It’s no surprise that the law industry has one of the highest employee burnout rates. This is due to its unforgiving culture, long hours and billable time, not to mention high-pressure and lack of adequate resources. Lawyer burnout can become inevitable with such a demanding job, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 13 ways to combat lawyer burnout as well as advice on how to prevent it in the first place.
Recognising burnout is the key to prevention
Burnout often takes hold gradually and it builds over time; furthermore, the symptoms can often mimic other conditions so this makes it incredibly difficult to recognise. While this is a problem, you can use the slow progression to your advantage. If you educate yourself on what burnout is and can recognise the symptoms, you can start to put the necessary prevention measures in place before you reach the point of no return. To help you recognise whether you are suffering from lawyer burnout, here are 3 big warning signs:
- Chronic emotional exhaustion
- Feeling ineffective at work
Find out more about these red flags as well as other warning signs for burning out.
13 strategies to deal with lawyer burnout
Stress can break even the strongest of contenders. So don’t be ashamed if you become disconnected from your work and your life. The first step is to recognise and admit that you’re overwhelmed. Only then can you implement these strategies in your daily life to successfully keep yourself in the game whilst putting your health and happiness first.
Get enough sleep consistently.
Lack of sleep, especially consistently, is a major contributor to lawyer burnout. Try to sleep for at least 7 hours every night and at approximately the same time too. (See our tips to get a good night’s sleep)
Cardiovascular exercise, in particular, reduces stress drastically and has been shown to reduce burnout symptoms in as little as 4 weeks. Any exercise will make a huge difference though, as the release of endorphins makes you feel good.
Fuel your body with good food
Poor eating, overeating, undereating…all can contribute to burnout. If we put bad food into our bodies, we will feel bad, so eat good food and try to eat consistently.
Add mindfulness into your everyday routine
Being mindful for as little as 10 minutes a day can lead to massive benefits to your daily work life and overall happiness. Meditation has been shown to result in better sleep and stress reduction. It also increases learning ability, a sharpened focus, and an overall positive mindset. Many lawyers have said that meditation or even just mindful breathing when they feel overwhelmed has not only increased their productivity, but it has helped avoid burnout too. (Be a happier and healthier lawyer!)
Replace bad coping habits with positive ones
Pay attention to bad coping mechanisms, such as drinking alcohol, overeating or self-medicating. Actively start to implement a new positive habit when you feel stressed. Eventually, your new habit (e.g running or meditation) will become your reflex response whenever it’s triggered.
Many lawyers think that there is never enough time to do all the work they need to AND take care of themselves. The reality is, yes, meditation or going for a run will take you 10-30 minutes. But it has a massive impact on your mood and productivity. The result is that you use the time you have much more effectively.
Make time for self-care activities
It could be a relaxing massage or just making time for activities that nourish you such as reading or going for a walk. Whatever hobbies you are passionate about or whatever activities re-energise you, make sure you make time for them throughout your work week.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Developing strong relationships with your colleagues and surrounding yourself with supportive people at home will go a long way to preventing lawyer burnout. Just having people that you know that you can rely on will eliminate any feelings of loneliness as well as encouraging you to communicate about how you feel. If you feel like you need it, you could also seek professional help.
Socialise even when you don’t feel like it
Socialising with friends releases dopamine, making us feel good, so don’t keep rescheduling on people. Even when you’re tired or you really don’t feel like it, it will do you a lot of good when it comes to your mood.
Prioritise work and learn to say no
Time management is the key to work-life balance and to be able to do it successfully, you need to prioritise work based on urgency/value and learn to say no to low priority activities. A good method is to try and give something up before taking on a new commitment or responsibility.
If possible, eliminate or limit job stressors
Identify your work stressors and the tasks that drain you and see if you can limit/avoid them. Can you cut down your work hours or drop excessively difficult clients? Can you change your focus or change to a less demanding role?
Schedule vacation time in advance and when you’re off, switch off
Regularly schedule your days off work and plan your vacations in advance. When you are off, switch off completely – that includes checking emails!
Continue to listen to your body
Lawyer burnout can be identified just by listening to your body’s stress warning signals, so if you’re getting constant headaches, dizziness, insomnia or fatigue, slow down and reassess your wants and needs.
Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
If you’re experiencing lawyer burnout, try to implement a couple of these suggestions above in your everyday life. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” solution, but if you take care of yourself and find things that energise you, you can combat burnout whilst continuing to be a hardworking and successful lawyer.
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