How to be the best (fill in the blank) this year: Become a ‘force of nature’

By Tonya Graser Smith and Kate Kovats

Being a human is stressful. Being a parent is stressful. Being an employee is stressful. Being a – you fill in the blank – is stressful.

Laird Hamilton talks about stress and the risks and rewards of it on his mind, body, and soul, in his book, “Force of Nature: Mind, Body, Soul, And, Of Course, Surfing.” He talks about how our days are meant to be fun.

Being a lawyer is stressful. Being family law attorneys, we often feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. Divorce impacts children and families, and it’s our job to ease the burden for our clients as best we can. So how in the world do we make this work fun and rewarding? We take care of ourselves.

In this season of new year’s resolutions, we are reminded that we have to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of our clients. It’s like how flight attendants remind you that in case of an in-flight emergency you must put on your oxygen mask first, before helping others.

Lawyers have high rates of alcohol, drug and mental health issues, according to a landmark 2016 study. Ours isn’t the only profession that is stressful, nor the only one in which bad habits can take hold. Likewise, none of us can help clients, do our best work and be the best friends and family members we can be if we don’t practice some self-care. Because it’s January, we thought we’d each talk about where we find our outlets: at the gym. We think Laird would be proud.


As another friend  of mine says about working out, “it’s the only thing I can control with regularity in my life.”

It’s always been important to me to work out or go to the gym – for both the physical and mental release. The form this habit has taken has looked differently over the years. As an unmarried attorney, I ran a lot and trained for a few half marathons. Early morning runs cleared my mind and allowed me to focus first on myself before starting the rest of my day.

After years of running, I switched to CrossFit classes after work. This worked for me for a few reasons. First, it was time for something new. Second, having a class that started at a set time in the evenings meant I had to be efficient with my work day and get my work done. Finally, I also had to have the discipline to put work away and get to class.  There is always more work that can be done, and part of this job is knowing that it cannot all be done in one day.

After another few years, and the addition of two children to our family, I switched up the fitness routine again. Now you will find me at Orange Theory several times a week. I like the mix of cardio and strength in a tightly-run, fast-moving class. In less than an hour, I’m done. I also love all the numbers that flash on the screen and show up on my email later, allowing me to track my progress during and after my work-out. I like racing against myself.

The one constant form of exercise over the years is yoga. I don’t need loud music and a heart-pounding work-out every day. As a wife, mom and family lawyer, I appreciate some peace and quiet now and then, too.


My favorite workout: spin class. In fact, I teach spin Monday and Tuesday nights at Charlotte Athletic Club.

I started taking spin classes with my dad when I was 11 years old. My parents had just divorced, and Monday nights were daddy-daughter night. Dad and I would go to spin class and grab dinner afterward.  When I was a freshman in college, there was an on-campus training to get certified to teach spin. Dad paid for that training, and I’ve been teaching ever since.

I love that spin class is intense. The music is loud and the work-out is non-stop. Like Tonya, I love yoga and lifting weights, too. But there’s nothing like spin class to take my mind off everything and everyone else.

While the spin bike and computer monitor provide a lot of numbers, unlike Tonya I don’t need them. I know when I’m working hard. And if I start making my grocery list in the middle of class, I know I need to kick it up a notch or two.

The funny thing is there are several lawyers who come to my class and then go right back to work after. They come in hot from endless meetings and with scowls on their faces, yet they leave more relaxed and smiling. I can tell they are in a better place mentally after those quick 45 minutes. They’re ready to get back at it. And that’s what it’s all about.

Bonus track

Some of Tonya’s favorite work-out tunes: “Old Town Road,” by Little Nas X, featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “The Distance,” by Cake and “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen.

A sampling of some of Kate’s go-to spin class songs: “Timber,” by Pitbull, featuring Ke$ha, “Working for It,” by ZHU, Skrillex & THEY, “Body” by Loud Luxury, and “Dirty Sexy Money,” by David Guetta.

We’re looking forward to a year of working hard for our clients and working out hard for ourselves. To all of our friends, clients and professional connections, we wish you a 2020 of taking care of you. While we all may not be Laird Hamilton – we hope that you can nourish your mind and body this year with work-outs that fit you.  May you find your own `Force of Nature’ in yourself in 2020.

Tonya Graser Smith is a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law, licensed North Carolina attorney and founder of GraserSmith, PLLCKate Kovats is an attorney at GraserSmith, PLLC; she is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and Florida.