Being a lawyer is stressful. There’s no getting around that. Frequently, you have so much work that you can’t possibly fathom how you’re going to finish it all on time. If you leave that stress and overwhelm unchecked, you’re at risk for burning out. This can cause you to make mistakes at work or delve deep into a depressive episode.
Chronic stress can also weaken your immune system, which can result in a downward cycle of getting sick, missing work, getting behind, becoming more stressed, getting stick again, and so on. It also can cause muscle aches, digestive issues, and high blood pressure.
You’ve invested a lot of time into building up your career. You might feel like you have to power-through everything and be super man or super woman, but that’s counterproductive. By not taking care of yourself, you’ll soon find that issues start arising outside of work— affecting your personal life and family life. Invest in self-care so you can maintain the successful legal career you worked so hard to attain. Balance the stress of long days and billable hours with a restful and re-energizing activities.
If you find yourself struggling to handle the stress of work or teetering on the edge of burn out, check out these eight ways to better manage your stress.
8 Guidelines to Managing Stress
1. Avoid Consistently Working 10+ Hours a Day
Yes, you will inevitably have to work some 10 or 12 hour days. That’s a given with this kind of work. However, avoid doing this for several days straight. Working several long days in a row causes you to be less productive. So, even if you’re putting in 12 hours, you might only be getting 8 hours worth of work done.
2. Let go of Perfectionism
Sometimes the long hours have nothing to do with the amount of work you have. Sometimes it’s really just perfectionism rearing its ugly head. Perfectionism turns a simple few hour task into an all day marathon. Extract yourself from the perfectionism cycle.
3. Prepare Ahead of Time
You know that feeling when you walk into your office and get assaulted by a pile of work? That is incredibly overwhelming and starts your day off on the wrong foot. Instead, take a little time the night before to organize yourself for the next day. That way, you start your day organized and ready to tackle your work efficiently and effectively.
4. Avoid Office Politics
Even the healthiest of firms have some level of office politics. It’s the nature of working in a larger organization. Avoid getting sucked into the negativity and competition. It needlessly drains your energy, causes stress, and distracts you from the work at hand. Instead, focus on doing your best and managing your own career. Do that, and you’ll find it serves you better in the long run.
5. Keep Firm (But Sometimes Flexible) Boundaries
In order to keep your sanity, you must have healthy boundaries. An essential part of having boundaries is figuring out what is non-negotiable for you and where you can give a little wiggle room. By knowing this about yourself, it makes it easier to decide what to say yes and no to. Keep your boundaries in mind every time a request is made of you. Remember that when you say “no” to something, you’re also saying “yes” to something. By saying “no” to the unnecessary late-night client call, you’re saying “yes” to uninterrupted quality family time.
6. Take Physical and Mental Breaks
Have you noticed that sometimes when you sit for a long period of time, you actually feel really tired? That’s because, thought you’re sitting, your body needs a physical (and usually mental) break. Get up. Walk to the break room. Stretch. Go outside the building, even if for just five minutes. If you find that the day flies by and you forgot to take a break, consider building breaks into your schedule. Actually schedule it in your calendar or set timers to remind you to take a break every hour.
7. Get to the Root of the Stress
Sometimes it’s simply the amount of work piling up on your desk that is causing you major stress. Other times, there are outside factors coming into play. It may be that your personal life is suffering, and that is bleeding into your work life. Or, it may be that how you’re thinking about your work is causing you unusually high levels of stress.
For example, I worked with a lawyer who was anxious about talking to a client about something. This was highly unusual for him because he was typically a straight shooter who was comfortable with delivering uncomfortable news. It turns out the root of his anxiety was that the situation at hand reminded him of something very personal from his past that was very impactful. The stress he felt had nothing to do with the actual client and everything to do with something from his own past.
8. Get Support
When struggling, the knee-jerk response can sometimes be to pretend everything is okay and isolate. Feelings of embarrassment and shame bubble up, and we hide from others. We don’t want to be seen in this vulnerable state. This can be especially true of lawyers and other successful professionals.
This can be a huge mistake. People are community-oriented. We need one another to get through life and thrive. Courageous people reach out to others, and smart people allow loved ones to support us.
It can be scary to be so open, exposed, and vulnerable with our friends and families. That’s why employing a professional, like a concierge psychologist, can be so helpful. Using a person outside of your everyday life that can give you the unwavering acceptance, objective views, and focused support that you need to recover and heal.
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Curious of concierge therapy is for you? Contact Dr. Crystal I. Lee for a free 20 minute consultation to see how she can help.