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Stress Awareness Month in the Legal World: Take time for you.
Stress. A word we hear every day. It has been used so nonchalantly in our daily life, that we have become immune to it.
April 2021 marks Stress Awareness Month. A time for us all to stop, take a moment and check on each other as well as ourselves.
It has been a year since the first lockdown due to Covid-19. A whirlwind for many of us and a chance to reflect on our lives so far- cliché as it is.
For those of us working in law, there are a multitude of stresses that come with a legal career, be it court deadlines, high caseloads and the all-round typical pressures placed from clients and any busy workplace.
It has been a longstanding ‘tradition’ that lawyers must not show emotional weakness and should have their ‘game face’ on 24/7. This leads to a large emotional toll on all of us, which is quite frankly, an unhealthy and unrealistic approach, if you want a career to last.
There are, however, ways to build your resilience and in turn tackle the levels of stress you are experiencing.
Small Ways to Combat Feelings of Stress
1. Acknowledge it:
Once you notice feelings of stress- do not ignore it. Yes, you may have a million and one things to do but continuing to work under feelings of stress, will do more harm than good. You must tackle this early to avoid the detrimental effects that stress can have on your body.
How can you work if your body is giving up on you? Look after yourself.
Learn how to deal with this earlier, rather than later.
2. Take a moment:
Go for a walk at lunchtime, take in the fresh air and step back for an hour. I have only recently started taking my own advice on this, and it definitely helps.
Tea or coffee person? Go and make one. Take deep breaths and remember all feelings are temporary. Sometimes, all you need is a mini-break to keep your day from feeling jampacked and give your brain a little rest.
Do some exercise, build those endorphins, and sweat it all out.
Do something small that you enjoy, whatever that may be.
If it is a case of ‘wow there is too much and I do not know where to start,’ - organising and prioritising is your best friend. Make sure you know what needs to be done that day i.e., urgent matters and what can wait.
Recently, the word ‘urgent’ has lost its meaning. Take it back.
Make sure what you are categorising as ‘urgent’ is exactly that. Start with those matters first, the rest can follow.
4. Speak up/Seek help:
I think as a profession, we place so much emphasis on being ‘well-rounded’ and basically being able to do everything at once.
‘You cannot do everything’. You hear this all the time because it is true.
We are human and not robots (as much as we try to be).
Do not overload yourself with anything and everything. Be able to say ‘No’. There is no shame in speaking up when you feel like there is too much for you to handle. It does not make you a bad employee and certainly does not mean you are bad at your job.
There will always be someone more senior, who has more knowledge than you and you should use. Everyone has experience that you may not have, whatever age or qualification, and may know more about a topic than you do. Equally, a colleague may have tips to handle a caseload that you had not thought about.
Ask for help. There is no shame in this.
5. Support each other:
Do not just sit there when you know a colleague is struggling. Maybe you can help, maybe you can’t. Try anyway.
We work 5 days a week 9-5, for most of the year. We see our work colleagues more than we see our friends and family at times. Support each other and ease the pressures. When people feel supported, that will enable them to be more productive and will create a happier workforce.
You are in work too much of your life, to be miserable whilst you are there.
6. Stop the cycle:
Do not neglect yourself. End the cycle.
There is no doubt, that stress is always there. It is how we react to it and how we learn to manage our feelings that will help us the most.
Sometimes people take their stresses out on you without realising. Rise above this. Reach out, maybe you could help relieve pressure. However, do not let that continue endlessly. It is up to them to learn how to manage their stress and not up to you to take theirs on as well.
Look after yourself. You are your number one priority. How can you look after anyone else, without caring for yourself first? Learning how to handle and deal with what makes you stressed, will help you flourish.
You are in control.
Start now, stop the cycle.
Alice Hughes Trainee Solicitor at Driscoll Kingston
Credit photo by Matthew Henry