Breaking the Cycle of Stress: Tips for Legal Professionals

Breaking the Cycle of Stress: Tips for Legal Professionals

The legal profession is notoriously recognised as one of the most stressful professions in the world. Its unpredictable nature, long hours, lack of days off, and relentless deadlines brew a perfect potion for a stressful lifestyle.

As a legal professional, you will likely face these challenges regularly.

However, you must be aware that the accumulation of stress from constant exposure to these challenges can serve as a precursor to severe health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Therefore, being able to recognise stress is crucial to your physical and mental health.

How do I recognise stress?

Your mind and body will always interfere when something is wrong.

Paying attention to your physical and emotional ‘warning signs’ accompanying heightened stress levels can grant you a strong hold on your stress levels. These signs include:

  • Persistent headaches
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Irritability with friends and colleagues
  • Inhibited concentration levels
  • Increased isolation
  • Skin irritation flare-ups
  • Back, shoulder and general muscle tension

What can I do to overcome stress?

Intervention is key.

Recognising the signs and acknowledging when stress has surpassed normal workplace challenges can provide barristers, clerks, and legal professionals with a crucial opportunity to take control of the situation.

A sensible first step would be to consider your daily habits, both inside and outside of working hours:

1. Building and Maintaining Close Relationships

Close relationships play a vital role in regulating mental strain, and healthy communication with friends, family, and colleagues can offer crucial support in challenging times.

With the stigma attached to opening up and being vulnerable, remaining strong at the Bar, coupled with a ‘fear of failure’ attitude, we need to learn when to seek help before reaching a crisis point.

2. Be conscious of Your Diet

Having a healthy, nutrient-sufficient diet can drastically improve your mood and mental wellbeing, which many of us know but simply don’t put into practice. Making small, healthier choices in your everyday habits and gradually incorporating them into your routine can act as an efficient and manageable approach.

Moderating any drinking or smoking habits can also be massively beneficial. Despite alcohol reducing mental tension temporarily, drinking or smoking excessively can have a detrimental effect on your mental state.

Taking action on this front can be socially problematic, as alcohol is deeply ingrained within legal culture, and it can be challenging to have open conversations about its impact.

Practical considerations might include opting for non-alcoholic beverages or choosing to meet clients in environments where alcohol is not the focus, which can help alleviate some of the societal pressures surrounding drinking.

3. Taking breaks

If you realise your body is pushing you toward a break, don’t let the idea create even more stress. You don’t necessarily need to take a week off work, even just claiming just a few minutes of downtime throughout the day can make a difference - shut your phone off for 5 minutes, take a walk or call a friend or loved one to talk you through a stressful issue.

4. Completing the Stress Cycle

Completing the stress cycle dates back to our very first ancestors, where there would have been a much clearer catharsis after the stress of hunting or being hunted - this is not the case today as a result of the evolution of mankind.

However, the element of physical catharsis is still essential in addressing stress in our lives.

Simply getting rid of what is causing us stress (the stressor) does not remove the stress itself, and you cannot talk yourself out of a stress cycle – however, some of these very simple exercises below can help us alleviate the pressure, including:

  • Getting in 20-60 minutes of daily physical activity
  • Deep breathing and box breathing exercises
  • Adopting the ‘Tense & Release' method
  • Physical affection
  • Using crying as a stress release
  • Belly laughing
  • Socialising (small social interactions can really benefit)

By applying these strategies to your routine, you improve your mental health and position yourself to help others struggling with similar challenges.

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