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Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Lawyer Well-being Newsletter: Helping Lawyers Improve Brain Health & Mental Strength

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Self-Care & Burnout

The increase in uncertainty, combined with the loss of socialization and normalcy during the pandemic can cause irritability, sleeplessness, lack of concentration, and hyper-vigilance.  More people are suffering from mental health challenges including increased anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.  A CDC survey found that 41% of Americans are struggling with

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Sleep Deprivation & Rumination

A major impact of the pandemic is ambiguity, caused by our inability to predict or control many aspects of our socially distanced lives.  Ambiguity activates the parts of our brain crucial to anxiety and loathing.  Ambiguity can cause rampant rumination, as the brain is unable to rely on executive function

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Elevate Positivity

The pandemic is a challenge.  Because our survival brains are trained to scan for threat, we are likely experiencing more negative emotions than usual. One way to increase positive emotions is to turn positive facts into affirmative experiences.  This is a type of gratitude practice, Note and Appreciate, that requires

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Cultivating Awe

Negative emotions tend to be self-focused and have an adverse impact on aging and longevity.  Awe is a positive emotion triggered by an awareness of something that is bigger than oneself and not fully understood such as nature, music, art, or participation in a collective experience, such as a ceremony

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Insomnia & Cognitive Impairment

Insomnia is often caused by cognitive intrusion in response to stressful events.  Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep. When this happens at least three nights a week and for at least three months, it is

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Stress Resilience & Exercise

This is a story about a mouse study, but because so many parallel discoveries have been made in brain research on rodents and humans, findings from rodent research are likely applicable to lawyers and law students. Galanin is a protein that is implicated in mood disorders, stress, sleep, cognitive performance,

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EFT for Anxiety & Depression

Lawyers and law students suffer from higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population.  And that was pre-pandemic.  EFT is a research-based brief intervention that can improve anxiety and depression, as well as a number of physical health measures. A recent study included 203 participants, 65% female over

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Surge Capacity v Resilience Reserves

Overachievers might find themselves hitting a wall of unproductivity at this point in the pandemic.  We have been utilizing what University of Minnesota Professor Ann Masten calls surge capacity, “a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations,

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Trauma & Cognitive Decline

Exposure to long-term stress can be harmful to the brain.  Stress hormones, deployed to help us deal with short-term challenges, can shrink or kill the brain cells in our memory processing hippocampus when we are dealing with ongoing stress.  Stress can make our thinking and memory less effective. Research examined

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Motivation & Brain Balance

Motivation is important for goal-directed behavior, performance, and well-being.  To research motivation, scientists engaged 27 men (ages 20-30) in a hand-grip challenge, where they got paid increasing sums of money for expending greater effort at the task.  Participants did not differ in key personality traits, levels of physical activity, or

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Exercise, Aging & Telomeres

Telomeres are nucleoprotein caps at the ends of chromosomes.  Aging causes gradual cell degradation and the shortening of telomeres.  Chronic stress can prematurely shorten our telomeres.  When telomeres get too short, cells can no longer divide leaving us vulnerable to disease.  Telomere length is also regarded as a marker for

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Laughter Lessens Stress

People who laugh frequently may be better equipped to deal with stress. Researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland collected data from 41 Psychology students (33 were women, and average age was 22 years) via a cell phone app, 8 times per day for 14 days.  Participants were asked

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