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Wellbeing at the Bar blog: Nina Caplin

As Louise McCulloch says in her update, Middle Temple – my own inn – has been fantastic at embracing the wellbeing initiative. In February I attended a ‘Survive and Thrive’ event, How to communicate effectively and sell yourself … without saying a word, chaired by Lord Judge. Richard Hytner (former Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi) and Louise Chester (Founder and MD, Mindfulness at Work) spoke about mindful listening, non-verbal communication and how we can work better by focusing on one thing at a time rather than trying to multi-task. Richard’s top tip was to do the task you are dreading most first thing – seemingly obvious but surprisingly difficult!

On 3 May I attended Middle Temple’s latest event, Optimise your brain and improve your memory. I was really excited  to learn some tips – I often have to start a sentence, ‘sorry, I have a sieve for a brain but …’ – and it was fascinating to try out some techniques from Dominic O’ Brien, 8 times world memory champion. I think it will be a while though before I can memorise 54 decks of cards after only a single viewing (one of his many world records).

I’ve also tried out Middle Temple’s mindfulness sessions. There were only a few of us which made it easier to ask questions – such as how to avoid falling asleep while meditating. Apparently I shouldn’t get too comfortable while meditating but should sit up straight and keep my eyes open. Mindfulness is brilliant for taking time out, refocusing and energising ourselves, but does take practice.

Lots of networks and organisations have sprung up over the last few years to promote good mental health and fight the stigma of mental health difficulties in the workplace. I’m a member of minds@work (mindsatworkmovement.com). At their last meeting, as well as updates from members, there was also a presentation from Jonny Benjamin MBE, a mental health campaigner and Neil Laybourn, who talked him down from Waterloo Bridge when he was feeling suicidal in 2008. Many of you will have seen them run the London Marathon together recently to raise funds for mental health charities.

Jonny spoke incredibly movingly about his struggles and I can’t stress how much I admire him for talking about such painful experiences to a room full of strangers. Neil gave an insight into the conversations they’ve had with big organisations which are trying to introduce wellbeing programmes.

I’m looking forward to attending the next Survive and Thrive event on 7 November, ‘The simple pursuit of happiness: how to achieve happiness and health goals’ at which there will be a presentation by ‘Laughology’, and also a sleep expert – something I definitely need to learn to do better!

Nina Caplin (Bar European Group representative) is currently a Senior Associate at the Financial Conduct Authority. She has spent most of her career in the Government Legal Service, including stints at the Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Fair Trading.