RLC Blog: Wellbeing – Navigating the Anxious Mind by Valerie Charbit

March 20, 2024

The chambers’ Wellbeing committee organised a discussion hosted by Counsellor and Psychotherapist Judith Kark for members, staff and pupils to help support the persistent challenge of anxiety which is often present throughout a barrister’s professional journey.

We learned that anxiety impacts individuals across society in various ways, making it crucial for us to understand how to support those affected. Judith provided an insightful overview of anxiety, explaining its nature, progression, and when it might necessitate medical or therapeutic intervention.

As if to reinforce the importance of really understanding how to cope with anxiety, only five minutes before Judith’s talk was about to start, I received an e-mail on the case I was working on from the judge indicating that a legal problem that all in court had overlooked might result in the case having to begin again after the main witness had just been cross examined for three days! I took a deep breath and inhaled Judith’s words – particularly that anxiety can motivate or provoke us to take action and so can be helpful in problem solving (the problem solving until midnight resulted in the case continuing).

It was also encouraging to be reminded of the significance of breathing during challenging moments. This advice came at an opportune time, as the wellbeing group had recently arranged for ten members of chambers to participate in a mindfulness education course.

What became abundantly clear from the discussion were the significant physical ramifications of anxiety and the realisation that some coping mechanisms, such as alcohol consumption, may not always be the most effective. Judith also underscored that anger and aggression can be a symptoms of anxiety. This observation resonates, especially when considering encounters with individuals in court who exhibit such behaviour seemingly without any clear reason.

We also learned anxiety is about how we feel, how we think and about the brain’s sympathetic and para-sympathetic response to anxiety. I can’t fully give justice to all of Judith’s insights and knowledge during that one-hour session but for anyone wanting to explore and understand a little bit more about the topic this was an amazingly concise and incisive introduction. If, like me, you’re always seeking quick solutions or headlines, it became evident that there’s no easy fix but the takeaways include: mindfulness, listening to music, engaging in gratitude and using therapy or medication are ways of working to alter the anxious thinking.

Judith ended by saying anxiety is never who you are – it is just a small part of you. I would commend this talk to anyone who suffers with anxiety (including those that don’t) and for anyone who wants to understand how to deal with it better.

Valerie Charbit is the Wellbeing Director for Chambers. She has represented the Criminal Bar Association as Wellbeing Director and the South Eastern Circuit on wellbeing and remains a member of the Bar Council’s working party group on the subject: [Valerie Charbit Profile]

More info on Speaker Judith Kark: [Judith Kark]