Reset Your Brain

Most lawyers spend countless hours concentrating while reading and writing: briefs, emails, case files, documents, and on and on. Our habit may be to ignore our brain’s ways of telling us that it is experiencing fatigue until our task is complete, in an effort to “just get it done.” However, neuroscience research shows that by giving your brain a break—even for as little as one minute—you are likely to be better able to concentrate when you return to your task. If you are better able to concentrate, you will be more apt to complete the task with increased efficiency. When you reset your brain, it rests and comes back refreshed, much like our muscles do when we pause and recover between sets when lifting weights. Mindfulness (paying attention to what is happening in the moment without judgement) helps us to notice when our brains are tired. You may notice your brain needs a reset when you’re at first engaged in an activity and then a short while later find it difficult to concentrate on that same activity, or you start “spacing out,” yawning, losing your words, feeling sleepy, or getting distracted. Once you notice that you are losing focus, you can then give your brain a moment to pause and recover, resulting in greater focus than if you had “pushed through.”

Here’s how:

  1. Commit to being mindful of ways your brain may be telling you that it needs a break (e.g., difficulty concentrating, “spacing out,” yawning, losing your words, feeling sleepy, or getting distracted).
  2. When you notice any of these signals, pause what you’re doing.
  3. Engage in an activity that feels refreshing and allows your brain to stop thinking, focusing, or processing intensely for at least one minute. Be mindful of what truly allows you to feel refreshed: for some people it may be looking out the window at the sky or slowly stretching, for others it may be doing jumping jacks or taking five mindful breaths.
  4. Be mindful of what, if anything, shifts or changes for the better after you allow your brain to reset.

Laura Mahr is a NC lawyer and the owner of Conscious Legal Minds LLC. She coaches individual lawyers, consults with law firms, and conducts CLEs on using mindfulness and neuroscience to build resilience to stress, address secondary trauma, foster work-life balance, and prevent professional burnout. Contact Laura at; find out more about her practice at See Laura present “360 Degrees of Connection with Mindfulness” and “Compassion Fatigue and Provider Resilience” at the ABA’s National Conference for Lawyer Assistance Programs (CoLAP) in Charleston, SC. on September 27, 2018. To register or for more information:

If you are interested in contributing your own story to the Sidebar, click here. The Sidebar is supported by the stories of our readers, and we appreciate your contributions.