Posted by Jay Kamlet on Dec 07, 2017
Stress and depression are common lawyer health issues
Studies have shown that lawyers tend to rank higher for rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other health concerns than other professions. These lawyer health issues can affect all attorneys, from associates in big law firms to independent practitioners.
Managing stress can help you stay healthier and can lead to a more productive law business.
The root of stress for lawyers
According to one researcher, lawyers often carry a high level of stress and anxiety because they tend toward perfectionism. Psychologist Tyger Latham said:
“Paid worriers, lawyers are expected to predict the future, to anticipate threats and guard against anything that could arise. So they learn to see problems everywhere, even when they don’t exist. And they start to perceive threats as if they’re life-or-death matters. That’s the very definition of anxiety.”
That constant state of anxiety can lead to a variety of other issues than can degrade overall physical and mental health, including insomnia, substance abuse and more. This Insider article outlines many ways chronic stress can lead to poor health.
Chronic stress can become a vicious cycle, and your body and mind pay the price. It can also negatively impact your relationships and your business, so it pays to address it rather than ignore it.
Stress in independent law
Many of our LawBank clients started their own firms, in part, because they sought a better work-life balance.
Running an independent law firm allows you to better manage your schedule and build flexibility into your routine. That flexibility alone can help reduce stress; however, running a business can add additional stress points that you might not have anticipated. These include:
- Pressure to find new clients
- Updating technology to compete with larger firms
- Hiring and managing staff
- Overseeing administrative functions
- Maintaining a high level of client service
Although running a law business can lead to some additional workload, you can arrange your business to help minimize the stress associated with it. Some techniques include:
Streamlining your business with case management software and other technology can help take the load off your shoulders. In addition, support staff can ease your personal workload.
Time off to relax, exercise, travel or spend time with friends and family can help recharge you. Too many lawyers and business owners make the mistake of working long hours in the pursuit of perfection.
As an independent lawyer, however, you have the freedom to make personal time a priority. Add it to your calendar, if needed, and protect that time. Your health, your relationships and your business will be better for it.
In addition, studies show that forging close relationships with people leads to better well-being. So, meet friends for dinner. Schedule a date night with your spouse. Take the kids to the movies. This personal time can create a strong buffer against stress.
Especially for perfectionists or people prone to anxiety, practicing mindfulness can go a long way toward reducing stress. Here are a few simple mindfulness techniques to try:
- Awareness. When a stress-inducing thought arises, make a point to note it and name it. Most importantly, don’t judge it. Becoming more aware of your anxious thoughts can help take some of the power out of them.
- Breathing. Deep breathing creates a physiological response that can calm you almost immediately. When you feel your chest tighten and your heart begin to race, try a simple breathing technique to reset your system.
- Mindful activity. Daily activities, such as meals, walks or family time can become stress-free zones. During these moments, turn off your phone, ignore email and set work aside. Focusing your attention on your food or surroundings can help your brain break out of a negative thought pattern.
We mentioned it above under personal time, but it bears repeating: Make time for exercise. In addition to improving your physical health, countless studies show that exercise has tremendous brain benefits. As reported in this article, these benefits include:
- Higher IQ and better brain function
- Better focus
- Mood regulation
- Improved memory
- Quicker thinking
- Emotional resilience
- Stress reduction
- Protection against depression
- Reduces fatigue
- Encourages brain cell growth
Just a quick glance at that list should convince you that exercise can actually help you improve your business. With your brain functioning at a higher level, your business will function better as well. The happy side effect will be a happier, healthier you.
While stress is a normal part of business and law practice, it doesn’t need to take over your life. You do have control over your stress levels. Focusing on stress management can lead to better business outcomes as well as overall well-being in your life.
To learn more about growing your independent law business, contact us for a tour. We offer office space for lawyers in Denver at two central locations.