- Shabana Ali and Yasmin Walker
Stress Awareness Month
April is Stress Awareness Month.
Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to help raise awareness of causes and cures for modern day stress. It helps to open up the conversation about the impact of stress and remove the stigma surrounding mental health.
The campaign focus has been on opening a dialogue and creating a safe space for people to have a conversation around stress and to talk about the impact stress creates in their personal and professional lives.
Lawyers are typically high achievers and by necessity in order to succeed in a high pressure industry, we typically have exceptional work ethic and tenacity. Working at such a high capacity unfortunately means that lawyers face increasing levels of stress which has an impact on both mental and physical health. Physical symptoms that can manifest are headaches, muscle pain and digestive issues. Too much stress can even result in conditions such as anxiety, burnout and insomnia.
Being a lawyer doesn’t automatically mean you have to live a life filled with stress and although this can’t be avoided entirely, by looking after yourself and managing stress appropriately, you can reduce the impact of this on your career, health and emotional well-being.
Here are some strategies to help deal with stress:
Talk about how you are feeling – talking to someone you trust and who you feel comfortable with can be a really powerful step to improving wellbeing. Sharing coping mechanisms might help to benefit someone else and in the meantime might help to take your focus off your own challenges.
Exercise – regular exercise help keep your body healthy and also helps you relax by stimulating endorphins and reducing the stress hormones.
Setting boundaries – to manage stress it is important to set and make clear your work load limits and boundaries. By setting clear expectations and maintaining these it reduces the feeling that you need to be on call and response to work 24/7.
Keep up or make new hobbies – recharging your batteries is a great way to combat stress. Making time for non-work activities that bring you joy whether that be a hobby you previously loved but have neglected due to work pressure or something entirely new.
Spending time with loved ones – after a long day try to switch off from your devices and spend time with people who make you feel happy. This doesn’t have to be by way of elaborate plans, a phone / video call or even watching tv together can be a great way to relax and re-charge.
Be mindful – mindfulness brings power by learning to pay attention and be present in the moment. This concept may seem really simple but it is challenging to slow things down and focus a mind that is stressed. Stress can’t be eliminated totally but you can change how you respond to it in the moment. Meditation apps are a great way to guide you through a mindfulness practice.
Look after yourself – everyone needs to think more about self-care. Take time out of your day to relax and do something that you enjoy. The most crucial thing you can do when you are stressed or anxious is to make sure you are continuing to look after yourself. Make time to relax when you need to and realise that you can say no.
It is no surprise lawyers face stress whether due to workload, the emotional toll of the work or the pressure to keep up in such a competitive industry. Although it is important to remember that stress doesn’t have to be a constant state. By reacting to stressors and managing them more positively this reduces the impact stress has on our lives. Your DDLS and DJLD committee are here to support you through the challenges of your working life and there are also lots of resources online that can assist such as https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/career-advice/career-development/stress-and-mental-health.