Overcoming Lawyer Burnout//

5 Ways to Take Control of Your Stress as a Lawyer

Tips to take care of your mental well-being before you spiral into burnout

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Shutterstock

Law students and lawyers may be the biggest consumers of colored highlighters, but don’t let those bright hues fool you: A lot of us are feeling pretty blue. The pressure can get intense, and it can be relentless.

When you are in law school, you have years of cold calling, exams, essays, and the stress of on campus interviewing (or the stress of not having on campus interviewing). It’s competitive. It’s grueling. And even though it can be exhilarating, it’s exhausting.  Before law school, students report depression at about 9 percent, but by the end of the third year, almost 40 percent are reporting it.

Next, you (hopefully) get your first job out of law school. You might be struggling with a job you don’t like, pay you don’t like, or both. You aren’t surprised to see that only half of all lawyers are very satisfied, or even sort of satisfied, with their work. 

Maybe you binge watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for a night and start to feel better. Then you go back to school or work, and that sense of dread starts to creep back in. You reach for the remote again to see if there may be any other mind-numbing but deliciously distracting shows you may have missed on Hulu or Netflix. There aren’t.

Fear not, because you don’t have to fall back into the crevices of your couch to cope.

The next time you find yourself pondering where it all went wrong, try these five steps to get past the moments that bog you down.

1. Move

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which ignite all of those happy, feel-good emotions. If you like intense workouts like Orangetheory that make you feel like you’re at a club (no dancing skills necessary), take that hour and go for it. Not into that beat thumping scene? Even a quick walk around your law school, firm, or neighborhood can help you de-stress, relax, and reset for the day. Getting fresh air can do wonders for our moods.

2. Unplug

Have you ever read that book by Jason Fried and David H. Hansson? It’s aptly titled It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. It actually doesn’t always have to be crazy at work. Or at school. Or at home.

Don’t feel bad if you need time to unplug. We all need that time. It’s a good idea to designate some time each week (whether it’s Game Day Sundays or weekday evening chill outs) doing the things you enjoy. Jason Fried may or may not have been the person to say this, but someone once said, “You can’t be 100 percent on until you learn how to be 100 percent off.”  Going back to the Real Housewives example, if that’s what helps you unplug, watch unapologetically. Just make sure you incorporate the other four steps as well.

3. Practice gratitude

Gratitude journals are trending for a reason. They work.

In Forbes, Psychotherapist Amy Morin, author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, wrote that there are about seven scientifically proven benefits to gratitude: Among them are improved self-esteem, mental health, and physical health. According to Morin, “Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.”

Once you’ve written down every positive thing you can think of, you’ll realize that work or whatever else is making you feel stressed out isn’t the only thing in your life. There are a million little things (thanks for the reference, ABC TV), and hopefully a few big ones, that can spark joy in our lives.

4. Find your work/life integration

Slack and many other providers have their own versions of “do not disturb” that you can activate if you don’t want to find yourself checking your email all night. Instead of trying to continue working from home or answering and checking emails at all hours of the night, let it go like Elsa did. (Or was it Anna?) It doesn’t matter, but what does matter is that your sanity needs to stay intact. So let the emails sit. You’ll get to them later.

5. Talk to someone.

If you’ve tried everything and just can’t seem to get out of your funk, try talking to someone who might understand how you feel. The Sweatours app lets you chat with other law students and lawyers who can tell you that you’re not alone.

Sometimes it helps to know that you aren’t the only person to feel a certain way about a certain issue in a given month, or even on a given day. A lot of people are facing the same challenges, and some of them might have some useful tips to share.

Being in the legal profession can get challenging, but you never have to go it alone. By making small changes in our lives, we can fend off burnout before it knocks us down.

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