Mental Health Month: What Lawyers Need to Know about Stress, Burnout, and Boundaries

Mental Health Month What Lawyers Need to Know about Stress, Burnout, and Boundaries

When you graduated from law school, you were probably excited to get started on your career—but going full-steam ahead for years can take a toll on those in the legal field. After a while, you may feel yourself becoming overwhelmed and looking for solutions to the everyday stress you face while practicing law.  

Attorneys are known for having stressful jobs with big responsibilities and long hours. This can lead to work dissatisfaction and burnout, both of which make work even harder.  

Burnout especially is a serious issue for attorneys and can cause significant physical and mental health problems. A recent study found that 28% suffer from depression and 19% are afflicted with anxiety, highlighting the effect of stress on a lawyer’s well-being and the ongoing need for stress management in the workplace. 

Finding a way to do the job you love without sacrificing your mental health can be a challenge. For National Mental Health Month, here are four simple ways you can protect your mental health while working in the legal industry.  

  1. Know your stress triggers 

The first step in safeguarding your mental health at work is to identify your stressors.  

Are you more stressed right after a conference call? Do client meetings tend to be a big stressor? Try keeping a log throughout the day so you can begin to recognize the times you feel stressed and what was going on right before. 

Whatever the stressor, knowing your stress triggers can help you learn to identify ways to counteract or minimize them.  

Set time aside for de-stressing 

Unfortunately, some stressors can’t be avoided.  

When you’re faced with unavoidable stressors, It’s important to find ways to mitigate them. One way is to schedule a time before and after these occurrences to de-stress. Simple things like taking a short walk around the block, calling a friend, or meditating for 10 minutes can help you reestablish your mental health equilibrium.  

Once you’ve scheduled time for your chosen de-stressing activity, stick with it—don’t push forward with other tasks until you’ve taken that short time to be kind to yourself. 

Set boundaries 

Think about the amount of work you can do without sacrificing your mental health. Make an honest assessment of your workload and ask yourself how realistic it is, and whether that amount of work is manageable in the long term. Try to identify ways to lighten your workload, like delegating some tasks to others. 

Of similar importance is communicating those boundaries to others. Learning when, and how, to say no is a great tool to have at your disposal and will help you maintain stress-saving boundaries throughout your life. (Not just at work!)  

Use technology to simplify your work life 

Technology can be a stressor at times, but it has an important role in de-stressing parts of work life. When implemented well, it can streamline your workday and reduce how much time you have to spend on tedious tasks that slow down your productivity.  

Using tools like document automation can make it easy to assemble and send legal documents to clients. Getting in the habit of using task management tools can help you stay on top of your to-do list. And if you really need a break? You can use practice management tools to help delegate tasks.  

Know when to take a break and ask for help 

Delegating is important. But so is taking a break. Pay attention to signs of burnout, such as: 

  • Loss of motivation 
  • Decreased satisfaction  
  • A sense of feeling helpless or trapped 
  • Feeling tired, drained, or exhausted all the time
  • Procrastination or avoiding work 
  • And more

Burnout can have lasting effects on your mental wellbeing, so it’s important to take it seriously. Taking a break can help, but you should work to resolve what’s causing the burnout to begin with.  

Reaching out for help or support, whether through a therapist, your supervisor, or a trusted colleague or friend, can help you identify a healthy path forward so you can continue to work—and preserve your mental health—in the long term.  

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