It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, so let’s talk about it. As many people in the legal industry know, this type of work can be very stressful. In addition to the inevitable long hours, we are often dealing with clients who are down on their luck. Maybe the clients are facing a prison sentence, maybe they are severely injured as a result of someone’s else’s actions or maybe they need a divorce from an abusive spouse. Whatever the client’s problem might be, oftentimes the stress is transferred over to the lawyer—the one person who might be in control of trying to solve the problem.
I know here at my law firm, we see stressful situations on a daily basis. We all love what we do here and we get a kick out of helping people out of bad situations—but we do have to learn how to manage the stress. By no means are we experts, but we do keep trying to reduce the stress. If as lawyers we are less stressed, we feel like we are better lawyers, better co-workers, better spouses, better parents… you get the picture. We are all just better humans when we are not as stressed.
Why Lawyer Wellness is Important
Studies have shown that a significant percentage of attorneys struggle to find a healthy balance of work and personal life which eventually leads to mental health issues. Let’s break it down into a few numbers:
- A 2018 report showed that 75% of lawyers reported frequently or always working after business hours and of these, 39% say these hours affect their personal lives negatively.
- A 2016 study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs showed that 21% of licensed, employed attorneys qualify as problem drinkers, 28% struggle with some level of depression, and 19% show symptoms of anxiety.
Steps on Improving Your Mental Wellness
1. Disconnect to connect. Turn your phone notifications off when you are home. This will minimize distractions and allow you to connect with your family and friends.
2. When at work, do one task at a time instead of trying to multitask. When you’re working more efficiently during work hours, you’re able to spend quality time at home without the stress of unfinished work.
3. Make self-care a priority in your schedule. Plan times that are non-negotiable for exercise and quality time at home.
4. Don’t be scared to ask for professional help. If stress is affecting your mental wellbeing, don’t hesitate to speak with a professional therapist.
What Lawyer Wellness Looks Like
There isn’t a written rule on what well-being is because everyone is different and everyone enjoys different things. For one, painting for a few hours might reduce stress and for another person it may be going on a run. It’s whatever you need to do to ensure that you feel better and healthier every day. For many, it is just plain hard to take that first step. By that, I mean you can’t start that painting or go on that run unless you first push away from the desk. And to push away, you must first commit yourself to improvement. Set an appointment on your calendar and don’t cancel it. So let’s all recognize that we work in a stressful profession, that our lives would be better with less stress and that we have to make time for ourselves. Just trust me on that! Ok now, shut off your computer and phone and go do something fun, something relaxing or something healthy. Focus on yourself for a while. You deserve it!