Q: What are some ways to control the stress in lawyering?
A: Being a lawyer is stressful, but remember: we opted toward law, in part, to challenge and keep us engaged over the life of a career. We lawyers tend to be bored when we master a skill and want to continually grow and develop. So stress, in a sense, is part of our chosen equation. We may not be able to (or want to) fully control it, but there are many things we can do to keep stress at a healthy level.
Some of the small steps: Be sure you take even a quick break at least every 90 minutes. A quick walk to the coffee pot gets you up and moving–but instead of more caffeine, have a glass of water. At lunchtime, get out for some fresh air and another quick walk when you can. Eat healthy, stretch, and laugh at something funny–all these small steps accumulate to keep stress at bay.
Studies also show that having friends outside of work is another antidote to stress on the job. Our circles narrow and our friends are often lawyers, but having a conversational outlet that isn’t talking shop is important. Join a book group so you get to read for pleasure and talk about it. Or do the same with a film club. A class in something fun for you…even developing a new, quick skill, like tweeting or using LinkedIn, will be rewarding and enjoyable. Having commitments outside work helps you regulate rather than elongate your workday and teaches you better time management skills, in and of itself a stress reliever.
Mindfulness is a movement in the law that addresses stress and wellbeing; your law school or bar association may offer information on activities that take little time but add a great calm and clarity for you in your work. And of course there are the big steps, like moderating any really destructive habits…lawyers’ assistance programs can provide confidential help and support in destressing and redirecting you when things have taken too great a toll.
Take wise steps large and small to mitigate the stresses in lawyering; your question is a smart one.