There’s no way to avoid being stressed as a lawyer – it’s part of the job description. But that doesn’t mean you need to carry that stress with you all the time. Avoiding burnout and maintaining a healthy mindset means you need to learn how to let go of the stress that work brings your way.
Impacts of Stress on Lawyers
Being a lawyer can be tremendously rewarding, but no matter what type of law you practice the very nature of the job entails some type of stress due to deadlines, the magnitude of case outcomes and an extremely long to-do list. The results of this day to day workload has some negative consequences, with lawyers being 3.6 times more prone to depression than other individuals. Constant tension and anxiety can also lead to other health consequences, like high blood pressure and heart disease.
With so much work to do on a daily basis and the always looming concern of a malpractice lawsuit over a missed due date, it can seem impossible to ever relax. The key is to not hold on to the stress. By practicing one or more of the below techniques, you can find ways to let go of the pressures of being a lawyer.
Make time for things you enjoy
If you’re always thinking about work it makes sense it would be hard to relax. By giving your mind a mental break from all those legal tasks, you can reset and come back to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle what needs to be done. Find an outlet or two and give yourself time for it, whether it’s building something for the house, gardening or taking up a spin class.
Make a to-do list the night before
Ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about all you have to do? Or get to the office only to have to figure out what you need to get done and lay out your day? Creating a list of what needs to be accomplished the following day the night before, along with highlighting the key tasks to be completed, can help bring some order to the chaos.
It can hardly seem like there’s time to sleep and eat, let alone exercise, as a lawyer. But getting the blood pumping, the endorphins flowing and your heart racing can be the key to getting rid of some of that work-stress. The repetitive motions also can act as a form of meditation, especially with rhythmic exercise like running or cycling where you’re forced to focus on your body rather than your thoughts.
Be excellent, not perfect
A common trait among lawyers is perfectionism. It makes sense to want to deliver quality work you can be proud of, but perfectionism itself has negative consequences. Anxiety, burnout and unhealthy coping mechanisms are eventual outcomes when perfect is the ultimate goal. Try to change your mindset to excellence and see how your approach changes.
The mindfulness movement has hit the legal industry, touting benefits like self-regulation, emotional awareness and the ability to better handle stress overall. It’s even been proven to cause increases in the grey matter of the brain. You can add a daily meditation practice to your routine to get started, but if that isn’t your style check out Five Simple Mindfulness Practice for People That Hate to Meditate.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all of these suggestions. Start small and implement just one of the above recommendations into your daily routine. You don’t need to change everything about how you work to reduce your stress and experience a more healthy balance between getting things done and your sanity.