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We can all get stressed at times. We all react differently to pressure and not all stress is bad – it can be motivating. However, serious and prolonged stress can be very upsetting and cause serious physical and mental health concerns.
Stress is by far the most common reason for calls to the LawCare helpline. Many working or studying in the legal sector have a driven, perfectionist personality that makes them more prone to stress. They often work long hours in pressurised situations, and believe they should always be in control. Feeling unable to cope with work can be particularly difficult.
“After talking through my worries with LawCare, the burden lifted. They sent me practical advice and offered the support of a LawCare peer supporter. Ann called the next day and I really felt she was there for me. I had the one-to-one support I craved and was able to talk to her about what I might do to resolve my problems.”
SYMPTOMS OF STRESS
MANAGING STRESSIt is important to take steps to control stress before it overwhelms you. There may be little you can do to change external pressures, but you can learn how to deal with them. it is better for your health and career to deal with the situation and change things than to struggle on.You are not alone – support is available.
What's causing you stress?The first stage in managing stress is to identify the source so that you can plan a strategy to tackle it. Common issues identified by our callers include:
Stress diaryKeeping a stress diary over two or three weeks may help you to identify why you are stressed. When you feel that you’re not coping, write down how you’re feeling, including any physical symptoms. Note what you’re doing and have just been doing. You can then start looking for clues to your stress. As you work through the diary, you may realise that something that appeared insignificant at the time could be a major stress trigger and you need to make changes.
Talk about itDon’t stay silent. Legal professionals, in particular, may feel it’s a sign of weakness to admit they aren’t coping, but it’s better to address problems early, before they get out of control.
Talk informally to a trusted colleague or your supervisor if you feel they might be helpful. Refer to your diary notes of triggers for stress or aspects of work you are finding overwhelming. Many callers find it difficult to tell their employers or chambers that they are stressed, fearing they will be unsympathetic. But when the stress escalates and perhaps becomes a problem, many partners, colleagues and supervisors say they had been unaware of the situation and would have offered support if they had known. Make sure they know.
If the stress is largely a response to your work being criticised, make a list of those criticisms and ask for a meeting with your supervisor to clarify what you are doing wrong and how you can improve. Analyse their responses. Are the criticisms justified or unfair? If justified, work out how to address the issue and request support and training if appropriate.
CRISIS CONTROLWhen you feel the stress building, stop, breathe deeply and slowly, and work through this list:
BURN-OUT Burn out is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an occupational phenomenon rather that a medical condition, and results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
Those who are experiencing burn out are likely to feel:
If you have burn out you will need a break from work to recover, or you may already be off work. Make an appointment to see your GP, and tell someone at work about what is happening, it doesn’t have to be your line manager, someone in HR, another manager or Mental Heath First Aider or equivalent can help. You may want to seek private counselling or your firm may have an Employee Assistance Programme or private healthcare you can access. With the right support you should be able to return to work.
TREATMENT FOR STRESSMany people find counselling, CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and yoga helps with stress. Mindfulness can also help calm the mind - check out the Headspace website or app for more information.
You might like to read some of our blogs on the following topics: avoiding burn-out, self-care, stress at work, mindfulness.
A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress, written by LawCare volunteer, former lawyer and psychotherapist Angus Lyon, is designed to help lawyers to manage stress. It will help you to understand how to recognise the signs of stress in yourself and others, so that you can take action and manage it before it becomes excessive.
Click here to order A Lawyer's Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress
If you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of support call our helpline in confidence 0800 279 6888, email us, access our live chat service via our home page or apply for peer support.
My name is Jonathan de Lance-Holmes and I work for Linklaters LLP as a partner in the Investment Management Group. I have been working for... Read More
I feel much better for having spoken to you. It has taken a weight of my mind, and just talking things through has reduced my stress
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