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  • Writer's pictureScott R. Mote, Esq.

Self-care is not selfish! 9 ways judges can practice it

Self-care is a basic human necessity. It means taking care of all parts of yourself: accepting your flaws and weaknesses, and taking charge of your emotional, mental and physical well-being. Practicing self-care does not mean you are selfish or narcissistic. It means that you are taking the steps to be the best you to live a healthy and meaningful life.

Judges are responsible for helping others solve problems, but it is very important that you learn how to take care of yourself first. To be the best you, you need to make self-care a priority. It is essential for building resilience around stress in your life and helps you cope with anxiety, burnout, stress and depression. Below are nine ways you can start to practice self-care.

Be kind to yourself

Have you heard it? The negative thought that pops into your head when you make a mistake, when you say the wrong words, when you wake up in the morning, when you are late? It might tell you that you are stupid, that you are ugly, that you are not good at your job. Learn to recognize these thoughts and challenge them. Replace them with something positive. For example, if you double-booked meetings, and the voice tells you that you are unorganized and a failure, tell yourself that you will do a better job of keeping your calendar up to date. If you wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and the voice tells you that you are ugly and old, squash it. Tell yourself that you look pretty good for your age! Just as we start to believe our negative thoughts, if you replace them with positive affirmations, you will start to believe them.

Eat a balanced diet

A person who eats mostly refined (processed) foods, ingests more than 45 teaspoons of sugar a day, and eats more than 45% of calories from fat is more likely to suffer health problems than a person who eats mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and legumes. Health issues include a higher risk of heart attack, diabetes, arthritis, sleep disorder, depression, cancer, doctor visits, allergies, gout ... the list goes on. Those who choose to eat healthy have better confidence, live longer, have fewer accidents and a higher energy level.

The focus of a healthy diet should be four key ingredients daily: protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates and water. You should also invest in a good multi-vitamin.

Exercise regularly

Multiple studies have shown that people who exercise regularly (five times a week for at least 30 minutes) have:

  • More energy.

  • Sharper memory.

  • Improved mood.

  • Better concentration.

  • Stronger resilience.

  • Higher self-esteem and self-confidence.

  • Better sleep.

  • Less depression.

  • Less anxiety.

  • Less stress.

An ideal week of adequate exercise is three cardiovascular workouts for 45 minutes and weight training twice a week. Examples of cardio include walking, jogging, swimming, bicycling and hiking.

If you cannot find time to exercise, break it up throughout the day into smaller intervals to equal a total of 30 minutes, as long as your heart rate increases each time. Take the stairs, walk or go to the gym during your lunch break, park your car farther away from the entrance – these small steps can add up. Better yet, invite a colleague to join you on your fitness journey. Having a buddy can increase your chances of committing to exercise.

Get quality sleep

Adequate sleep is another important part of self-care. We all have days where we are sleepy, but beware of fatigue, a mental or physical state of extreme tiredness and lack of energy. Have you ever experienced times where you try desperately to stay awake, but you still find your head dropping and eyelids shutting with no control? You might nod off for a second or a minute, or just have an overall feeling of being tired. This is an example of fatigue. Symptoms of fatigue include trouble concentrating, making decisions, problem-solving, listening and relating to others, which are all requirements of being a good judge.

A lack of sleep can result in a greater chance of feeling burned out, an increased chance of heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity.

The good news is that those who already incorporate a healthy diet and exercise into their daily schedules tend to find that sleep comes easier for them.

To get at least eight hours of sleep, try to build a habit of going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day. This consistency stimulates the body’s sleep-wake cycle. If you have trouble falling asleep, some supplements like over-the-counter melatonin have been shown to help (but always consult with your doctor first).


Meditation is a practice that focuses your mind on a particular object, thought or activity. The benefits of meditation are plenty. It can reduce stress, control anxiety, enhance self-awareness, lengthen your attention span and improve sleep.

Go outside

When you stay inside all day, work long hours and hardly take any breaks, you shut yourself out of your natural habitat--nature. A study found that people who moved from a city to a rural area saw a reduction in depression, and people who moved away from a rural area into a city saw an increase in depression. Another study had depressed people who lived in cities take a nature walk and found that their mood was five times better than the mood improvement of non-depressed people. Our bodies are made to move, and we know that exercise significantly reduces depression. But when scientists compared people who run on treadmills in a gym with people who run in nature, they discovered that there is a higher reduction in depression for those who run in nature. When you are faced with a natural landscape, you get a sense that you and your concerns are very small, and that the world is so much larger than you are. This helps you see the bigger ways you are connected to everything around you. Life is not just about going to the office and building up your retirement account. It’s so much more than that! So get outdoors, exercise and enjoy the view. Your mood will thank you for it.

Be grateful

Instead of focusing on the things we don’t have or the challenges in our lives, it is important to make gratitude a part of our regular health routine. Many studies have shown that displaying gratitude helps us become healthier, happier and more successful. Showing or practicing gratitude can be done in several ways: say thank you to someone; write a hand-written thank-you note; keep a gratitude journal; thank yourself.

Take breaks from electronics

Although technology addiction is not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM—5), the book that clinicians and psychiatrists in the United States use to diagnose disorders and mental illnesses), many experts believe that spending too much time online can lead to problems, such as stress, anxiety, sleep disorders and depression.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious, it might be time for a digital detox—committing to refraining from technology for a specific amount of time. It does not mean that you have to totally disengage from your devices—that would be impossible. We all have work to do, and we most likely need technology to do it. A digital detox could be for a weekend, a couple days or even a couple hours a day. Some people who detox create schedules or timeframes for when they will use technology. This might seem impossible to do for some people, but it can and should be done, especially if your technology time is getting in the way of your other responsibilities.

Live in the present

Living in the present, or mindfulness, is not just a popular phrase. It’s an evidence-backed lifestyle that psychologists recommend for those struggling with anxiety. Being in the present moment, or the “here and now,” means that you are aware and mindful of what is happening at this very moment. You are not distracted by events from the past and you are not worrying about the future. You are centered in the here and now. All of your attention is focused on the present moment. This helps relieve stress and anxiety.

As you focus more on self-care, try to build a self-care plan. You can do this by accessing your needs and considering your stressors. Once you identify these, you can devise self-care strategies to address them. Remember to take small steps and schedule time for self-care. Your body, mind and co-workers will thank you for it.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Judicial Advisory Group, a peer-based confidential assistance group that helps judges and magistrates with personal and professional issues. For more information, go to or call (800) 348-4343.

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