In the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America report, 58% of Americans said that work was either a very or somewhat significant source of stress in their lives. And the legal profession has made many lists of most stressful industries and positions.
Work environment, complexity of responsibilities, and insufficient work-life balance can contribute to levels of stress. But no matter what industry you’re in, you can stay serene and actively de-stress your life as you go about your career.
It sounds super simple, true, but deep breathing is one of the best things you can do to start to calm yourself. Focusing on your breath can allow you to hone in on something within your control, while deep breathing also lowers your blood pressure. According to Harvard Medical School, breath control can help soothe errant stress response, as well, so take time to stop and breathe before stress can take over.
#2 Recharge your battery
When people experience stress, their hearts race and adrenaline rushes throughout their bodies. While this “fight or flight” type response may keep you alert and ready for action, it can also leave you over-stimulated and feeling like you need to unwind. When possible, give yourself a boost by doing some simple stretches while breathing deeply, right at your desk. Have persistent pain that isn’t helping your experience? Try these neck stretches to ease persistent pain from sitting at a desk.
#3 Make time for exercise
When we’re busy and feeling stressed, we make time for the essentials: eating and sleeping. Yet one of our most critical needs – exercise – is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up. But exercise is an excellent stress reliever. It pumps feel-good endorphins throughout your body to help lift your mood and even puts you in a more meditative state, according to the Mayo Clinic. Regular exercise can also boost self-confidence, reduce anxiety, and improve your sleep. Maybe that’s why it’s one of the main things that successful people have in common.
#4 Strive for excellence, not perfection
“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” is a phrase that many of attributed to Voltaire. Regardless of who originally said it, it can be an especially useful tool for the many legal professionals who are overachievers. Perfectionist tendencies get harder to manage as life becomes more complicated. When one can’t live up to one’s own standards, it can lead to unhappiness and even depression. Letting go of perfectionism can be one aspect of managing stress and avoiding burnout. Instead, focus on doing the best job you can do with the tools you’ve been given. Practice striving for “good” rather than perfection and see what happens to your attitude as well as your productivity.
#5 Try mindfulness
When you’re feeling stress from demanding clients, unreasonable billing requirements, or impossible deadlines, ask yourself if you really need to think about all or any of it right now. Give yourself a break to take a walk and try to focus your attention only on the present moment. Meditating, being mindful, or simply being “fully present,” is a calming technique that will help when the chaos is swirling around you.
#6 Establish boundaries
In today’s digital world, many legal professionals can feel pressured to be available 24 hours a day, making it feel as if the workday never ends. To establish better work-life balance for yourself, designate some time each when you don’t check your email or answer your phone. By creating clear lines between your work and home life, you can reduce the potential for conflict between the two.
#7 Get some support
Many larger firms have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including information available online as well as through counseling. If you feel overwhelmed by work stress and don’t have an EAP program available to you, consider seeking out and speaking with a mental health professional who can help you manage stress more effectively and change unhealthy behaviors.
You’re not alone when it comes to experiencing stress and feeling overwhelmed in your profession. By taking a proactive approach, you can boost your own mood avoid getting stuck in stress.
Do you have other ways of managing stress while at work in the law firm? Tell us about them in the comments!