The de-stressed court reporter
As a working real-time court reporter and owner of Neesons, I’ve experienced stress in its many forms over the years. When I started court reporting, lawyers and judges spoke more for the record; breaks were longer; the rush just wasn’t the same. Today, the pace at which lawyers speak, the expedited transcript delivery, and the amount of time court reporters are sitting either at their shorthand machines or laptop computers has increased significantly. And they said computers would give us a lot more free time!
Here are some of the tools I’ve developed over the years to de-stress after a particularly long day.
During the court reporting day
Wear comfortable clothing: I used to dress in certain clothes that I loved, but that didn’t allow me to sit comfortably without shifting around a hundred times a day. I’ve switched from pencil skirts (which I love) to pants, dresses and less form-fitting skirts. I also make sure I wear layers so that I can bundle up in a cold boardroom, or take off in a hot one.
Get up and move! So often I used to skip breaks and lunch to work on my transcripts – finding words, checking quotes, and defining shorthand. I will still do that today, but I always take five minutes at the break to walk to the washroom or just simply get a fresh glass of water, and at least 20 minutes at lunch to walk away from the computer and shorthand machine. I’ve balanced out the need to do certain work-related items with the fact my body needs to get out of the sitting position we hold for so long.
S-t-r-e-t-c-h… Over the years my neck and shoulders have paid the price of court reporting. My physiotherapist has given me a couple of great exercises that I can do while writing. The first is to sit up straight and tuck your chin as far as you can into your neck (a chin tuck). Hold it for a few seconds. Do it again, at least five or six times, and do it often during the day. Another exercise for your neck is to slowly move your head to one side and hold, then s-l-o-w-l-y move to centre, and then move to the other side and hold. You may look weird, but you can listen and write while you do this. For your shoulders, we all tend to slouch even though we don’t think we’re doing it. Reset your shoulders by first sitting straight, lift your shoulders, and then pull back to “reset” into a tall posture. You will feel the relief right away.
At the end of the court reporting day
Get some exercise: Whether it’s a stroll, a brisk walk, yoga or a workout at the gym, find some time to just breathe. If I’m really short on time, I’ll make sure I at least get a 10-minute walk in – we can all do that. If you’re working on an expedite that night, get up and move every hour for at least five minutes – get a cup of tea, do a load of laundry, read your kids a book before bed – so that you give your mind and body a rest from the rigours of preparing an expedited transcript.
Find some quiet time: For me, it’s driving home at the end of the day with some music that I like. Whatever it may be for you – doing crosswords on the bus, or solitaire on your phone, or maybe just sitting on the streetcar staring into nothing – take a break from the day. There are some days when I just don’t want to talk or listen to anyone for half an hour after the completion of a discovery session because my brain is so full! Give yourself permission to tune out so you can really tune in.
Give your body a treat: Maybe that’s a hot shower or bath, or lying down watching TV. Pet your dog or cat - studies have shown that cuddling a pet releases the “cuddle chemical" oxytocin, which produces an anti-depressive-like effect.
Put down the devices! Not only does looking at a screen for long periods day over day affect your vision, most of us put strain on our upper body in the posture we hold ourselves in to use our devices. Additionally, disconnecting from the “noise” of social media is a good mental health break too.
Get to bed at a decent time: A good night’s sleep can be your best friend, particularly on cases that go day after day. Create good bedtime hygiene with rituals (like getting your PJs on at a certain time, brushing your teeth, etc.) and habits (no TV or devices an hour before bedtime, reading a Kindle or book, meditating, etc.)
Remember, court reporting is a marathon, not a spring. Looking after yourself ensures a long, healthy career ahead of you.