Lawyers deal with a significant amount of stress. Between the long hours and taxing mental work, it can lead to job burnout. A common trait for many lawyers is their Type A personality; competitive, controlling, determined, and aggressive. They have a strong desire to win and it pushes them to work hard towards an unreachable goal of ultimate success and perfection.
Stress-related jobs can cause both physical and mental health issues. People who work these types of jobs are more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke, develop coronary disease, and deal with depression and anxiety. They are also at a higher risk of suicide. Is any job worth all of that?
The long hours and case loads require lawyers to be exceptional multi-taskers, this kind of busyness leads to more stress. In addition to diminished health, stress can lead to short-term problems like muscle pain, headaches, and sleeplessness.
Some of the signs of moderate to high stress levels include:
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed
- Becoming irritable or crying for no reason
- Being more accident-prone
- Headaches, dizziness, stomach issues
Now that you’re fully stressed out about the effects of a stressful workload, it’s time to learn how to reduce stress and regain control of your physical and mental well-being. I have one word for you . . . Self-Care. Yes, taking time to relax and rejuvenate your body and mind will help reduce your stress.
It may surprise you to know that self-care will also make you a better lawyer? No, I’m not making this up. Self-care and downtime, helps you to be more productive, make better decisions, think on your feet faster, and make observations you would have otherwise missed. So, taking care of yourself means you’re also taking care of your clients’ best interests.
One of the best ways to determine your stress level is to pay attention to how much or how little time you’re taking for self-care. In most cases, the more stressed we feel, the less likely we are to take time to do something for ourselves. When work gets busy (and stressful), things like going to the gym or taking a walk, playing with our kids, spending quality time with our spouse, or just relaxing for a few minutes never seem to fit into our schedules. We don’t “have time” for them anymore. If you don’t remember the last time you took some time for you to do something fun and enjoyable, your stress level is probably off the charts.
To get yourself back on track, start with making a list of activities and people that help you feel rejuvenated. Add things like meditation, time with friends and family, working out, reading, and your favorite hobbies. You can use this list to refer back to when you realize you need to make time for self-care.
If you need help coming up with ideas for self-care, look at these options:
Not getting enough sleep has a direct impact on your stress levels and your ability to handle stress. To make things even more challenging, dealing with stress can impact how much sleep you’re able to get. Too little sleep, trouble falling asleep, and getting poor-quality sleep can all lead to higher stress levels.
Look at creating a nighttime ritual to help your body and mind know that it’s time to get ready for bed. Turn off the TV and computer and remove your cellphone and any Wi-Fi devices from your room (the Wi-Fi signal can be disruptive to your sleep patterns) at least one hour before sleep. Read a book. If using an e-reader, make sure the blue light blocker is enabled and the Wi-Fi is turned to Airplane Mode. Make a cup of soothing, caffeine-free tea. No alcohol as it can also affect your sleep patterns. Meditate, stretch, and turn on some soothing white noise like ocean sounds or a storm. If you’re still having trouble, maybe a small dose of Melatonin 30 minutes before bed. Don’t make a habit of this though as it will eventually stop working for you. Take it for no more than a few days at a time.
If all else fails, block out 30 minutes of undisturbed time in the middle of the day for a power nap. It will leave you refreshed and ready to finish out the day. Have a cup of coffee right before your nap so when you wake, you’ll be alert and focused.
A poor diet can contribute to your stress levels. Make sure you’re getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy carbs. You’ll not only reduce your stress, you’ll also increase your energy levels naturally.
If you’re having trouble finding time to cook healthy meals, meal planning a week or two in advance, prep your food over the weekend, and test out a few slow cooker meals so that a healthy dinner is waiting for you when you get home from work.
Packing a healthy lunch only takes a few minutes, especially when you’ve done your meal planning and prepping in advance. Pack your lunch the night before to reduce your stress early in the morning.
Sitting behind a computer too long can cause stress from the tension you feel in your body. The ache between your shoulder blades and the stiffness of your legs and feet from inactivity can drain your energy and leave you feeling irritable. Get up and move at least once an hour for 5-10 minutes. Walk around the block, stretch and massage your aching muscles, go into your building’s stairwell and climb a few stories up and down. Staying active throughout the day will build your energy and focus and reduce your stress.
Take Up a Hobby
Having a hobby ensures that you’ll enjoy your time doing it. What do you like to do? What makes you happy? Draw, garden, play chess, take dance classes, go fishing, take a cooking class. If you don’t already have a hobby search for a few things that interest you until you find one that helps you relax. Knowing that it’s something you enjoy will encourage you to do it more often, ensuring that you’re taking time for self-care.
Bottling up your emotions and feelings is a sure way to hang on to stress. Find a way to process what you’re feeling and thinking so that you can let go of it and move on. Journaling, join a support or discussion group, seek counseling. Sometimes a therapist is just a great sounding board; seeing one doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
Another great way to let go and reduce stress is through Equine Gestalt Coaching. If you’re not sure what that is or how it can help, learn more.
Spend Time with Family & Friends
The support you receive from family and friends can be enough to pick you up when you’re down and lower your stress levels. That support will also be there when you feel like you’re not accomplishing enough or you don’t feel good about yourself. A pep talk from someone who cares about you can make all the difference in the world. They can also provide insight and feedback about things you need to let go of or get advice about. Even just to listen when you need to let off steam. Don’t forget that you need to be there for them too, it’s a give and take relationship so make sure you put your listening skills to work when they need you.
Enjoy Some Pampering
A day at the spa can do wonders for your stress. Let someone else take care of you for a change. Get a massage and feel your tension melt away. If you don’t enjoy massage, Reiki is another option for pampering. A Reiki Master can help break up any tight areas of your body where your holding tension and stress. You can literally feel the tension breaking apart.
High levels of stress can lead to job burnout. Once you reach that level, you’re no good to anyone, especially not your clients. When you’re feeling burned out, you don’t put all your energy and attention into your work and you’re not giving your clients the best representation you can.
Before reaching the point of burnout, focus on controlling and reducing your stress levels on a daily basis. Do something every day to let go of the day’s stress. Don’t take it to bed with you and don’t continue to carry it into the next day where it will only build more.
Start creating a stress reduction, self-care practice of your own. Where can you find time, every day, to focus on reducing your stress and taking care of yourself. Just a few minutes here and there can make a big difference.
Get enough sleep, spend time with the people you love, eat well, move, take up a hobby, pamper yourself, and let go of your stress. It will help you avoid job burnout and make you a happier person.
If this sounds like something you still need help balancing the horses and I can help. Call for a FREE consultation at 970-682-4405 and we will get you started on the right path.