Well-Being During COVID-19 – Let’s Get Real

Written Friday, October 2, 2020 by Dr. Traci Cipriano, Co-chair of the Lawyer Well-Being Committee

Regina Wexler, a member of the Lawyer Well-Being Committee and practicing family law attorney for the past 34 years, likes to keep it real.  She takes her work and responsibilities seriously; is available to clients and colleagues for advice, guidance, and a supportive ear; and can be counted on to tell it like it is. 

When asked about how she is managing during COVID-19, she immediately responded: “I am a hot mess.”  Regina is not afraid to say what others are thinking and feeling, which probably helps her overall mental and physical health in the end.  She has struggled during COVID-19.  As a long-practicing family law attorney, she knows the law, she knows the important ins and outs of dealing with complicated situations, and she knows how to get things done effectively. 

Six months into the pandemic, in-person court matters are minimal.  Pre-COVID-19, the Litchfield County Bar Association enjoyed good two-way communication with the Judicial Branch, but communications have become more limited.  This change has been difficult for Regina and other local attorneys, not knowing when they will be able to return to the courtroom or what to tell their clients, while also wondering whether their concerns and suggestions are being heard.  Part of her role as president of the Litchfield County Bar Association has involved spending countless hours fielding phone calls from frustrated members, keeping them informed through e-mails and social media, and trying to filter and present their concerns and suggestions to the administrative judge in a respectful manner. This aspect of her role as president has been draining at times. 

In addition, for the first time in a long time, after the pandemic hit, Regina has been forced to say to clients and colleagues, “I don’t know,” which feels very unsettling.  When competence and mastery are major tenets of the legal profession, it is difficult for attorneys to say, “I don’t know,” and even more difficult to share the feelings associated with admitting not knowing. But Regina’s internal strength allows her to share these feelings with The CBA Docket’s “Be Well” feature—information that is important for other attorneys to hear.

The last six months of the pandemic have been challenging for a person who is social, likes to lend a supportive ear to friends and colleagues, and likes to feel in control. Although she is a strong proponent of self-care, Regina readily admits she has slipped when it comes to self-care during the pandemic, with a less healthy diet and less exercise.  Again, something many have struggled with but few like to admit.  The gym closures, and now the high risk of gyms, have also interfered with her work out schedule.  (Although gyms are now open, when she balances exposure risks, she would prefer to take those risks by appearing in court for clients when possible.)

Despite all this, Regina is doing her best.  She maintains her social connections and, as an expert knitter, has been knitting hats and other items that she then gives away to friends and colleagues.  Both the knitting itself, and the act of sharing with others are helpful—one as a meditative escape and the other as a mood boost when bringing joy to others.  Regina’s sense of humor also goes a long way in reducing her stress and that of those she interacts with, creating much-needed laughter during difficult times.

When thinking about the challenges of the pandemic, what she has learned, and what she plans to do going forward, Regina has a lot to say.  She recognizes the importance of relinquishing control (or acknowledging when we do not have control), doing your best, staying connected, and being kind to yourself.  She dressed for work today with a plan to take a walk so she can remove her cardigan and put on her sneakers at lunchtime and get some exercise and fresh air. 

Regina’s story reminds us that well-being is a life-long journey, and how we all experience fluctuations in our level of self-care from time to time.  We acknowledge the slips when they happen, and then get back on track.