While the legal profession offers careers that can be highly rewarding, many attorneys find themselves suffering from high levels of stress and burnout. Many factors contribute to these high rates of stress, including long workdays, combative interactions with opposing counsel, phone calls and meetings with clients, paperwork, and more. Some firms are more proactive about encouraging employees to strive for work-life-balance, but most lawyers ultimately feel pressured to bill a certain amount hours each month, making other priorities fall by the wayside.
Unfortunately, the fast-paced work environment of a law office has led to significant issues among legal professionals, including high rates of anxiety and depression. One study found that lawyers suffered from depression at a rate of 3.6 times that of professionals in 100 other fields. Since those who pursue a career in the legal field tend to carry the traits of perfectionism and pessimism, both characteristics that are helpful in excelling at their job, they are more prone to developing anxiety issues. While there is no way to completely eradicate stress from your life, there are many simple practices that can help manage stress levels so that you are less likely to suffer from burnout or fatigue. Here are four helpful tips on how to cope with stress:
1. Get Moving
During times of stress, especially when working in a profession with long hours or a traffic-filled commute, exercise becomes a low priority. You only have so many hours in a day, and exercise is often seen as a luxury. Who has time to drive to a gym, get a membership, change into exercise clothes, workout, shower, and come home? Well, any amount of exercise is better than nothing. Start small: take the stairs; go on a 10-minute walk between client meetings; do some yoga poses in front of the copier; take your dog for a walk when you get home. Better yet, see if your firm can provide you with a standing desk so that you can keep your blood flowing while you work. If you cannot commit to an exercise practice, at least make small choices throughout your day that will get you moving. Every time we raise our heart rate through exercise, we are releasing endorphins and serotonin that will help us feel alert throughout the day and rested at night.
2. Encourage Quality Sleep
By now you know how important a full night’s sleep is. Yes, you know you should aim for an uninterrupted stretch of 7-9 hours at night. You know you should avoid looking at screens before bed. And yet, it is so easy for us to deny ourselves the amount of sleep we need. When you are getting home from work late, it can be tempting to stay up longer in order to finally enjoy some personal time. However, when you shortchange yourself at night, you are ultimately setting yourself up for more difficulties in your waking hours. You may find yourself more prone to making careless mistakes, or zoning out while others are speaking with you, or simply feeling sluggish at work. However, you can, make sleep a top priority so that you can work productively and feel sharper throughout your day.
3. Establish Boundaries Between Work and Your Personal Life
When you are moving quickly through your day, it can be easy to feel as though your work life is consuming your personal life, which can lead to additional stress. It’s important to cleanly divide your work life and your personal life so that you can feel fully in control of each one. For instance, as try to keep your work life at your place of work as much as possible. As you leave the office for the day, take a few deep breaths and mindfully tell yourself, “Now I’m leaving work.” As simple as this sounds, such a purposeful meditation can help you transition from your work self to your personal self. Additionally, when you are eating lunch with colleagues, try to avoid discussing work-related topics. Tap into your personal interests and connect as people, rather than lawyers. If you have to work on the weekend, try to complete it in the office, so that you do not come to associate your home with your work. By creating these distinctions, you will be amazed at how much easier it is for you to transition from your work identity to your personal self.
4. Connect, Connect, Connect
Being able to talk to other people when you are feeling stressed out is extremely beneficial. One of the best things we can do when we feel overwhelmed is to reach out to someone and connect with them. We are social beings, and feeling less alone will do wonders in lowering our cortisol levels, ultimately reducing our feelings of stress. Call an old friend, meet someone for coffee, or ask a loved one for a hug. All of these actions can help you feel less isolated and less anxious.
Delegate When You Can
While the above tips are helpful in helping individuals feel less stressed, there are steps that law firms can take to better support their employees. If your firm needs help with digital marketing, LegalRev is here to help. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or call us today at (800) 893-2590.