As we’ve covered extensively in our series on depression and substance abuse, lawyers fight these issues more than most other professions. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Finding ways to manage the stress and establish work/life balance, according to Caitlin Hoff, Health and Safety Investigator at Consumer Safety.org, is key for lawyers to avoid becoming another statistic.
Rocket Matter spoke with Hoff, who shared the following ways lawyers can reduce stress:
Don’t bring your work home with you. Many may balk at the idea of leaving work at work, but creating a separation between the office and your home is critical as both your mind and body need a break from daily stressors in the office. By banning office work in your home, you can create a secure, safe space to relax and unwind every evening.
Get enough sleep. It’s common for lawyers to not get enough sleep and/or little quality sleep because of stress or because they are overloaded with work. Neither is helpful to reducing stress or increasing your productivity throughout the day. Instead, establish a bedtime and commit to it. Not only will you feel more rested, but mentally, you will be more alert, focused, and creative. You could actually increase your daily productivity by avoiding late nights in the office.
Create a work/life balance. When you leave work, what do you do? If the answer is “go to a bar with co-workers,” you might want to rethink your after work plans. While the occasional drink with co-workers after a big project or case is a bonding experience, more frequent outings can lead to heavier drinking and certainly a lot more focus on work. Instead, take a physical and mental break from everything having to do with work. Spend a lot of time with your family and friends who aren’t at the office. This might also be the excuse you need to start a passion project or learn a new hobby. Schedule any non-work activities in your calendar so you’re more likely to actually do them!
Exercise frequently. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. While exercising, your body releases mood-boosting endorphins. Frequent exercise will not only relax you, but it can also increase your happiness, confidence, and help lower symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise can also help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
Take a break. Whether you work an 8-hour day or a 14-hour day, breaks are necessary and beneficial to your physical and mental health. Schedule in time to leave your office throughout the day. Go for a walk, run an errand, or grab a quick lunch with a friend. The simple act of taking a break from your giant to-do list can be the refreshing reset that you need to continue with your day in a productive, positive manner.
*This is part four of our five-part series on mental health, substance abuse, and wellness in the legal industry. See the rest of the series here.
Kristin Johnson is an executive and corporate communications professional, and founder of KSJ Communications, a communications and public relations firm. She consults with a diverse roster of clients spanning the technology, professional services, financial services, public sector, consumer, and healthcare industries. In addition to Rocket Matter, Johnson writes for various other publications as well.