Law, as a practice, has a reputation for being among the worst of high-stress professions. We are expected to be the most intelligent, most professional, and most knowledgable people in the room no matter where we go. Between the high expectations and heavy workload, it should come as no surprise that many lawyers and law professionals struggle with burnout.
. Some people deal with burnout better than others, but some people might not even recognize their own struggles with the issue.
There are many stages and steps to burnout – it’s a spectrum of struggle. Dan Lukasik runs Lawyers With Depression – a website focused on mental health in the law field. He has compiled 10 signs of lawyer burnout to help law professionals recognize when enough is enough. I strongly suggest taking a look, but I believe that these 10 milestones can be summarized by 4 simple feelings.
Taking on the world
Lukasik states that over-commitment and the Inability (or strong reluctance) to say no are common signs of burnout. There is a feeling that you have to do everything. There is a sense of being in constant motion due to a need to perform at 100% at all times. This need to take on the world is one of the hardest-hitting aspects of burnout, especially since it can compound upon itself so quickly. Even if you are managing all of these tasks fine for now, eventually you’ll slip. It’s hugely important to have space for yourself, and space for failure – even in a field where it feels as though perfection isn’t enough.
Not Taking Time for Yourself
Many aspects of burnout come from the dual problems of over-working and under-relaxing. Without personal time, your life becomes about work. And however fulfilling your work is, you can’t re-fill your energy by working. And when we continue to work past our point of exhaustion, our stress compounds and draws us closer to a breaking point. Give yourself time away from work – turn off the phone, close the laptop, and let yourself relax, even if just for a few minutes each day.
Perfectionism in all things
As lawyers, we all know the need for the utmost precision and perfection in our work. Even just a missed quotation or period can completely invalidate a month of work. But while these standards are necessary for work, they are not healthy for workers. You might notice these unurealistic standards creeping into your life outside of work – an extreme guilt over missing family events, even just dinner; or perhaps frustration when your family vacation is enjoyable, but not perfect. These high standards and expectations shouldn’t rule your life, and they shouldn’t get in the way of recognizing the good things you have. Life isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t have to be – take the time to step back and let your family be imperfect, as long as it’s together.
Constant Stress and Fatigue
This is the worst part of burnout, and likely the easiest to recognize – stress. We deal with a high-stress profession, and we grow accustomed to a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. But burnout begins when the ‘play’ doesn’t cut it anymore. Even if you have a healthy work-life balance, you might notice that there is a constant nagging in the back of your head. Maybe your time off of work isn’t recuperating you as well as it once did. Try changing your methods – try a new hobby, change up your routines. Don’t let yourself fall into an unhealthy rut.