toll on mental health and sadly there still remains some stigma against speaking out when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and need help. I, for one am guilty of this and have struggled in the past to open up about my own mental health. See, even using the word “guilty” shows I have work to do. Although I am pleased to say it is something I am becoming more candid about, especially as I realise I am not alone, and perhaps I can encourage others to be more open too. Moreover, and importantly, there is absolutely no weakness in talking about your mental health. In the long run it is the safest option. Being able to talk about your mental health will not only open the floor for others but will lead to many law firms ensuring they have the right procedures and support in place to help their staff.

I am sad and disappointed that we are entering a further lockdown as I had booked a solo weekend away in November. Being cooped up working remotely since March is draining and exhausting and I was really looking forward to this short break away. However, there are things that we can do to ensure we still have a healthy work-life balance and look after our mental health and well-being. Below I outline a few options to consider: 

  • Taking a break from the screen! Even just a few minutes every hour or so. Staring at a screen for too long is harmful for the eyes and will affect your concentration. It is much better to have these little breaks which will make you more productive;
  • Get up and move around! When you are working from home it is all too easy to stay hunched over the computer which is not good for your breathing and your posture. There is also a further danger of people working with unsafe workstations. For example, the screen may be too close, or your seat may not be in a suitable position for your body. Ask your employer if there is anything they can do to help make sure your working environment is safe and comfortable
  • Exercise! My yoga practice has been a real bonus during the last few months. It enables me to focus on my breathing which can help reduce anxiety and stress. It is so nice to have a big stretch as well. A welcome treat from being slumped over my desk.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: this is not for everyone but may be worth looking into. Taking a step back to just slow down the mind and be in the present moment can have its benefits. It is known to help with sleep, concentration and to lift moods.
  • Finally, and most importantly: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE! Easier said than done in a world full of pop-up windows on numerous screens. Take a step back, breathe, and deal with your work and life in smaller bite-sized chunks.