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Mindfulness Tools for Managing Uncertainty (Presence, Noting, Gratitude)

Mindfulness Tools for Managing Uncertainty (Presence, Noting, Gratitude)

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Mindfulness Tools for Managing Uncertainty (Presence, Noting, Gratitude)

There are so many things pulling at us these days: work, the future of our jobs, the headlines, health concerns. It is easy to feel drained  when it feels like so much is out of our control. The anxiety that comes with these concerns is an unwelcome, yet palatable undercurrent to all the changes we are experiencing.  Simply thinking about the uncertainty  can drain our energy quickly.

Since mindfulness practices are proven to help us weather difficult situations, I offer a few mindfulness-based tools to support you as you move through difficult times. These tools can help you retain energy and build resiliency.

Mindfulness practices teach us to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and body without judgment. They help us maximize beneficial experiences while limiting the impact of harmful ones. In other words, we learn to improve the way we respond to difficult situations.

The Importance of Being Present

“Being Present” can be a real counterbalance to the energy drain we experience when lost in thoughts of the past or future.  Research shows that staying in the present allows people to remain happier, grounded and healthier by effectively dealing with difficulties.

As attorneys, we think for a living. Most of our thoughts are geared toward the past and future.  When we worry about something that happened in the past, we may end up feeling guilty or regretful;, for example, feelings of not having accomplished enough. Typically, we may also worry about the future by thinking about deadlines, action plans, or getting caught up with problem-solving..

Two mindfulness tools that can help us stay present are noting and gratitude exercises:

Noting Guided Meditation

Noticing, or a noting exercise is a practice that invites you to label or note each thought or feeling as it arises.  As you note, return to your breath each time, without judgment.  You watch your thoughts as if you're observing them from a distance. Imagine yourself watching your mind through a window.

During the meditation, you may notice your mind being directed to thoughts about the past, or concerns about the future.  Simply just note to yourself “I'm thinking,” or “I'm feeling.” Note the type of thought, and return your attention back to your breath. The type of thought may be about the “future” or “past.” Or, you can label it with more accurate words; such as “worrying,” “regret,” “planning,” or “wanting.” After you note the thought, simply return your attention back to your breath.  

You may notice afterward how much activity is happening in your mind. As lawyers, we’ve been trained for so long to “think” that when asked to actually “pay attention” to the thoughts, we might notice how busy the mind can be.

Practice it for 10-12 minutes a day. A link to a guided meditation on noting is included below. Practically, as you move through your day and start to feel the “uncertainty” or have a challenging interaction with someone else, I invite you to repeat the process dg as you do in the “noticing” exercise. Make note of the thought, and then return to the breath.


Another practice that’s helpful in this respect is practicing gratitude.  In this case, we are particularly surrounded by challenges and uncertainty. There is a significant energy drain that comes from being exposed to uncertainty, especially on top of a career filled with challenging information. Gratitude practices can be a welcome counterbalance to the drain that can come from negative inputs.  

Take a few minutes making note of 10 things you are grateful for in this moment. With respect to your colleagues, start meetings by asking “what’s working out,” or “what’s happening that’s good.” You can even be direct and ask “let’s go around and everyone shares one thing you are grateful for.” Notice what it does to the energy of the call.

After you make your list, notice whether or not there is any change in your energy.  This practice can put a pause on the concerns that uncertainty can arouse within us, allowing us more resiliency.  

Track During the Week

I also invite you to track the results of engaging in these practices. You can fill out this tracker as you engage in these practices during the week. As lawyers, we are constantly performing intake, collecting and paying attention to information about others. Let’s take a few moments to collect information about yourself.

In Summary

Again, spending 10-12 minutes a day this week on practicing meditation, breathing, noting, and tracking can help change your mindset, build resiliency and allow you to take care of yourself and others. I invite you to try these practices to slow down the energy drain and start to take in some energy instead.  Even a few moments today will help. Imagine someone holding out their hands to you and offering you just a little bit more energy for free.

Be well.

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