San Francisco personal bankruptcy attorney Jeena Cho says she experienced career burnout about nine years ago after practicing law since 2004. She began losing clumps of hair and suffered from insomnia, which she treated with Ambien. She started to withdraw socially, which led to increased anxiety. After her physician could not find anything physically wrong with her, Cho decided to seek relief in other ways than from the innards of a prescription bottle.
“I used to be an anxious lawyer. I decided to find a way to get past that. I learned about mindfulness and thought it was an important tool for everyone, not just lawyers,” says Cho.
Cho’s first exposure to meditation was as a student at the University at Buffalo School of Law. She happened to stumble upon the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo, a center of yoga, meditation and wellness. Her experiences there planted a seed that would flower within her years later.
When her doctor could not pinpoint the cause of her escalating anxiety, exacerbated by tasks associated with practicing law such as conversing with clients and opposing counsel on the telephone and public speaking, Cho realized that stress was likely the culprit of her anxiety.
In 2011, she was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Fortunately, around the same time, she discovered a study at
Stanford University for treating social anxiety. At the initial meeting, she learned the university was about to embark on two treatment programs. One was to focus on cognitive behavior therapy and the second centered on a mindfulness-based treatment program. Although she sought to participate in the mindfulness tract, Cho was randomly assigned to the cognitive behavior therapy group. She found the experience enlightening and impactful and her social anxieties lessened. However, she still wanted to learn more about mindfulness, so she enrolled in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course at Stanford. That experience, she says, was “life changing.”
Soon, she was meditating and practicing mindfulness on a daily basis. That led her to delve into inner exploration, which taught her to be more present, meaning mindful, throughout her day.
“What I got from the practice of meditation and mindfulness is so much richer and unexpectedly more remarkable than simple stress and anxiety reduction,” Cho wrote in her 2016 book, The Anxious Lawyer. The non-fiction work, which she co-authored with another lawyer and mindfulness practitioner, features an eight-week guide to creating a more joyful and satisfying legal career by practicing mindfulness and meditation.
Of course the lessons imparted in her book can apply to any small business owner, not just lawyers.
Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer who tweets as @girlwithapen.