Dawn Kulongowski shares mental wellness tips for attorneys.
Dawn Kulongowski, DDS is the owner and sole practitioner at Creative Smiles Dental Group and owner and...
JoAnn Hathaway is a practice management advisor for the State Bar of Michigan. She previously worked as...
Molly Ranns is program director for the Lawyers and Judges Assistance Program at the State Bar of...
Negative perspectives on the legal profession can sometimes affect lawyers more than they realize, as unrealistic expectations, pressure for perfection, and even tacky lawyer jokes work against their mental health. In this On Balance podcast, Molly Ranns and JoAnn Hathaway talk with Dawn Kulongowski about how meditation and mindfulness can help lawyers cope with stressors and develop a positive mindset.
Dawn Kulongowski is owner of The Peaceful Practice and Creative Smiles Dental Group.
Molly Ranns: Hello and welcome to another edition of the State Bar of Michigan, on Balance Podcast on Legal Talk Network. I’m Molly Ranns.
JoAnn Hathaway: And I’m JoAnn Hathaway. We are very pleased to have Dawn Kulongowski, dentist and certified meditation teacher join us today to talk about meditation and mindfulness practice for legal professionals. Dawn, could you share some information about yourself with our listeners?
Dawn Kulongowski: My name is Dawn Kulongowski. I am a dentist in Holly, Michigan. I have been in private practice for 20 years, which is almost painful for me to say, I can’t believe that much time has gone by, but I have also been a meditation teacher for about the last seven of those years, which is why we are talking today.
Molly Ranns: Thanks so much for being here today, Dawn. Can you tell our listeners how you started teaching meditation?
Dawn Kulongowski: Yes. Dentistry, I spent my whole life thinking that the career was the thing that was going to make me happy and I think a lot of people we start early in life that way and I don’t know where we get that idea. I don’t think anyone directly told me that, but I picked it up somewhere and so I truly believed that when I graduated dental school and ticked all the boxes, bought a practice, had a family, got a nice house, maybe a better car, you know, all the little things that we want. I thought that the end of that would be fulfillment and at the end of that was exhaustion and burnout and I really truly wasn’t happy. And I meet a lot of professional people who aren’t happy at that stage. You’ve done your job a little while now and it’s not maybe what you thought it would be, and it’s certainly not fulfilling you personally, and it’s a huge disappointment.
So, I lived in that disappointment for years and years, and that disappointment sometimes it would be burnout, and then it would just come back to being general exhaustion, and then I go back into a stage of burnout and I lived like that for more than a decade. My way of coping was to escape. So, I would go on vacation. I lived through the weekends, but I hated Sunday nights because Sunday when I had to go back to work tomorrow and vacations are pretty easy to ruin, too, because you can start doing that countdown. I got to go five days, four days, three days. I got to go back. And when you get back, I don’t feel like there was ever a halo effect. Like I never went home from a vacation feeling like I had this relaxation that was going to carry me through any period of time, whether it be the first day back at work or the first month back at work.
So, one of the really truly by accident. One of my escape weekends was a meditation retreat. It was in the Adirondacks. And we were locked in a mountain cabin. So, there was nowhere to go. Normally when I would go on these retreats, I would skip out and go shopping whatever. There was nowhere to go. So, I had to participate. It was the launch event for a book called ‘Destressifying’, which is written by Davidji. So, for four days, we got up at five in the morning and we meditated for a long period of time. Sometimes almost an hour. And we would do that twice a day. And then in between, we had little seminars, coping skills. We learned to cope with stress something that no one ever talked to me about before.
And this was the first time that I actually left a vacation or an escape, and I came home feeling like there was a little bit of a halo effect and I became fascinated by that. I’m like, I’m not dreading going to work tomorrow. I feel like maybe I can cope with it better. So, I enrolled in teacher training. Pretty much the day, I got home. I was like this thing feels so different than anything I’ve ever felt like. It was the closest I had ever gotten to feeling happy or fulfilled. I committed to a daily practice, started teacher training. Soon as I started teacher training, my colleague friends started asking me to teach them.
So, the first person who ever asked me to teach him, I swear, if teacher training started on October 15, it was October 16 that he asked me to teach him. And I said, you know, “I’m just starting this. I don’t really know much of anything, but I know what I learned that weekend.” So, I taught him just a very simple meditation technique. And that was in the Fall and that Christmas morning, I got a text from that person and he said, “I want to thank you because you saved my life” and I still get choked up thinking about that. I was like, I just taught you to breathe, like we talked for an hour. We learn to breathe, but he was having things he didn’t talk to me about those. I’m not a therapist. I’m a meditation teacher and he was losing his practice. It’s not something that professional people will talk about with anyone. Not other professionals, not family members because we don’t do well feeling like a failure. And he had a kid with some health problems. He was facing some very big issues and he didn’t have coping skills. He said that, just that couple of minutes of meditating every day, put space between him and that problem and allowed him to tackle it.
It occurred to me after I got that text, that even though I had enrolled in teacher training quite selfishly, I just wanted the information for myself that maybe it was my duty to my profession to provide this information to my other colleagues who are suffering.
So, I founded my teaching business which is called the Peaceful Practice and I teach exclusively medical doctors, lawyers and dentists. I lecture, I go into people’s offices. I do private students, but I’ve been doing that I believe since 2016.
JoAnn Hathaway: So, Dawn, what do you see as common traits in the careers of law in dentistry?
Dawn Kulongowski: I have kind of a dark sense of humor at times, but I think sometimes that’s how we cope. We find the negative aspect of the career and we have to make jokes about it because otherwise I think you’ll go crazy. When I have attorney friends or maybe a new attorney student, one of my favorite things to ask them is who’s more hated, the dentist or the lawyer? And I know that sounds dark, but it’s absolutely fact. And it affected me a lot the early years of my career. I can’t remember a time where someone even just in small talk, whether it’s personal life or in my office, ask me what I did for a living. And I answered, “I’m a dentist” and they didn’t say, “I hate the dentist”. That’s the automatic response from 99.9% of people and especially as a young dentist, I still at 46 years old, 20 years into my practice. Think I’m helping people and they hate me for it apparently.
So, that can be a really hard thing to deal with. And I know lawyers also deal with a lot of negative perspectives on their career and profession. So, I hear all those techy lawyer jokes and a lot of those jokes, they aren’t just insulting the profession. They seem to be insulting the people who choose it. So, they can feel personal and I know firsthand how hard that can be to deal with. There was a piece in Money Magazine. I want to say it was in 2014. If you Google it, it’ll come up and it’s called five careers with high salaries that will make you miserable and dentist and lawyer were actually one heading in that piece and they talk a lot about not being satisfied with the career. Having a lot of personal pressure. We tend to be perfectionist. We demand a lot of ourselves. People demand a lot of us. And we get vilified.
We were one of the most misunderstood and vilified professions and we share some things that maybe aren’t so great. Like the highest rates of suicide, the highest rates of depression and the highest rates of addiction. We share all the same negatives truly of the career. Most people I think they can go out like, you go out with your friends and you complain about work. You can say I had a bad experience at work. I had a fight with my boss. This person called me on the phone, you wouldn’t believe what they said. We don’t get that space. There isn’t a safe space for that because even the people in our personal life, hold us to a standard that isn’t necessarily realistic and it doesn’t allow us to be human.
So, I remember being at, like, a dinner thing and there were people there I knew and people there I didn’t. So, they all knew I was a dentist. They probably had already told me that they hate me. And small talk, I was talking about something I had read in The Enquirer. There was a time when I loved reading The Enquirer. It was just a guilty pleasure. Something mindless I could do to decompress and a woman looked at me, this woman, I didn’t know her very well, probably had only met her 20 minutes before and she goes, “You’re a dentist and you read The Enquirer?” And she looked at me with disgust and I couldn’t believe, I don’t know what those two things mean to her. Like why can’t a dentist read The Enquirer? And it’s because we’re held to a standard and if we let that down, there are costs for that. There’s a cost to letting down your guard and actually being just you in any group of people and dentists and attorneys share that. Attorneys are expected to be bulletproof. We know everything, we’re on it. We look good all the time. We are doing the right thing all the time. We’ve got the right car and all of that stuff.
So, I think we all live under those same pressures and I have found for me the safe place where I can let that mask down and go “Oh, you won’t believe what this person said to me”, is really with other professional people. Medical doctors, dentists, attorneys.
Molly Ranns: Dawn, why would I or why would our listeners want to meditate?
Dawn Kulongowski: Why wouldn’t you? I want to say first before I answer this question that I have been a lifelong skeptic to go on a meditation retreat. Like I said, I used to skip out like I would go on those retreats because I had a friend who really liked them. But I would go shopping. I wouldn’t go to the class. I would go shopping. I would go to the spa because I was pretty sure that if I went to class, I was going to be inducted into a cult. I was very skeptical and I was very afraid. But then I got locked in that mountain lodge.
So, I didn’t have a choice. I had to learn. We live under a tremendous amount of stress, tremendous amount of demands. That’s true of all professional people. It’s true of all people in modern life, quite frankly. But we know that professional people have specific ones. Some of them, I just listed. We don’t have a safe place to let it out. So, those of us in those stressful situations, we lie to ourselves a lot. We tell ourselves it’s going to be better tomorrow. We go, tomorrow, it’ll be better, it’ll be better if I get a new job, or maybe if I get that new house or after this case is over, then it’ll be better.
But then there’s five more waiting. It’s going to be better tomorrow kind of never comes to fruition, but we live in denial about that instead of trying to figure out “okay, this is the reality I live in, how can I learn to live in it better”?
What we know about stress and again, everything I’m going to say about meditation if I can back with a study. So, if anyone listens to this and they go, “that must be nonsense,” you email and I’ll send you a study. I make that promise. Okay? I’m a scientist at heart. What we know about stress is that it isn’t the stressor. It’s not the thing that’s happening to us that is damaging us mentally, emotionally and physically. It’s not that. It’s how we react to it. Our reactions. Our ability to cope with stress is really what’s making it or breaking it for us.
The biological definition of stress, our biology works against us in this way. So, biological definition of stress, is how an organism response to a threat. Evolution is kind of slow. I would say it’s glacial, but I think evolution is actually slower than that. Our brains function very much the same at least as far as a stress reaction is concerned, as our predecessors from tens of thousands of years ago. That chemistry has not changed. Our stressors however, have changed tremendously.
So, back in the day, our acute stress response, fight or flight, super useful, you getting chased by a bear. You need fight or flight. When fight or flight kicks in, it looks the same for every stress stimulus. So, whether it’s the bear or the modern human, I spilled coffee on my computer. The same response occurs in your body. So, cortisol is released. Your heart rate goes up. Your respiration rate goes up. Blood flow decreases in your internal organs, including your digestive system and it increases in your arms and legs because you’re either going to hit something or you’re going to run away from it. Blood sugar spikes because you need that energy. Our autonomic nervous system tells all non-essential functions to shut down.
One of those non-essential functions is our immune system. So, that is how the stress reaction works. It does many more things. But those are the key ones I want to highlight. Those things are helpful when we’re being chased by the bear. I don’t know anyone that’s been chased by a bear. I’ve seen a bear but I’ve never actually had one chasing me. So, the fight or flight personally, I don’t think I’ve ever had to use in the way in which it was formed to be used. My threats look more like looking at my phone and seeing the name that’s calling. That stress reaction same as the bear. The cortisol goes it’s all the same. Again, spilling the coffee on the computer, remembering something regrettable we said, maybe in a meeting yesterday. We relive that over and over. That reliving of a painful event is something that causes modern humans a lot of stress.
So, we tend to go back to that. Uncle George said that to me at Thanksgiving, 10 years ago. “We go back to that over and over and over again.” So, the modern version of fight or flight has made us both predator and prey. We are the bear because we’re the ones pulling up that memory of what Uncle George said to us at Thanksgiving dinner 10 years ago, and we’re doing that to ourselves over and over again. Reactions the same. Digestive system shuts off. Your immune system shuts off. Your blood pressure goes up from a physical health perspective. The question to ask is, how many times can we do that to our body without experiencing some sort of negative long-lasting effect.
There’s a lot of chronic illnesses that are related to chronic stress. I’ll name a few just to throw some out there. Irritable bowel. When your digestive system is shutting down, several times a day, they say 8 to 15 stress responses people are having a day in modern life. I think for some that might be low and it’s important to know that cortisol, which is the hormone that does all this stuff that’s hurting us inside will eventually flood its own shutoff mechanism. So, if you have enough of these responses during the day, that cortisol will just flow 24/7. So, that’s a physical, chemical, chronic stress. So, irritable bowel, fibromyalgia, hypertension, obesity, lupus, Crohn’s, migraines, anxiety and depression, addiction, sleep disorders. Do you know any attorney that sleeps? Because I don’t. It’s almost expected that you won’t sleep. That’s been my observation of that career.
So, those are the physical health reasons because meditation is scientifically proven to do the exact opposite of all of those things that the stress reaction does. So, it lowers our stress hormones release, it lowers our blood pressure, lowers our respiration rate, lowers our heart rate, reduces those stress hormones because again, there’s more than just cortisol, decreases the frequency of headaches. I used to have migraines. I don’t get them that bad anymore. I truly don’t.
Strengthens our immune system. Again, when you’re shutting that immune system off, every time your heart rate goes up, a lot of people who have chronic stress, they’re the ones that are always getting sick. They pick up every bug. Every time you get on a plane, you come home with a cold. It’s that thing. It helps us actually create a more restful sleep pattern. So, again, these are scientifically proven benefits of meditation. Now, for me, I was lucky I didn’t really reach meditation at a point where I was having physical health problems. My experience with meditation was I benefited the most from the neurological, psychological and emotional benefits of meditation. So, that idea where what we’re running from is our own catastrophic thinking ruminating on, again, that thing that happened 10 years ago, our own memories, our own judgments. We live in a tornado of those things. Our default setting is a tornado of thought. Ninety nine percent of those thoughts are nonsense, useless, serve no purpose in the moment, but that’s our default setting.
In meditation practice, we can actually rewire that. Your neurology will actually change through the practice. So, how catastrophic thinking works? And we all do this; we sit down to do something. So, I’m sitting down, I’m going to write a very important email. I’m writing a client, trying to get the job, something, and a little idea comes in. What if there’s a typo in my email? The little one creepy anxiety thought. What if there’s a typo? And then, we build on that. We don’t stop it. What if there’s a typo? We don’t go, “well, I can just fix the typo. I’m going to have somebody else read this first.” We go down a whole line of things. I’m not going to get this job. I might lose my job altogether. My wife’s going to be mad at me. What if I can’t get this done. I’m going to be up all night. If I lose my job, I can’t make my mortgage payment, I’d probably be homeless living in my car, can’t put my kids through college.
So, this all happens in about — I don’t know, 2.3 seconds and we do this to ourselves all day over and over and over again. And for a lot of us that mental turbulence is actually why we can’t sleep. Because when we finally have an opportunity to lay down in the bed and go to sleep, we just start — we’re making lists, we are thinking about that thing, we are wondering if someone’s judging us for that typo in email, we can’t turn it off. We’ve never learned to rest the brain. How we rewire this? Meditation in practice is a gentle drifting between thoughts and distractions and an object of focus. Most often that object, it focuses our breath. Sometimes it’s a mantra. Mantra is just a phrase that you repeat over and over during that exercise.
So, it’s training. Twenty minutes a day. We sit down. We think about concentrating on our breath. We drift off to thought and then we catch that we’ve drifted to thought. That is our opportunity to change. The moment that you catch it, you go, “oh wait. Nope, I see that I did that. I’m coming back to my breath.” You do that over and over again and by doing that, you’re actually rewiring your brain to instead of jumping on that, I’m going to be homeless living in my car train. You can actually just come back to the present moment and whatever the present moment contains, whether it’s conversation with your boss, conversation with your wife, helping your kids with their homework, trying to write that email. We become much more productive. We are training our concentration and we’re not getting lost in that tornado of thought.
The benefits of that totally life-changing. For me, I mean, I had sleep problems for sure. But I also suffered from a lot of anxiety. You’d give me something. I just did that little train. I mean, you could give me something, I’ll go on for 10 minutes. I could stop all the bad things that are going to happen. And again, I think that’s how most of us are. Now, mindfulness. So, meditation is that training session. It’s 5-20 minutes. Whatever you’re choosing to do of. I drifted off to thought, it’s supposed to be on my breath, drifted off the thought. So, it’s supposed to be on my breath. Mindfulness is the waking version of that. So, it’s the effort of I’m sitting in front of a computer, I’m writing this email, and I go, “oh my God, I’m never going to finish it.” And then I go, “nope, I drifted away, I’m coming back to the email.” It’s retraining it during your waking hours. And again, you become much more productive. You’re not losing your life to that thought tornado. The benefits of rewiring that neurology. Huge. They’re huge. Less anxiety. Less overwhelmed. We don’t second guess our choices. We’re more creative. We’re more intuitive. We have more clarity. We have more self-awareness. We have compassion for ourselves and others and we have empathy. Creates peace and allows for fulfillment because fulfillment will only ever be in the present moment and it allows us to be present.
JoAnn Hathaway: Say, I decide that I do want to meditate. How do I do that and is there really a best way?
Dawn Kulongowski: So, the first thing I want to say about that is I want to warn people that no, there is no best way. The best way is the way that you will do and that fits in your life.
Meditation, it has become a huge. It’s like a business. You know what I mean? It’s become a huge business. I say that as a person who has a meditation business, but there’s branding, there’s gadgets, there’s apps, there’s devices, there’s clothing. I mean, it’s crazy. There’s Owen candle sense. There’s all sorts of things. You don’t need any of that, and I think that, that’s if I can teach you something today, you don’t need anything. You can do it anytime, anywhere. It’s just you in your brain. It’s the catching the thought and coming back. So, no, there’s no best way. The first way I normally teach students, I just teach something that’s I think simple, super effective. And again, something you can pull out of your pocket, anywhere, anytime, maybe not while driving your car. But pretty much anywhere, anytime. It’s a technique called rising, falling. I learned it from Ram Dass. I like this technique because it agrees with my particular brand of busy brain, and I do believe that people who probably work in similar careers probably have some similar brain pathways.
So, it works for a lot of people, it’s very simple. You’re going to sit lay down in a comfortable position. I don’t care how you sit. I know there’s a lot of a very strict sit in a certain way, sit so that you’re comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you’re not going to do it. And if you’re not comfortable, that will be your distraction. The only thing you’ll be thinking about is how uncomfortable you are. So, comfort whatever that looks like. Set a timer. One of my distractions when I’m meditating is, did I fall asleep? Am I late for work? So, I’m like, you get lost in your meditation and then you realize no, I have a real life and I need to be out there. If I set a timer, I can open my eyes, look at the timer and go, “no, I didn’t fall asleep. I got three minutes left. Timers going to save me.” I personally use the app Insight Timer. I only use it as a timer and I only use it when I need a timer. You don’t always need that, but when I’m doing my morning meditation and I got to get to work, Insight Timer is so great because again, nice big numbers right on the screen right in front of my face and it stays open. So, you’re comfortable. You set a timer and then I want you to close your eyes. You don’t have to close your eyes and if that makes you uncomfortable, fix them on a single object. So, just find something, a dot on the wall, a flower you like, anything. Just fix on one thing and then you’re going to just start breathing in and out, in and out and rest your awareness on that breath. Feel it come in, feel it go out and notice that when you’re breathing in, your chest is rising and when you’re breathing out, your chest is falling.
And so, as we do this, we’re going to start saying in our head rising as we inhale falling as we exhale. Rising falling and then when you find that you’ve drifted off the thoughts, sounds physical sensations, which is probably going to happen about the first s and rising. So, don’t judge yourself for that. Just know that you’ve done it, acknowledge that you’ve done it and then just come back, rising, falling, rising, falling. And you do that until the timer goes off. I think five minutes is a good place to start. A really easy way to start and I know — I hate getting up in the morning and that I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Like if you want me to get up a half an hour early, I think I’d rather give you a kidney. I don’t like getting up in the morning. But for a lot of people, easy way to start a morning practice. Morning is the best time we all know that busy professional people. If we say, we’re going to do it five o’clock at night, it’s not going to happen because the later it gets in the day, the less likely you can get anything done. The day just kind of spins away. First thing in the morning, if you get up at six, tomorrow morning, your alarm is set for 5:51. 5:51, the alarm clock goes off, you hit the snooze, you sit up, take the covers with you, get comfy and rising, falling until that alarm goes off again.
I think that’s such an easy way to build — there’s nine minutes, I think all snooze alarms are nine minutes. I don’t know who picked that number, but it’s an easy way. Nine minutes every morning built in. When you do it in the morning, it’s a great way to start your day with a theme and the theme is peace and stillness. And when you do that every day, you do get that halo effect. You will find that day one, you went to work. It’s the same crap that you dealt with yesterday. Day two, same crap, but you can actually train that halo to last a little longer. Stuff doesn’t get in as quickly. There’s a little more distance between you and the nonsense.
JoAnn Hathaway: I started meditating years and years ago, when I realized the many benefits it could provide for my therapy clients. And so, I thought, “I should probably learn how to do this myself” and I had a lot of hurdles when I first started.
The busy brain you talk about being a mother of two small children, having a career always thinking about the things I should be doing instead. Can you talk about the most common hurdles that people do face when they’re trying to meditate?
Dawn Kulongowski: Yes. So, the first obstacle that people encounter are the thoughts themselves. So, say you commit you’re going to do it. I’m going to try this because what the heck I got 10 minutes. You sit down to meditate and you do the thing. You’re like, I’m going to concentrate on my breath, resting my awareness on my breath, and then the thoughts come in. At this moment, most people think they’re failing because somehow and I don’t know where this started and I used to think the same thing. I don’t know where we got the idea that meditation is the cessation of thought, not. Meditation is not the cessation of thought. I don’t know how to stop the thoughts. They’re always going to keep coming. That is part of being human. It’s just part of the way the brain works.
When you think, though, that meditation is turning thoughts off, like, turning off a light switch, when you sit down and you can’t do that, because no one can, the Dalai Lama can’t do that. He’s been meditating since he was three. You feel like you failed. Now, nobody likes to be a failure. Professional people don’t even know what that is. We’re very accomplished and if we want something, we’re going to get it. So, when you can’t do that, you go can’t do it. My mind’s too busy. My mind’s too educated. I’m too special. My brain won’t do this. If you remember nothing else from this podcast, please remember that meditation is not turning off your thoughts. Can’t do that, it’s not possible. What it is, is retraining that brain. It’s recognizing that you’ve drifted off the thoughts when you’re trying to concentrate on your breath and then just going, “oh, I drifted away” and coming back out and back, out and back. That is what meditation looks like, out and back. Some days, it looks like only out and that’s fine. That’s just how the practice works. But if you sit down on that mat, put the butt on the pillow, eventually, you will rewire that brain. You just have to sit there. Sit there, go out and back. That’s it.
So, most people give up because they think that they’re failing because they had thoughts. Meditation truly, it’s just remembering to remember. It’s remembering to catch that we’ve drifted away and come back. Other hurdle, you just hit it. Time. That’s the main excuse I hear, and I say excuse, and I mean that, and I don’t mean it to be mean. I mean it because it is that, it’s an excuse that represents resistance. To me, it just means the person isn’t ready yet, we have time for the things we want to do, and I know that people don’t like hearing that. Now, one of the reasons that I liked Davidji as a teacher, one of the reasons I bonded with him that weekend, other than I was locked in there and I had to, was that Davidji came from the corporate world. He had had a real job. I personally get super cranky with people who don’t have a demanding career who start telling me stuff I should be doing. It’s like, oh, that’s nice for you that you have time to do that. I don’t like that. I feel belittled by it. I feel like they don’t understand what my life is really like. It’s offensive to me and that is still true. I’ve been teaching this stuff for years now, but I don’t want to hear it from someone who doesn’t have a demanding career, and I don’t think that I’m alone in that. I think my colleagues are probably the same way.
I can promise you though that all of us can squeeze out 5-10 minutes a day. We truly can’t. If you want to, you will. If you ask me, if I wanted to go to a PTA meeting tonight, I would say absolutely no. There’s no way I want to go to a PTA meeting. But if you told me that Sting was in town tonight, I would go, I would find a way to go. So, it’s just a matter of squeezing out that 5-10 minutes, but you have to want to. But you know, I own three businesses. I’m a wife and mother. I run a household. I’m on a weightlifting team. I still watch Netflix. So, there’s still some time in there. You just have to find it. I can’t tell people where to find the time. My personal belief is that first thing in the morning, because again, I know how the day gets away. You start your day thinking one thing is going to happen and it turns into a whole other mess and things get put off. If you do it first thing, it doesn’t get put off as easily.
JoAnn Hathaway: These skills that you’re talking about. How do they translate to working in a team environment?
Dawn Kulongowski: I love this because I teach in team environments and I think it’s a fun thing to watch teams change. So, there’s a saying that’s really common in management training, and that saying is stress makes people stupid. There’s actually science behind that. So, our hippocampus, the learning place, it’s the place that stores memories, recreates them when we’re trying to recall something. It’s covered in cortisol receptors and when it’s flooded with cortisol, it shrinks. So, we can’t remember anything. We can’t learn anything. We become incapable of recalling what we did 10 minutes ago. It’s chemistry. The reason is having is chemical.
So, if you think about how that environment works, like, if you think about a work environment, highly reactive people. There’s someone in the room or everyone in the room they explode an anger. They don’t have sensitivity to the people around them. They don’t even try to consider how the other person is feeling. They’re stressed out. They’re making snap decisions. They’re probably not making their best decisions. This creates an upset work environment. People who are upset again, they can’t remember, they can’t learn. They don’t make good decisions. Earlier when I talked about the benefits of meditation practice, I listed several that are kind of important in a group environment and those are self-awareness, compassion for yourself and others and empathy makes us less reactive, enhances our creativity, our clarity, our intuition, and our conscious choice making.
So, if we take that first room, a very reactive people who are just stressed out, they’re not wrong and they’re not bad. They’re just stressed out. And their brain is behaving like a stressed-out person. But if we contrast that to an environment of people who have learned this skill, they become skilled and basic, emotional competence, they’re more self-aware, when we’re more self-aware, we’re more aware of what other people in the room are feeling. We can handle a disagreement without escalating it. We bring a sense of calm into a work environment. That environment is going to cultivate success for everyone in it. Emotional intelligence. It’s a huge topic in corporate training and in the workplace.
Companies that function with a higher level of emotional intelligence, they have better productivity. They make less mistakes. They meet deadlines. And they get along. So, all of these skills and abilities, they translate into a positive, productive and effective workplace culture, which if we imagine a little circle, makes it less stressful. So, it becomes a coping tool in and of itself.
JoAnn Hathaway: Well, this has been great information, Dawn. It does look like though, we’ve come to the end of our show. Molly and I would like to thank our guest today, Dawn Kulongowski for a wonderful program.
Dawn Kulongowski: Thank you guys for having me.
Molly Ranns: Dawn, if our listeners would like to follow up with you, what is the best way they can reach you?
Dawn Kulongowski: There’s a contact form on my website. My website is peacefulpractice.com. You can email me directly. It’s [email protected].
Molly Ranns: And Dawn, kindly authored the practicing wellness column of the Michigan Bar Journal coming out in March, so, please everyone be sure to check that out. Dawn, thank you again, so much for joining us today. This has been a wonderful podcast.
Dawn Kulongowski: Thank you.
Molly Ranns: This has been another edition of the State Bar of Michigan, on Balance Podcast.
JoAnn Hathaway: I’m JoAnn Hathaway.
Molly Ranns: And I’m Molly Ranns. Until next time. Thank you for listening.
Outro: Thank you for listening to the State Bar of Michigan on Balance Podcast. Brought to you by the State Bar of Michigan and produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. If you’d like more information about today’s show, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Subscribe via Apple podcasts and RSS. Find the State Bar of Michigan and Legal Talk Network on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or download Legal Talk Network’’s free app in Google Play and iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Thought Network or the State Bar of Michigan or their respective officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
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|Published:||March 14, 2022|
|Podcast:||State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast|
|Category:||Practice Management , Wellness|
State Bar of Michigan: On Balance Podcast
The State Bar of Michigan podcast series focuses on the need for interplay between practice management and lawyer-wellness for a thriving law practice.