More and more solicitors are suffering from stress at work, potentially affecting both their own wellbeing and the productivity of their businesses. Rita Oscar offers her top tips for managing stress in the legal profession.
The pressures faced by those in the legal profession are widely acknowledged, with more and more solicitors struggling to manage the demands and challenges of the workplace. In addition, Law Society research shows that two in three solicitors are concerned about reporting stress to their employer, due to the stigma involved.
Below are some tips to help you identify and manage stress before it becomes excessive.
1. Make a connection
We are social beings, so hiding away from others is only going to exacerbate your stress. A problem shared really is a problem halved, and it really is good to talk. (Having said that, don't forget to give yourself some 'me' time.)
2. Take 'me' time
Enjoy the space of having no one else to think of and spend time just how you wish. Relaxation through activities like yoga and/or mindfulness could help. Investigate what stress management free apps are available, as they've been shown to help.
3. Set yourself SMART goals/challenges
The SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timed) framework helps you set goals with well-formed outcomes. The process of working towards SMART goals and their eventual attainment will help build your confidence and give you a greater sense of purpose. Focus in particular on the 'realistic' part.
4. Get rid of unhealthy habits
Phase out unhealthy habits – for example, relying on alcohol, caffeine or smoking to help you cope. Take small steps to replace them with healthier alternatives – opt for a low alcohol drink or reduce the number of drinks you have, rather than trying to eliminate them completely. Give yourself a fighting chance of success.
5. Be more altruistic
A little philanthropy goes a long way and there's strong evidence to suggest that both the giver and receiver benefit from daily kind gestures.
6. Get moving
You don't have to commit to an exercise regime, you could simply walk a bit more. Try parking your car a little further away from work each week.
7. Get work-savvy
Use technology such as email calendar reminders to help you manage work demands and to ensure you don't forget important deadlines. Set yourself realistic time limits for tasks to avoid perfectionist tendencies. Take control of workloads by limiting distractions and clustering similar activities together for added efficiency. Work with your body's diurnal rhythms – if you're a morning person (a 'lark'), tackle complex work in the morning when you're likely to be more alert, or go for later in the day if you're more alert then (an 'owl'). Plan more effectively to prevent 'fire-fighting'.
8. Practise daily gratitude
Martin Seligman, the father of the positive psychology movement, has presented compelling evidence to support the view that writing down just three positive things about your day on a daily basis, ideally before going to bed, can lead to sustained improvements in mood.
9. Don't try to control what you can't
Develop an understanding of your 'circles' of control and influence. This will help you let go of the things that are out of your control, and focus on those you can realistically affect.
10. Build in rest periods
It's important to have rest periods throughout your day. Take a lunch break to move and get some fresh air, or set an alarm every hour to get up for a glass of water and a stretch.
Attitudes are changing, and well-being is talked about more openly in the profession. The Law Society is committed to helping solicitors with their ongoing personal and career development, to help you achieve success and make robust career decisions.
We've launched a range of practical guidance to support your law career on our website. The law careers section of our site now includes information on career options in the legal sector, and tips on job-seeking, handling a career crossroads, and managing your personal development and well-being at work. Many members have contributed their own stories, discussing their career paths, challenges and rewards.
Find out more from our new law careers pages