April 30, 2020

Coping With a New Normal

BY: James “Rob” Elliott

Going for a run, spending time at the park, meeting with friends, and going to the beach are all great recommendations for wellness. Unfortunately, in our current reality there are at least some restrictions, if not outright bans, explicitly telling us Virginians not to do those exact things. In fact, we’re being told the opposite, to stay inside, stay at least six feet away from other people and stay away from any public spaces.

As lawyers, we are used to being busy, working long hours and putting in extra time during nights and weekends. Going from that to working from home without any court dates for possibly two months can be a very difficult adjustment. I’ve read some other articles recently on how to keep yourself occupied while staying at home. They included recommendations such as watching a movie, doing a puzzle, or learning a new hobby. If you’re experiencing anything like I am, I’m having no trouble filling time, it feels like I’m trying to do everything with one hand tied behind my back. I’m frequently running back to the office for more supplies or taking a break from work because my infant son is up from his nap. My work production since working from home has not been the same. I’m guessing I’m not alone.

Your output from these circumstances is not going to be what it was when you were in the office. Whether it’s an unfamiliar work environment, a loving (yet distracting) family, or just the fact that it’s taking longer for others that you’re working with to do anything because they’ve got distractions too. You’ve got to forgive yourself for not being as productive as you were during January and February. Be honest with yourself, your colleagues, and your clients and they will understand and appreciate you for it.

Each year, usually around the beginning of October, I realize that I have Continuing Legal Education that needs to be finished. Luckily, most companies providing CLEs are prepared for my lack of preparation and there’s a wide variety of programs to choose from to meet the State Bar’s deadline. This year is going to be different. Now is the perfect time to get all of those credits completed. If you’re feeling really ambitious, 12.0 of those credits can carry over into 2021.

NASA astronauts train for years to prepare for the extreme loneliness and isolation felt while they are in space. We’ve all been ordered to do the same without any training and hardly any time to prepare. One of the strategies that they are given to combat the feelings of depression and loneliness is to journal. It can give you a place to vent and record your thoughts during this time. It also helps you place yourself in a time that’s better than what you are living through right now. Just the thought of looking back and reading the things that you’re putting in your journal allows you to imagine yourself in a happier future and if that can pull you through right now, then that’s a win. You are not just someone that is stuck at home, you’re a historian from the 2020 global coronavirus pandemic, a period in your life about which someone will undoubtedly ask, “what was it like?”

We all have people that we care about that are classified as high-risk. This is not a normal time and certainly isn’t something that should be taken lightly. As lawyers, we try to plan for every eventual outcome. Since our minds are wired this way, we can’t help but go down every rabbit hole of logical conclusion into some pretty dark places. Worry is normal and completely rational, but it’s important that it doesn’t consume you. Keep your head focused on something productive and control the things that you can, determine whether the rest of the worries that you have are helpful or not. If it’s not something that is helpful, then there’s no need to let it occupy so much space in your mind. Checking on the people that you care about, washing your hands, and staying home can all be helpful. Replaying dark images over and over is not going to do anything for you or the person that you’re worried about.

If you are anything like me, the novelty of this situation has worn off and are left in a very strange new normal where the end only seems to be pushed further and further away. Make sure you take care of yourself and take care of your well being because you will be needed. Laws will change as a result of the coronavirus and things will not be the same on the other side of this. There will be a lot of people asking questions and it will be our job to help them find the answers.

About the Author

James “Rob” Elliott is a general practice attorney from Yorktown, Virginia. He is the Owner and Managing Attorney for the Law Office of James R. Elliott.