5 signs of burnout and 5 ways to check-in

Signs of burnout for legal professionals

In 2019, the World Health Organization designated burnout a classifiable “workplace phenomenon”. As a legal professional, dealing with burnout is a common occurrence. With all of the demands in your professional life, maintaining the necessary balance with personal wellness can be a difficult juggling act within itself.

Warning Signs of Burnout

It can be easy to become accustomed to bad habits in your work-life balance. Burnout can have a slow onset, and if not handled with care, can be detrimental.

Be on the watch for any and all signs that should push you to slow down and check for the following to avoid a complete crash:


Your sleeping patterns say plenty about your emotional and psychological wellness. When you display an abnormal level of tiredness that leads to too little or too much sleep that creates notable changes in how you interact with yourself and others, there’s room for concern. Simple changes like making sure you get enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and incorporating exercise into your daily life can help combat this symptom.

Body pain

One of the more serious symptoms of burnout, caused by being overly consumed with work and having very little to no balance. This should be the stop sign that makes balance a literal emergency. Headaches, chest pain, and digestive problems are just some of the ways burnout can be expressed in the body. Do yourself the courtesy of taking some time to actually give yourself the level of personal wellness that your professional life demands.

Decreased productivity

Noticeable changes in the quality of your workflow are a sign that you may have allowed burnout to gain a level of momentum. This can often stem from feelings of having too much on your plate or point to internalized self-doubt you may be dealing with. Take control of the situation by doing an inventory of all of the things that need your attention. Prioritize tasks, get organized and ask for assistance from mentors and peers.

Increased anxiety

The emotional rollercoaster that can come with working with legal cases is a part of the unique landscape of the legal profession. When you begin to experience panic attacks, increased irritability, depression, and an overall loss of fulfillment in your life, it has to be handled. Stay motivated by focusing on higher-level, long-term personal goals to keep you balanced, even when you are having a bad day. Also, having an outlet, whether it’s creative or involves fitness or spending time with loved ones are easy ways to maintain balance.

Social withdrawal

When your normal social schedule changes to support the persistence of any of the above symptoms, burnout could be on the horizon. Keep track of any changes like choosing to be alone more often and avoiding social and leisure activities that provide an outlet from professional tasks. In the current remote work culture, it’s important to incorporate activities and outlets that allow you to safely enjoy being in social settings.

Anti-burnout wellness self-check

Once you start to recognize symptoms of burnout, you need to dig a little deeper. Of course, this is not a substitute for seeking professional medical help if you are experiencing serious symptoms.

Use these questions to help you add more activities that create a customized personal wellness plan to help you to build and maintain personal and professional health.

Do I need support with my current or coming tasks to maintain positive productivity?

Ask not just can you continue at your current rate but should you. Asking for support or flexibility when it will have a positive impact on your health and productivity is a strength.

Am I using my downtime to socialize in a way that helps me maintain balance?

Check-in on how your social interactions are making you feel during and after. Is the time with your friends and family feeding and re-energizing you or is it draining you?

Do I schedule breaks and downtime in advance to avoid becoming over-stressed?

Give yourself the gift of taking planned breaks throughout your workday to help you recharge and come back to your tasks refreshed. Are my work habits allowing me to be as productive as possible?

Am I educating myself on industry best practices to help me balance my professional tasks?

Connect with peers, experts, and mentors who can help keep you handle your workload, stay organized, and remain focused.

Do I remind myself of my motivation for starting a career in law from the beginning?

Going back to the beginning to discover your reasoning for starting a career in law can be helpful to draw on in times of high stress and uncertainty.

Creating a plan for self-care and personal wellness can help you to begin the process of building a better balance. Take into account your unique needs, weekly schedule, professional and personal roles, and leisure hobbies and activities you enjoy.

Above all, give yourself space to breathe away from the to-do lists and the stressors of your day-to-day.

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