Lawyers: The Lowest Health and Wellbeing of All Professionals
But don’t dismay—this doesn’t have to be you.
The news is not new, but it is cause for concern, especially if you’re an attorney. According to a recent study by PsychSafe principal consultant Dr. Rebecca Michalak, lawyers, because of their long hours, high levels of stress, toxic work environments, and strenuous workloads, have the worst health and well-being of any white-collar professionals.
And, as if that news isn’t bad enough, the study also showed that many lawyers resort to drugs and alcohol to combat the stress. There’s also research that shows the suicide rate among attorneys is higher than many other professionals. Perhaps it’s the adversity they face day in and day out or the fact that their working conditions have caused them to slump into a depression.
If you’re an attorney, you’re likely shaking your head thinking, “Tell me something I didn’t know”. And while the reality is what it is, that doesn’t mean you can’t change your fate.
Walk it off
One of the top ways to combat stress is exercise, but for a busy attorney who may be spending 14+ hours a day at the office, exercise may seem like an unrealistic goal. So instead, take one to two 10- minute walks, either around the office or around the block. And if possible, go alone or if you bring along an associate make it clear that you won’t discuss work or anything related to it during the walk. It may not seem like much, but that small amount of time spent away from your desk and the firm can boost your mood, clear your head, and give you an increased level of energy to tackle the rest of the day.
Mediation is not for everyone, but everyone should do it. If that doesn’t make sense, that’s ok. The truth is, it’s something that takes practice, but once you get good at it, you’ll find that you don’t want to do without it. If you’re able and have an open mind, daily mediation can eliminate stress, give you a renewed sense of calm and help you get to a better, more peaceful place. Experts say that you don’t even have to make it a formal thing. Just close your eyes, do some deep cleansing breaths, and clear your mind for a few minutes.
Eat to win
And by win, we’re not talking about your next case. What you’re eating plays a big part in your wellbeing as you are likely aware. But when you’re stuck at the office, in traffic, or running back and forth to the courthouse, you may find yourself consuming the quickest and most convenient eats most of which are just not good for you. If you can, plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, or veggie sticks. Bring a lunch when you can and make eating healthy a priority when you’re home, too. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and obesity plague those who are stressed especially when they have a diet that consists of fast food, energy drinks, and processed foods.
Many lawyers spend their nights working or pacing around contemplating cases. It’s not uncommon for an attorney to give up hours of sleep every night. Some even report as little as two hours a night during big trials. But sleep is the key way your body and your mind heal and refresh. Without it, you’re headed for serious mental and physical health issues. Sleep deprivation causes reduced productivity, forgetfulness, careless errors, and a host of problems for your body. The answer? Increase your slumber hours. If you need to start slowly, add an hour or two every night and then build back up to at least 7 hours. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about natural remedies. Narcotics will just add insult to injury in the long run.
Talk to someone
Anxiety and depression are real and sometimes they require professional help. Just like your clients seek you out for your legal expertise, there’s no shame in turning to a therapist who is trained to guide people on ways to cope with stress. Remember, sometimes you just need to talk and have someone totally objective to listen to you. Therapy is an ideal way to get things off your chest and clear your mind.
Let the music play
Bring your headphones and your IPod and enjoy listening to your favorite tunes while you’re working. Music can transport you to a different realm, and it’s a scientific fact that listening to music releases endorphins in the body, elevating your mood. It also helps tune out any distracting chatter that’s going on in the office. So rock on!
Do some soul searching
If your lifelong dream was to become an attorney and you’re suffering at the hands of a toxic work environment, it’s time to take a good hard look at where you’re working. Not all law firms are created equal and if you’re having a negative experience because of mistreatment, bad management, or abusive situations, consider pursuing other opportunities.
There is stress in nearly every profession. For an attorney, who is consistently fighting to win against an opponent, the level of stress, anxiety, and depression is considerably higher than most other white-color professions. If you’re an attorney who is feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to review these tips on ways to manage your stress and remember, if you feel like you cannot handle it, it’s best to seek help from a professional therapist.