Take a Breath, Take a Break

Pandemic has brought us a fast transition in my public defense office to working remotely all or part of the time. While this gives flexibility to work in sweats, or to work during the hours in which we are personally most productive, it also expands the workday as people send updates and communications earlier into the morning and later into the evening. As the urgent challenges of indigent defense change and we rapidly respond to COVID-19, I’m grateful to everyone who is taking the time to send information as quickly and transparently as possible, at whatever hour it is received.

But it’s a lot.

It has been easy for me to slide into working and checking my phone around the clock. There’s plenty of sound research establishing that working 24/7 is not good for us.  I’ve written about this previously here. There is no question that we need to disconnect and stop working for a stretch of time each day. Here are a few tips for avoiding the slide into working 24/7, even as we are fighting furiously to get people court access and release from jail in a time of crisis:

  1. Turn your phone off or to airplane mode for set hours—I am trying to do this from 8 pm to 6 am. Choose a span of hours that works for you, but find a way to take a break. Stop the emails, stop the news, truly unplug for a stretch of time.
  2. Use delay delivery for emails that are not so time sensitive that they need to be read and considered during off hours. Delay delivery is in the menu bar when you are composing an email in outlook; it allows you to write the email and schedule a delivery time of your choosing.
  3. Take breaks—short and extended—when you need breaks. There is every indication that we are going to be in crisis mode for an extended time, and we will each need to take breaks to sustain this work. I particularly like the analogy of a choir that holds a strong, clear note for a long time. The group has the ability to do that because each person breathes when they need to, while the others carry the sound forward.

In the meantime, don’t forget to breathe. Here’s a simple 10 minute simple breathing video that can be easily shortened to 2 or 4 minutes. Just watch as much as you want and breathe along.

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