Back in 1990, a study by Johns Hopkins found that lawyers were the most likely occupation to suffer from depression. Add to that some of the highest rates of suicide, alcohol abuse, and divorce (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and you’ve got yourself a group of individuals who lead less than glamorous personal lives.
Lawyers are put under an incredible amount of stress due to the nature of their work. Unless this stress is properly managed consequences can ensue. Some typical symptoms of attorney stress overload include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased sense of personal accomplishment.
Each of these warning signs can lead to extreme job dissatisfaction, poor interpersonal relationships, and also poor health. Physical ailments such as headaches, lower back pain, ulcers, heart attacks, and strokes are all common amongst the legal profession, as well as insomnia and anxiety.
Since the good folks here at Legal Productivity and Rocket Matter are all about making the lives of lawyers a whole lot easier, here are 7 ways attorneys can avoid extreme stress overload.
1. Cut your workweek down to something manageable. Most lawyers are used to overworking themselves to the point where they clock in anywhere from 60 to 80 hours a week. The ideal workload for optimal work-life balance is 45 total (NOT billable) hours.
2. Drop clients that are excessively difficult or unprofitable. If they’re draining your time and mental resources, it’s time to kick them to the curb. (In a nice way, of course).
3. Change your focus. Practice law because you enjoy it, not just to make money. You might not be able to afford that new sports car, but you’ll be a lot happier for it.
4. Never take work home. If you must, designate and block out uninterrupted times you can work on your cases and stick to it!
5. Get up and move. You’ve heard it before, folks. Physical activity helps to regulate and lessen stress levels. If you’re used to sitting all day, take a 2-minute break to stand and stretch every hour. Even this is enough to counter-act the effects of sitting all day. Join a gym, or go for a walk with a friend, family member or co-worker. Just do it.
6. Meditate. It relieves stress, anxiety, increases focus and productivity, and helps you let go of bad habits. Jenna Cho even wrote a book on meditation specifically for lawyers entitled “The Anxious Lawyer”. See our top 10 takeaways from the book HERE.
7. Don’t put off vacation time. Studies have shown that just the act of planning a vacation can decrease stress levels, so imagine how refreshing and rejuvenating some serious R&R time can be!
Identifying symptoms of attorney burnout is the first step in making sure that your profession doesn’t get the best of you. Adhere to these 7 guidelines and your lift as a lawyer will hopefully be a whole lot easier!