After what always feels like a long winter in Alberta, I am ready to embrace spring and seeking renewal as green slowly returns to our landscape. For families with school-aged children, spring may have kicked off with Spring Break. For purists, spring begins with the vernal equinox, when we have equal amounts of daylight and night. But for me, for a variety of reasons, spring begins with Easter.
Easter marks the first long weekend since Family Day in February. For those of us in the not-for-profit sector who are not incentivized with high monetary compensation (as well as some law firms and corporations who also follow this practice), our offices are closed on both Friday and Monday! Easter usually falls after Spring Break and is closer to when we begin to notice buds on trees and little shoots of grass peering out from under its snow blanket, so it is the time that I associate with spring.
Many religions practiced in Canada have spring celebrations: Passover, Ramadan, Vaisakhi, while Holi and Naw Ruz were observed in March, and Vesak Day falls in May. As multicultural Canadians, we recognize the importance of these traditions to the communities which observe them. But for historical reasons, the long weekend is associated with Easter.
I want to wish everyone an appropriate greeting—and I know that my list is not exhaustive. Spring is important. For those with agrarian roots, it marks the beginning of the planting season, which has carried through for many urbanites in the form of selecting bedding plants and seeding gardens (but not quite this early!). For those impacted by Seasonal Affective Disorder, spring brings more daylight and more positive mood. But many of us will just be celebrating a long weekend, much needed after a long winter.
My theme for this much-needed April long weekend is rejuvenation. No one ever said that practicing law was going to be easy, and it isn’t. So, how do we stay well enough to continue in our chosen profession and live fulfilling and rewarding lives.
I know that many lawyers will spend time in their offices this weekend and that some, particularly young lawyers and articling students, may spend more time than they would like working. I hope that everyone, though, will have time for some rejuvenating activities. These are not luxuries—taking time for yourself is part of how we ensure that we are able to do our best work and be our best selves in the long run. We are, fundamentally, a profession of helpers, and the old adage that you can’t pour from an empty cup is very apt.
To help you rejuvenate, I am sharing two resources today. The first one suggests well-being activities relating to enjoying spring and nature. It is from a UK organization called Thrive, which uses gardening as a mental health recovery tool. But it looks like spring may arrive a bit earlier across the pond than in Alberta—none of these activities involve finding my missing drainpipe which must be hidden under a windrow of snow or watching for signs of melting in the skating rink of ice surrounding my garbage and recycling bin (due to the missing drainpipe….).
There are 28 activities you can do to engage with spring, nature, and perhaps even horticulture! I am interested in making paper pots (Day 19) since my yard is still covered in snow and magpies are the dominant bird—but I know that the snow is melting and that the songbirds will return!
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health also has excellent spring activities for well-being, likening spring self-care to spring cleaning. You can read more about their suggestions but here is a quick summary along with some suggestions from me:
- Making a list of goals, both short and long-term to help you ensure you are on a path that leads to goal fulfillment. But goals can be short-term like connecting with a friend or enjoying a cup of coffee.
- Engaging in physical activities and eating more healthily. You can start small by walking three or four times per week and eating dark chocolate instead of junk food for snacks. Personally, a well-being plan that involves chocolate works for me!
- Trying yoga, mindfulness or other practices which help cleanse your mind. Remember that Assist has a 15-minute mindfulness session each Tuesday at noon and free yoga on Wednesday at noon.
- Building your stress management skills—both learning what triggers your stress responses and to learn positive coping strategies. Assist’s professional counsellors can help you with both!
- Volunteering with your community or helping a neighbour. You will make your community a better place to live, and we know that helping others feeds our souls. Assist trained new peer support volunteers in Edmonton in February and our Calgary training will be in May—we are part of your community, and you can volunteer with us (as well as a host of other excellent organizations in the lawyer support world!)
- Appreciating the little things in life, like noticing the sun on your skin and the air that you breathe. Life has its share of frustrations, but being alive and engaging with our senses outdoors is good for our mental health.
Please don’t feel overwhelmed with 28 horticulturally related activities or spring cleansing activities. We don’t have to do all of them—we don’t improve our well-being by increasing our stress levels to accommodate activities just because an article (or a blog) recommends them. Spring will be here for a few more months so we can start small, by incorporating a walk outside to pick up coffee rather than staying in walkways. And when we have that coffee—or whatever it is that you drink during the day—take a few moments to savour it mindfully instead of gulping it down while you concentrate on other things.
Whatever it is that you celebrate or honour during Spring, I hope that you can enjoy your long weekend and find ways to build in care for your well-being. And, remember, that indulging in a small bit of chocolate instead of unhealthy snacks, may have well-being benefits. Which brings us back to this Easter long weekend where we can choose dark chocolate eggs over milk chocolate….