Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Got the Summertime Blues?


Clinical Director, Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program


"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light." -Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


Summer in Colorado is beautiful, and seems like the perfect season to get rest, eat well, and exercise.  The summer schedule, however, can be tricky because our normal routine becomes disrupted.  For some, the change in routine can leave us feeling manic, overwhelmingly busy, or even depressed.  Just as some people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter, some people react to the change in sunlight over the summer with similar symptoms.   In addition, because the summer seems like the ideal time to “get healthy,” if our schedule doesn’t allow for a walk or run every day, or home cooked meals every night, we can end up feeling bad about ourselves because we aren’t doing what’s “good” for us.


If you have been feeling down or blue lately, you are not alone.  Many of us, however, do not want to talk about it.  Like most things that are misunderstood, conversations and dialogue about depression have been subject to stigma, avoidance, and fear.  The irony is, at its most basic level, depression is a natural consequence of having a central nervous system – brain, spinal column, and nerve tissues that control the activities of the body.  Depression is a “depressed” nervous system just as anxiety is an overactive nervous system, although the two usually work in tandem (think “what goes up must come down”).   Many factors create changes in our nervous system that can positively or negatively impact our mood, including the weather, our diet, the people we communicate with, the information we are exposed to, etc.


Judges and lawyers are exposed to high levels of stress daily (their own, clients, litigants, victims, etc.).  This contributes to the high rates of depression reported in the legal profession.  While it is estimated that 6.7% of the general population experiences depression in any given year, the percentage is much higher within the legal field with 28% of lawyers admitting to depression.    The adversarial and competitive culture of the practice of law, and the personality traits that lawyers don out of necessity to adapt to that culture, can also contribute to the high rate of depression.  These traits can cause us to engage in self-criticism, become overly judgmental of others, experience “analysis paralysis,” obsess over potential outcomes or consequences, and experience anxiety, which can lead to depression. 


Often the symptoms of depression are not easily recognized because we refer to events or circumstances that are disheartening as depressing, or say something like "I’m depressed because my team lost last night."  However, the American Psychiatric Association has a very specific definition that includes several hallmarks of clinical depression:

·       Loss of interest or pleasure in activities previously enjoyed (referred to as anhedonia);

·       Change in appetite resulting in unintentional weight gain or loss;

·       Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much;

·       Loss of energy or increased fatigue;

·       Feeling worthless or guilty;

·       Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions; and,

·       Thoughts of death or suicide.


Many articles about depression offer self-help advice such as, setting realistic goals, improving time management, recognizing that perfection is unobtainable, and learning to manage stress.  There are, however, some simple methods that can dramatically reduce the symptoms of depression:

·       Exercise.  Research shows that engaging in aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week can significantly (upwards of 50%) reduce depression.  Exercise releases the "feel good" and mood regulating chemicals that ease depression such as endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine.  Research also suggests that endocannabinoids are involved in the process, producing the well-known “runner’s high,” or the euphoric feeling after exercising.  Physical activity is also related to positive changes in the immune system that reduce depression and improve physical health. 

·       Getting Started:  Sometimes getting started on an exercise routine is difficult because of our busy schedules and lack of interest.  If that is your excuse, start small.  Even doing 10-15 minutes of exercise a day (taking a brisk walk at lunch, riding your stationary or regular bike, doing a short yoga routine, etc.) can produce similar results.  Because every part of our brain is mapped into a different part of the body, moving your body activates the brain and therefore helps us get out of mental and emotional ruts, including depression.  So get movin’!


·       Diet.  What we eat and drink impacts our mood, mental health, cognitive abilities, and of course, our physical health.  The digestive process breaks down the elements of what we take into our body causing the reaction and production of mood impacting chemicals and hormones in your body.  While it’s impossible to suggest a diet that will yield the same results for everyone, research does point to simple tips that help decrease the symptoms of depression: 

·       Eat more and a larger variety of whole foods; foods without additives such as fruits, nuts, legumes, and vegetables;

·       Reduce your intake of processed or fast foods, fried foods, and foods high in saturated fats;

·       Eat regularly to reduce drastic shifts in blood sugar levels;

·       Drink more water and less sweetened drinks (those with natural or artificial sugar); and,

·       Reduce your caffeine intake.


·       Environment. Judges and lawyers are at a higher risk than the public for developing secondary trauma or compassion fatigue.  As such, it is important to limit exposure to traumatizing information on TV or in the news.  One of the many suggestions for individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is to limit exposure to shows, movies, or news stories that amplify stress.  Especially when you are experiencing depression or burnout, or feel stressed and overwhelmed, turn off the news and choose comforting TV shows.  Be aware of what you are allowing into your consciousness and how it is affecting you.  This is not to advocate for ignorance, but it is important that you do what you are able to do to mitigate additional suffering in your personal life.


If you would like additional assistance making changes or learning more about your emotional well-being, contact us for confidential, free assistance.  The majority of our calls are from judges and lawyers who are looking for some direction on how to change their present circumstances.  We can assist you in getting the "ball rolling" in whatever level of change you are ready for!


Ron Wilcoxson, LPC, is the Clinical Director for the Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program. Your Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program provides free and confidential services for judges, lawyers, and law students. If you need resources for any issue that is compromising your ability to be a productive member of the legal profession, or if there is someone you are concerned about, contact COLAP at (303) 986-3345. For more information about COLAP, please visit