According to a 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association, the percentages of lawyers struggling with depression and anxiety are 28% and 19%, respectively. In a more recent study, it was found that two-thirds of lawyers have high levels of stress. Workplace stress will eventually spill over into the personal life, causing problems at home too.
Legal offices are highly stressful environments, leading to physical and mental health issues. Burnout is a real threat for lawyers, but there are some steps that you can take to reduce stress in the workplace, helping you to build resilience, bringing you more energy and a better perspective to your working day.
1. Identify stress and turn it around
Keeping a personal inventory of stressful and positive experiences allows you to understand how stress impacts you. Note each occasion, how you felt, and how long you felt stressed if it was stressful. Once you know what is causing your stress, it becomes easier to find the best way to manage it.
2. Talk to someone
You are probably not the only person feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed in your law firm; it is, after all, prevalent. All stress-related symptoms can cause a sense of isolation, so it is vital to speak to colleagues, loved ones, and friends. In addition, by speaking up, you create the opportunity to harness support from those around you. Opening yourself up to exposing your vulnerability may initially seem complicated, but it is undoubtedly worth the solidarity you will find among your co-workers.
Many law firms integrate personal transparency at staff meetings with individual check-ins to create a supportive environment.
3. Best de-stressors to practice throughout your workday
- Always try to get out of the office during your lunch break to change scenery and refresh your mind. If you don’t want to eat out every day, pack a lunch and go to a nearby park to eat.
- If you are always working alone in your office, make a change and work in another space with someone else.
- Break your day into a schedule that includes breaks from long periods of solitude. Arrange meetings to break up other routine tasks like sending client follow-ups, working through a case, or creating invoices and documents.
- Take your mind away from work for a few minutes by reading something non-law-related. Studies have shown that reading beats walking, and listening to calming music when it comes to stress relief. This is because reading completely occupies the mind and relaxes the muscles and heart.
4. Celebrate positive results
Reflect on your cases and the progress made. This is a great way to lessen anxiety and stress.
You can do this by taking time toward the end of your working day to appreciate and celebrate the positive outcomes of your day. By magnifying the positives, you remove your thoughts from work-related stress and deadlines.
Take a few minutes every day to meditate. The idea is to focus your mind on your breathing and not to let the mind wander. Mediation is an excellent form of mental training that reduces stress and improves how your body manages emotions.
6. Ditch the coffee
As a lawyer, you probably feel you cannot get through your day without a few cups of coffee. Well, you are wrong because caffeine is a stimulant that may be adding to your stress, and it depletes your ability to concentrate. Drink plenty of fluids, including water, fresh fruit juice, and herbal tea.
7. Take time off
Legal work is highly stressful. Much like people in academia sometimes require a sabbatical to recover from their ongoing research, you should consider taking some time off. Taking time off, even if it’s just a weekend, where you don’t think about any work-related problems, can help you relax. Even better, take a well-deserved vacation.