If you’ve ever been in court, it might seem as if it moves slowly. But not for a court reporter such as Donna Linton, 55, who is responsible for compiling transcripts of every word and action in a legal proceeding. The Ashburn, Va., resident is a nationally and state-certified court reporter. She has been a court reporter since 1984 and works in Washington, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. No day is the same: Sometimes she’s in court keeping track of courtroom proceedings or trial testimony and other times she’s at home compiling transcripts or out taking depositions. Linton runs her own firm, Amicus Reporting, with a team of about five freelancers, plus herself. She’s also active in the Virginia Court Reporters Association and serves as its vice president.

“This is a whole different animal than any other profession,” she told us. “I hear and learn something different every day. I also feel like I’m helping somebody, because I’m taking their record that they need to either defend or prove their case.”

Court reporting requires sitting, concentrating and typing for long stretches of time. Here’s how Linton takes care of her mind and body. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Q: What do the terms self-care and wellness mean to you?

A: The first thing that pops in my head is protective. You’re being protective of your body and your mind so that you can be the best that you can be at whatever you do.

Q: That's an interesting word choice. What's the threat?

A: Being overwhelmed by your job. A lot of people need help. Agencies will call freelancers and be like, “Can you cover this job?” You might have a lot of pages, and you haven’t been to the gym in three days, and you don’t need any more stress. You’re not going to be able to do a good job for that person if you’re taking on too much.

Q: How do you prevent that from happening to you?

A: It’s a job all in its own. That’s why I get up early and check my schedule, and I’m constantly writing to-do lists. It’s keeping me on track and keeping me knowing what I can do and what I can’t do.

I sold Mary Kay for a few years, and I learned things about balance. She would suggest that you write anything that had to do with money in green on your calendar. If it’s something urgent, you write it in red. If it’s something social, you would write it in black. Volunteering, you write it in blue. I do that on my calendar, and I do it on my Google calendar as well. It helps me see that I have too much green or I don’t have enough black. And I’ll say, “I need a balance, and I need to fix that.”

Q: What does a working day outside of court look like?

A: If I’m just home working in my home office, I’ll usually get up at 6 a.m. and I will look at the calendar and confirm things with my clients and make sure the court reporters know they have to go to their job assignments. Then I have breakfast. My boyfriend insists that we have eggs every day. I’m a pescatarian, so he makes me a bed of spinach with my eggs on top, and usually it’s a gluten-free seeded bread for toast with half an avocado. I have a cup of coffee; I usually drink two or three cups a day, the stronger the better.

Then I work on transcripts. Whatever I reported on my steno machine is going into software that matches it to words in the English dictionary. I have to check for proper names, punctuation and medical terms. I’m scoping my transcript, and then I’m proofreading.

If it’s not crazy, and I don’t have a due date or somebody is not in a hurry for a transcript, I will go to the gym; I’m trying to be there four days a week. I walk my dog around 4 p.m. We have neighbors we walk with. If they’re home, we’ll do a “pack walk,” about 1.6 miles around the lake. Then I come home and check my email again to make sure I don’t have any emergencies. I start dinner and take a shower. Depending on how busy I am and if I have a backlog, I might be at my desk working until 11 p.m. If not, I might take it easy and try to catch up on my recorded TV shows. I like to watch “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Q: What do you like to eat?

A: I usually keep it really simple. I go to Trader Joe’s and buy the pre-prepared salad bags. Then I will just make tilapia or salmon. Sometimes I’ll put a little more effort into it and chop up some parsnips and make it like mashed potatoes and put the salmon on top. I feel better not loading up on too many carbs. They make me sleepy, and I can’t get sleepy. When I’m in court, I have to be intensely listening to testimony, and I’ve got to be alert because I’m struggling to hear people and things are moving pretty fast.

Q: What does a trial day look like?

A: It’s the same thing I would usually do, but after breakfast I drive to court. I bring protein bars with me in case I get hungry. I have a bag of walnuts and almonds. Sometimes if I’m in the courthouse and I like the food, I’ll buy lunch in court; sometimes I bring my lunch. It’s almost always a salad with fish and a bottle of water. I always have some dark chocolate with me. My go-tos for stress are chocolate and potato chips. I need to crunch, and cucumbers will only cut it so much.

Court reporting is very intense and I love it, but if you’re sitting there typing all day, your shoulders and your neck get tight. It’s stressful sitting there like that for a long period of time. As soon as we get a break, I’m running to the bathroom and looking at my phone to check my email. Then I’m also popping a piece of chocolate in my mouth. I’m doing shoulder rolls, and I might be doing pushups on the wall in the bathroom. I do squats in the bathroom.

Q: What do you do to prevent injury?

A: I feel so blessed that I have never had carpal tunnel because I do know a lot of court reporters who have had it. I do rolling exercises with my wrists. If my wrists start bothering me, which is very rare, I have some gloves with a thick wristband I bought years ago. [Therapeutic support gloves from Handeze.] I wear them for a couple hours, then I’m fine. I heard about them from someone who did knitting and crocheting. I don’t know how it works, but it works. When I’m working at home, I try to get up every hour to do stretches. I have bad arthritis in both my hips. I had hip surgery, and my other hip will have to be done. I do specific stretches with bands and I work my glutes. I do hip flexor stretches, but I’m an allover body workout person.

Q: What do you do to focus during proceedings?

A: When I’m at a job assignment, somebody might say, for example, testimony about their loved one who passed away. That’s really hard, but I can’t show emotion. I just focus on the words. I don’t stay focused on their emotion because if I do, then I’m not doing my job. I get it done, and then later on, I have a glass of wine or talk to some friends for stress relief.

Q: How else do you unwind?

A: I go cook something because that makes me feel good, too. Walking the dog is wonderful therapy; I hash out a lot in my head by just being outside and walking him. Going to the gym is definitely a stress relief for me. During spin class, I take it out on the bike. And taking a bath with Epsom salt and essential oils.

Q: What would you tell your younger self or someone who is starting out as a court reporter?

A: Don’t eat out so much. Get into a habit of making your own food at home. Do your meals on a Sunday night and plan your lunches. Bring things with you in your purse. Protein bars, fruits, vegetables, you know something small to keep you. And you have got to exercise. It’s going to help your hips and your shoulders. And it’s going to help you mentally.

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