Fennemore: Doing MORE
Keeping the focus on improvement rather than perfection is a smart way to approach wellness and sustain a sense of resiliency
Fennemore: Doing MORE
In observance of Mental Health Awareness Month in May of 2021, as well as National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Fennemore is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles among our attorneys and allied legal professionals. As our culture proudly values our people as our most important asset, we know that we all have to strive to be at our best in order to be our best selves for our colleagues, clients, families and communities. Our hard work and efforts are now being recognized on an even greater level as our firm was recently awarded the Healthy Arizona Worksite Gold award by the Arizona Department of Health Services.
We recently had the pleasure of talking with Stephanie Lessem, Senior Benefits Administrator – Health & Wellness, about some of the initiatives that her and her team are currently working on.
Talk about Fennemore’s Doing MORE health & well-being initiative. What’s your role, and why does the firm place such a high priority on these healthy living objectives?
Fennemore has been “Doing More” when it comes to health and wellness for many years. When the firm launched the Doing MORE campaign last year, I was thrilled to be a part of this important messaging. The series highlights the firm’s core values of which health and wellbeing is one. As part of the Doing MORE Task Force, my role is to keep wellness in the forefront of our employee’s daily lives and encourage them to be the best version of themselves. The monthly content that I assemble, is theme based with an emphasis on a holistic approach to overall wellbeing. The firm recognizes that as a law firm, our employees are our greatest assets. Commitment to their physical and emotional health is key to the firm’s success.
How has the program shifted, especially during the pandemic with so many people now working remotely?
The pandemic has been challenging, to say the least. Change is difficult under the best of circumstances. When we were forced to radically change the way we live and work, stress became the number two health concern, right behind the virus itself. I feel enormously proud to be part of an organization who not only embraced the challenge, but never lost sight of the well-being of its employees. Everyone was encouraged to work from home and were given tools to help them successfully do so. Our wellness program adapted, as we had to rely on technology in ways we never did before. In a time when everything was changing, we placed particular importance on keeping the most popular features of the program in place, in order to give a sense of normalcy. Educational seminars were conducted virtually. Informational booklets, flyers and games were mailed to homes. We even moved our annual Health Expo to an online format. I see the program continuing to incorporate technology as we move forward. The virtual landscape enables us to engage entire households and reach a broader audience of employees.
This year’s May Mental Health Month theme is “Tools 2 Thrive.” What are your favorite tools for improving mental health and increasing resiliency?
Keeping the focus on improvement rather than perfection is a smart way to approach wellness and sustain a sense of resiliency. We all have our own challenges and when we don’t leave room for missteps it becomes easy to be unkind to ourselves. Most of us are our own worst critics, and when self-talk becomes shaming or unforgiving it’s more difficult to make the healthy choices that serve us best. Personally, I find it helps to remember that in order to feel good mentally, everything is interconnected. When I don’t get enough sleep, I’m grouchy, which leads to poor communication, which leads to negative self-talk, which leads to eating ice cream for lunch. I also rely on certain daily routines. I do a half hour of yoga every morning. No matter what my day looks like, it starts with a mindful yoga practice. Creating healthy habits remains a key component of our wellness program.
Let’s explore the “5 steps to health and well-being,” and please offer some practical tips:
Connecting with others
The pandemic highlighted how important human connections are to our emotional health. We learned how resilient we are and innovative we can be when it comes to connecting to the people we love. We’ve become Zoom experts (my 84 year old dad learned to use FaceTime!) Hopefully we’ll remember how difficult the separation was and we’ll have more patience and appreciation for the people in our lives.
Being physically active – nutrition, diet, hydration and exercise
Again – I would emphasize improvement over perfection. The perfection mentality not only takes a toll on our mental health, it can also sabotage the physical. Five years ago I lost a significant amount of weight. In order to keep the weight off I needed to get out of the ALL or NOTHING mentality. I learned that if I make a less than healthy choice for breakfast, I can make a different choice for lunch. I think that is why so many of our wellness goals fail. If we don’t place first, we shouldn’t quit the race.
Learning new skills
During the pandemic, I saw something interesting within my own circle. Those of us who kept busy with hobbies and other interests seemed happier. I’m an extrovert, so the isolation was difficult for me. A friend of mine said that I should take up an instrument. Of course, most folks would get a harmonica, maybe a guitar. I went all in and bought a piano. Between the virtual lessons and the practice time, the isolation got easier. Studies show that learning all through adulthood improves memory, motor skills and, even our ability to multitask.
Giving to others
Volunteering and giving to others makes us happier. I love the quote by Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” I would encourage anyone who is having a bad day or feeling a little sad to take a small step to help someone else. The smallest gestures seem to make us feel better.
Paying attention to the present moment (Mindfulness)
Mindfulness brings about images of yogis and monks, sitting for hours in meditation. Those pictures can make the practice seem distant from day to day living. It is actually one of the easiest and most effective ways to relieve stress and anxiety. Simply being aware of what we are doing when we are doing it – that’s it! When washing the dishes, wash the dishes. When brushing your teeth, brush your teeth. Often we find ourselves thinking of one thing while doing something else. It is a great tool to help improve over-all concentration.
What’s your favorite “life hack” or simple tip to make you feel better?
I drink an entire glass of water before I eat a meal. That way I never sit down at the table starving.
Any books or online resources that you’d recommend for people interested in changing their lives for the better?
Here’s to Stephanie – and all of us striving for healthier, happier lives – Fennemore embraces this important journey to wellness.
And if you’re interested in finding out more about Fennemore, and how to become part of our vibrant team, please click here.