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Bar President's Message

Richard D'Addario, Esq., President, Rhode Island Bar Association

Prioritize Wellness 

Lynda L. Laing, Esq.
President, Rhode Island Bar Association

"Each of us has different interests that help us relax, and we should try to incorporate our interests into our work life. We need to put our wellness first!"

With the increase of COVID-19 and its variants occurring, I find myself masking up more often in order to keep others around me safe. Do we require everyone to wear a mask inside? Do we require only non-vaccinated people wear masks? The CDC guidelines state that everyone should wear a mask inside regardless of their vaccination status, but not everyone follows the CDC guidance. I find myself getting more anxious about what the end of September and beginning of October will look like as Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the RI Department of Health, stated that is when the next surge will occur. I know I am not alone as RIBA conducted a survey last year, and many other attorneys stated that the pandemic caused them to have increased stress, fear about the pandemic, anxiety about the future, concern about work, and pressure to keep up with the demands of family and virtual meetings/schooling. Trying to find that work/life balance when working from home was difficult. 
In 2016, a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs showed “21 percent of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28 percent struggle with some level of depression and 19 percent demonstrate symptoms of anxiety.” Clearly, wellness needs to be a top priority for all members. 
How do we incorporate wellness into our lives? Wellness consists of 5 elements:
  1. Social – meaning relationships;
  2. Career – enjoying work;
  3. Physical – energy to succeed;
  4. Community – enjoying where you live; and
  5. Financial – smart money management.
The Bar continues to assist our members in this area through various programming and initiatives. One of these initiatives is the Bar’s Lawyers Living Well page on our website. Take time to view the page and see what it offers. I encourage you to try the different phone apps listed, as well as read the different articles and infographics relating to attorney wellness. I know that fitness has been a way for me to relax. Each morning I make time for my-self and take an hour-long fitness class. I find that this helps me relax and I can start my day without any stress, and I seem to get more done at work. 
Another good source for stress relief are phone apps. There are a wide variety of phone apps that provide relaxation techniques and stress relief activities. I personally enjoy classical music. During the pandemic, when I started to feel stress because the phones were not ringing, I listened to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Symphony each Friday afternoon. Each of us has different interests that help us relax, and we should try to incorporate our interests into our work life. We need to put our wellness first!
The Bar also has a variety of wellness CLE programs located in our On Demand catalog. The 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting included a program called A Progress Report on Lawyer Well-being, which gave great suggestions on how to meditate and focus on our welfare. This program can be found in the On Demand catalog on our website along with other programs from the Virtual Annual Meeting.
The Bar also offers free, confidential assistance to Bar members and their families through the Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee. Committee volunteers give generously of their time to help their colleagues. Their primary role is to lend an ear and assist in making an appropriate referral to professional resources. Also available to members is Coastline EAP, a private, non-profit consulting service contracted by the Association that can assist you at no charge. The professionals at Coastline EAP provide confidential consultations for a wide range of personal concerns. 
October is emotional wellness month. I suggest you use October as an opportunity to take charge of your emotional wellness. Slow down and clear your mind of stress! To help assess your stress:
  1. Review your financial plan;
  2. Calculate your screen time and try to reduce the amount of time spent in front of the computer screen. Consider taking a short walk during the day to clear your mind;
  3. Use the resources available to you;
  4. Remember the relationships in your life; and 
  5. Check your physical health, add healthy eating habits, and increase physical activity to reduce overall stress.
We have the ability to reduce the stresses found in our busy practices and to learn how to manage stress caused by COVID-19 and the uncertainties we face. I encourage you to visit the Bar’s website to learn more about all the resources that are available to help you start to prioritize your overall wellness.