Legal professionals tend to have a deep passion for their work. While that passion and drive can be a great thing for their livelihoods, their customers, and the moral landscape of their communities, it can also lead to unhealthy stress.
In fact, working as a lawyer is one of the most stressful jobs ever. Why is that exactly?
For one, lawyers can work long hours and sometimes take the work home with them due to client obligations.
Second, their job is to help their clients in stressful situations like divorce, legal proceedings, and bankruptcy. This is a lot of responsibility, and a practitioner who cares deeply about his clients will feel some of that stress.
After all, they are expected to use their mental faculties to the fullest day in and day out. You are constantly involved in cognitively demanding work: thinking, reading, planning.
These long hours in connection with mental stress can lead to hair-raising moments of stress. In this article, we’re going to be discussing some of the best ways for you to manage stress, to make sure your job doesn’t become an obligation, or worse, a burden.
Signs that you may be overwhelmed
The first step in dealing with stress is realizing and accepting that you are stressed. Pretending that palpitations and mood swings are only parts of your genetic makeup will get you nowhere.
Here are some common signs that you may be overwhelmed, according to Healthline.
- Increased headache frequency
- Decreased energy
- sleep disorders
- Common illness
- Digestive problems
Stress Management Tips for Legal Practitioners
Once you realize that stress is a problem, you can use some of the following tactics to reduce it. And remember, a lot of your legal practice peers go through the same quest for less stress.
Over the past two decades, meditation has established itself as a highly effective strategy for managing stress in Western culture.
Although the scientific benefits are known, the vast majority of people still find it difficult to incorporate meditation into their lives. This is because the practice is still very mystified because of its roots in Eastern spirituality.
However, you do not need to join any doctrine or set out on your way to attain nirvana. Instead, take it slowly and follow these simple steps to reap the calming benefits of meditation.
The most important steps to meditate:
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Focus on your breath.
- When your attention shifts, return to your breath.
- Repeat until your timer sounds.
When to do it is up to you. Many people include it in their morning routines to start the day in a positive, centered state of mind.
You can also use meditation as a kind of “take-away pill”. If you are stressed about a customer meeting, meditate beforehand. If you recently had bad news about your case, take a break from meditation.
Experiment with what works best for you and enjoy the 10 minutes of calm and presence you have during meditation. If you’re struggling to get started, then you should check YouTube or other places for guided meditations that can help you get the mood right.
During a good workout, it can feel like you are literally sweating out your feelings of stress. After that, you feel that the day’s frustrations and worries are less important and more manageable.
That’s because physical activity increases the production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make your brain feel good.
Aside from the physical benefits, there are also emotional benefits. Exercise can also be a good time to reflect on the day’s problems. This will help you cope and make the problems appear less serious.
Of course, finding time to exercise is usually the biggest challenge for lawyers.
If your day is busy, try to go for a walk at least around lunchtime. You can make this even less stressful by doing it with a friend, especially a friend who listens well or knows how to make you laugh.
Laughing with a friend increases endorphin output, which reduces stress, according to a study by the Journal of Neuroscience.
Absence from work is important to maintain a lower level of stress.
A study published last year by the American Psychological Association found that vacations reduced stress by removing people from the activities and environments they associate with stress and anxiety.
Instead of working in the office for a few weeks, relax on a tropical beach or explore the streets of an old city.
Unfortunately, lawyers tend to take fewer vacation days than professionals in other fields. Finding time can be tricky trying to be available to customers and meet deadlines in court.
However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to make vacation time a priority. Speak to your manager or trusted partner when things get out of hand. And if you take the time, try your best not to have to work from your vacation spot.
This can be difficult to achieve, but a real breakup is required to take advantage of the stress reliever that ensures you are helping your clients even more than you were before you left.
Spend time in nature
The bubbling of a creak. The breeze through the leaves. Nature has long been a haven for those looking for relief after a stressful week. And the effectiveness of this practice is now backed by science.
Harvard’s research suggests that spending time in nature can improve your mood and help you relieve stress. While scientists don’t know exactly how nature does this, they do have some ideas.
In most cases, your stress can cause negative rumination:
“When people are depressed or under high stress, that part of the brain fails and there is a continuous loop of negative thoughts,” says Dr. Jason Strauss, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Harvard in Cambridge.
Fortunately, this rumination decreases when you are immersed in a natural setting. In a study from 2015, the researchers compared the brain activity of two groups of people who had taken different sidewalks. The first group walked through an urban setting for 90 minutes. The second group went through a natural environment.
The researchers found that the “nature walkers” had less activity in their prefrontal cortex: the part of your brain that is active during bouts of repetitive negative thoughts. So if you live near a park or the forest, try walking there instead of around the block.
Dealing with the new stress factors of remote work
While remote working has removed some serious stressors like long commutes, it has also added some new ones to the mix.
For example, when lawyers work from home, they may struggle to separate their work and personal lives.
The working day had a definite end earlier. When you got home, the job was done. Now that your office is right next to your bedroom (or bed), it’s easy to jump back on the laptop and scroll through your email at 8:00 p.m., a time you would normally use to relax.
This blurred line between work and leisure can lead to burnout.
So try to implement a “switch-off ritual” in order to reinsert this hard line between work and leisure and to make the most of your relaxation time.
This ritual, coined by Georgetown professor Cal Newport, is a series of steps you take at the end of your work day to signal that the work day is over. It is up to you what actions to include in the ritual, but here is an example.
Example of a shutdown ritual
- Think about the working day: This gives your mind a chance to think about what happened during the day so that you don’t think about it while talking to your spouse or watching a movie.
- Update (or check out tomorrow’s calendar): When you update your calendar, you can have peace of mind knowing that you will not forget any important tasks.
- Close the laptop and say a “magic word”: Newport says, “Schedule the shutdown, complete it” to end the process and signal his subconscious that free time has begun.
Use technology to extend your free time
Sometimes as a lawyer you just have too much work on your hands. And finding time to focus on your sanity can be difficult.
This need for more time leads to a serious acceptance of the technological change in the entire industry, especially in small and medium-sized companies.
Lawyers have found that with the right legal technologies, they can reduce the number of hours spent on repetitive administrative tasks (tasks that are usually quite stress-inducing).
For example, the routine creation of documents for lawyers can lead to many headaches. To reduce the time it takes to complete this task, lawyers use document automation software such as Lawyaw.
And remember, as you take the steps to automate your busy work, use your newfound time to focus on your well-being. Sometimes we need to serve ourselves and our customers.