Three New Year’s Resolutions to Keep in 2023

By: Caryn S. Tijsseling, Esq

The new year is a great time take an inventory of our professional lives.  2022 left many of us feeling stressed and overwhelmed.  The good news is the beginning of the new year is an opportunity to take specific actions to help get our stress, our law practices and our lives back under control.

We all know practicing law requires long hours, excessive caseloads, difficult people, changing technology, and a lot of hard work.  And of course, the adversarial process can result in a lack of civility within the profession creating even more daily stress and anxiety.  The result of this lifestyle often leaves lawyers sleep deprived, anxious and isolated.

The good news is there are some amazingly simple things we can do every day that will add up to better stress management and more productivity in 2023.

  • Prioritize Sleep

A surprising number of people are do not get enough sleep.  Not surprisingly, lawyers often lead the statistics when it comes to sleep deprivation.

According to the CDC, most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.[i] For many of us, this may sound impossible.  Yet we need 7-9 hours of sleep each night because sleep happens in 4-5 cycles with each cycle ideally lasting about 90 minutes.   Each cycle plays a key role in our cognitive function.  The less time we spend sleeping, the shorter these cycles become. This results in our brain and body not having the optimal time to recover from the stressors of the day.

Sleep also plays a significant role in how we manage stress and impacts every aspect of our bodies and our overall health. In fact, sleep influences all our physiological processes.  Sleep improves mood and emotional regulation, helps us learn and remember, improves cognition, concentration, and attention, and helps us to be less impulsive.  When we do not get enough sleep, we are likely to experience reduced ability to concentrate and pay attention, decreased memory capacity especially as to facts and recall of events, reduced ability to multitask, reduced decision making, creativity and productivity.  All factors which are crucial to our daily law practices.

While we all intuitively know that sleep is a good thing, when that light goes off our brains may start thinking about that early morning hearing or client meeting.   We may wake up with our heart racing at 2 in the morning wondering if we sent that last email.  Luckily, there are some simple things we can do to make the likelihood of getting a good night sleep better.  Simple things like adjusting the lighting and temperature in the bedroom, spending an extra 10 minutes petting our dogs, reading a book (unless you are a true crime junkie) or having a relaxing cup of tea may help us fall asleep faster and stay asleep.  We can even consider moving way outside our comfort zones and turning off electronic devices (including your iPhone) an hour before bed.  Slight changes like these have been shown to lead to a better night’s sleep over time.

  • Practice Mindfulness

Another simple thing to incorporate into our lives in 2023 is a mindfulness practice.  Mindfulness, in simple terms, is the practice of bringing our attention to the present moment and accepting it for what it is without judgment.  The connection between mindfulness and the practice of law began in 1989 when Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) offered MBSR training for judges and mediators.[ii]  Today, legal practitioners are using mindfulness practices to enhance their lives and their law practices.  In fact, mindfulness classes are now taught at most law schools.

Studies show that mindfulness may be the best cognitive approach to dealing with stress.  Mindfulness has been shown to improve information processing and decision-making, improve immune function, decrease distractions, improve mental clarity, improve working memory and improve emotional regulation.  A regular mindfulness practice could help lawyers feel and perform better at work, and enable lawyers to listen and negotiate better which can result in better representation of our clients.[iii]

Sounds great, right?  So how do we bring mindfulness to our daily law practice? Mindfulness practices can be as simple as sitting quietly and paying attention to your breathing, or listening to a guided mediation.  Mindfulness can also be as simple as going for a walk or quietly sitting and enjoying the wonderful and life-sustaining fragrance and taste of a latte without distraction or interruption for 10 minutes.

  • Build Stronger Professional Connections

For many in the legal profession, practicing law is a lonely business.  Late hours and heavy workloads can take time away from family and friends leading to depression and social alienation.  [iv]  The adversarial nature of the legal profession often leads to “chronic incivility” which depletes energy and motivation, increases burnout, and diminishes productivity, performance, and creativity. [v]  In addition, the more dependent our profession becomes on technology, the further we get from each other.  Obviously, technology has great benefits for our legal practices.  However, it also means that we longer attend most court appearances or depositions in person.  It also sadly means that research trips to the courthouse law library where we used to interact with colleagues informally are a thing of the past.

Humans, even lawyers, are wired for connection.  Studies show that connecting and interacting with others; developing and maintaining authentic, fulfilling relationships; feeling respected, seen, valued, and supported by others; and having a sense of “belongingness” are all essential to our overall health and well-being.  In fact, people with strong and healthy social connections tend to recover more quickly from illness, live longer and are at a decreased risk for disease.  In addition, healthy relationships build resilience.

Like prioritizing sleep or experimenting with mindfulness, there are many things we can do today to build more healthy connections in our professional lives.  Instead of sending an email to the person working in the office next door to you, get up and walk over to speak with them in person.  Consider asking a senior partner to tell you a “war story”.  If you are a senior partner, consider offering to mentor a new associate.  For bonus connection opportunities, consider volunteering to serve on a committee with your local bar association or with a legal aid program.  Volunteer work has added health benefits.   Maybe even pack up your laptop and take a nostalgic trip to the law library.

Imagine how we will feel in one year if we take one action a day to prioritize sleep, increase daily focus, and build healthy professional relationships.  Consider incorporating into your New Year’s Resolutions practices to improve your overall well-being, cognitive and social health.  Cheers to a happy and healthy 2023.

Caryn S. Tijsseling, Esq., is an attorney with Lemons, Grundy & Eisenberg whose practice encompasses a diverse field of law. Caryn is a certified Nutrition and Sleep, Stress Management and Recovery coach, and authors an article each month for the Washoe County Bar Association newsletter, The Writ, focusing on attorney well-being.



[ii] Gonzalez, Thalia.  Root to Rise: Mindful Lawyering for Social Justice. 41 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 91 (2017).

[iii] Lenick, Katrina P. Lawyer Heal Thy Self. 40 J. Legal. Prof. 1 (2015)

[iv] Weresh, Melissa H. The Chicken or the Egg? Public Service Orientation and Lawyer Well-Being.  36 U. Ark. Little Rock. L. Rev. 463 (2013).

[v] The Path to Lawyer Well-Being. p. 15.