Many studies have revealed that stress among lawyers has been on a steady rise over the years.
Stress among lawyers has been identified as one of the major causes of anxiety, depression, and burnout.
The word stress has become commonly used by almost everybody that we seem to be missing the impact it is having on us.
People use the word stress to describe a condition or situation when they feel physical and emotional tension.
According to the World Health Organization, stress is the reaction people may have when presented with demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.
Stress is, therefore, a natural reaction to changes in the environment and helps us to adapt to the demands of those challenges.
The problem with stress is when it stays long in our bodies. When exposed to constant or prolonged stress, our bodies experience burnout.
As a profession, lawyers are one of those who are more susceptible to burnout. A large percentage of lawyers report feeling stressed in their jobs.
For legal practitioners, the demands to meet deadlines, keep up with changing laws, and client demands all contribute to a lawyer’s stress.
How People React to Stress.
Stress can affect people in a lot of ways. The reactions people have when presented with stressful situations include:
Physical Reaction – One of the first physical reactions when facing a stressful situation is an increased heart rate. This is because your body produces stress hormones which can expose you to heart problems, stroke, and hypertension.
Psychologically Reaction – Stress can also lead to psychological and emotional strains, depression, and anxiety.
Socially – Stress can also affect a person’s ability to interact with other people. Many people with chronic stress find it difficult to maintain a good relationship at work and home.
Sources of Stress in the Workplace.
The work environment has become one of the chief sources of stress for most people. Some research shows that about 40% of workers report that their jobs are very stressful. Some sources of workplace stress include:
- Lack of acknowledgement and reward.
- No control over workplace activities.
- Lack of security.
- Office politics.
Sources of Stress Among Lawyers.
Training – Many law students will readily admit that law school is a highly stressful environment where expectations are high.
Not only are the standards at law school very high, but students are trained and expected to be perfect. Lawyers, therefore, carry the perfectionist mentality when admitted to the bar.
Emotional Attachment to Clients – Many lawyers fall into the occupational hazard of becoming emotionally attached to their clients.
Although empathy is a good trait that can allow you to understand your client’s case, becoming emotionally attached will hinder your professional competence.
Many lawyers carry the weight of their clients’ problems and add them to their problems with devastating effects.
Uncomfortable Courtrooms – Stress among lawyers is worsened in some jurisdictions where lawyers practice in very uncomfortable courtrooms.
Imagine sitting in a cramped courtroom on a hot afternoon, dressed up in your wig, gown, and other legal regalia. With no functioning air conditioning system, how can a lawyer function properly in that kind of environment?
Personality Traits – Some experts have noted that most of the time, lawyers possess some personality traits that aggravate certain kinds of stressful situations.
Personality traits like aggression, passivity, and perfectionism are some of the traits that predispose lawyers to stressful situations.
Finance – Lawyers, like other professionals, also worry about their finances. Some studies have shown a link between financial worries and mental health.
Finance can also be a source of stress among lawyers. Financial stress can cause anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.
Societal Expectations – The law profession is one of the most prestigious in the world. Society, therefore, has high expectations for lawyers, which adds extra pressure on them.
No Social Life – According to statistics, lawyers are among the most socially isolated group around. Lawyers are so busy that they have little or no time for social functions.
Social isolation and loneliness contribute to increased stress among lawyers and other mental health disorders.
Is Stress Bad?
Although stress has garnered a bad reputation as a negative phenomenon, stress is not all bad as it helps you deal with emergencies.
Effects of Stress.
- There is an increase in blood pressure.
- Your eyes dilate.
- Increased perspiration.
- Emotional exhaustion.
Consequences of Stress Among Lawyers.
- Excessive Tiredness.
- Eating disorder.
- Increase in drug intake.
- Medical Problems.
- Heart Disease.
- Type 2 Diabetes.
- Musculoskeletal Disorders.
- Menstrual Periods can change for women.
- Impotence in men.
- Prone to Accidents.
Social Effects of Stress Among Lawyers.
- Problems with family relationship.
- Poor quality of service rendered.
- Low commitment to work.
What to do about Stress Among Lawyers.
Avoid Stress – Recognizing the things that stress you will help you adopt lifestyle changes that will enable you to avoid them.
Learn to say No – People put themselves in a lot of stressful situations because of their inability to say no. It is difficult most times for lawyers to say no to their clients. Learning to say no is an excellent way to set healthy boundaries.
Adapt to stressors – One of the best ways to adapt to stressors is to build resilience against them. Another way to adapt to stressors is to accept them.
Know yourself – Discovering yourself is another excellent way of dealing with stress. Lawyers who have realized who they are and what they are good at, learn to choose their battles. They do not accept every case that comes their way.
Set Realistic Goals – Having unrealistic goals can lead to stress among lawyers and other negative emotions. To avoid frustration and disappointments in your legal practice, set realistic goals.
Be Organized – Research has established that working in an organized environment reduces work-related stress. Lawyers should invest in tools that will help them organize their offices.
Maintain a Healthy Diet – Many lawyers are so busy that they have little or no time to eat a healthy diet. But maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce the consequences of stress.
Exercise – Exercise lowers the number of stress hormones produced by the body and helps in the production of chemicals that stabilize your mood.
Take a Vacation – Ask any lawyer the last time he/she went on a vacation, and you will be surprised at the answer. According to the American Psychological Association, taking vacations reduce stress and anxiety among workers.
Sleep – Lawyers are known to work for long hours. Several studies have shown that adults who sleep less than 7-8 hours a night have higher stress levels.
Keep Positive Attitude on Life – Those who have a positive attitude towards life are less stressed.
Conclusion on Stress Among Lawyers
Stress among lawyers is an increasing phenomenon. Stressors are everywhere, but we have to learn to deal with them. There are several ways of coping with stress. A lawyer who doesn’t know how to deal with stress will not succeed as a lawyer.
Lawyers should recognize when they are stressed and developed coping mechanisms to deal with the situation.
Photo by Jason Lander