Life in the law can be tough. At LawCare, the mental health charity for lawyers, we receive hundreds of calls every year from lawyers who are feeling stressed and struggling with the pressures of work.
In our experience, many lawyers are not great at self-care. Although they know they should look after themselves (for example, by going for a run or taking regular lunch breaks) they are just too busy, working long hours and don’t want to be the person who gets up from their desk when everyone else has their head down.
Looking after yourself and listening to what your body and mind are telling you is important in making you a stronger and more resilient person. You cannot successfully maintain a life wholly focused on work. If you are in good mental and physical health you will perform better at work and you will also reduce your risk of becoming stressed.
Here are our top tips for self-care.
Do what you enjoy
Make time to do what you enjoy, whether that’s seeing friends, going to the cinema or having a walk in the country. Put it in your diary, the same way you would allocate time to a meeting, and make it happen. Being with friends and family, and having the time to pursue the things we enjoy is vital to wellbeing.
Find a physical activity you enjoy and make it part of your life. Exercise is recognised as an important activity to boost positive brain chemistry and self-esteem, and improve overall physical and emotional health.
Take a break
Use your lunch break to get away from your desk. Ploughing on when you need a break is counter-productive; you will not do your best work. Step outside, even if for just a few minutes, as it can re-energise you and give you a new perspective. Take all your annual leave and try to avoid working at weekends.
Research has shown that people tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks after they have had a good night’s sleep. Get into the practice of quietening your mind at bedtime, having a bedtime routine and trying to keep the time you turn in consistent. The golden rule is that there should be no work thinking allowed in the bedroom. All thinking should be done elsewhere or in your office.
Eating a balanced diet improves wellbeing. It is important to eat regularly, which can be difficult if you’re busy at work, so buy a nutritious lunch on your way in, keep healthy snacks in your drawer or set a reminder to go out for lunch.
Drink in moderation
Many of us turn to one too many glasses of wine or beer after a stressful day but stay within the recommended alcohol limits: heavy drinking affects brain function.
Share how you feel
Talk about your feelings; it can help you cope with problems and feel listened to. You may be surprised how many people have felt the same.
Learn to say no
If you cannot complete a work task because you have too much on then let people know. Have a face-to-face conversation with your line manager and explain your situation.
Mindfulness can help you focus on the present and reduce stress and tension. It’s fantastic for lawyers who can find it difficult to switch off. Check out the Headspace website or app.
It has been proven that giving time or money can make you feel valued and give you a sense of purpose. For example, volunteering for a charity will bring you into contact with other people outside the legal world and give you a fresh perspective.
Ask for help
Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. Whatever you’re going through you won’t be the first person to experience it and the right support is available.
The LawCare confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888 is a safe place to talk without judgement and is open 365 days a year. With calls answered by trained staff and volunteers who have first-hand experience of working in the law, we’re here to listen and help you work out the next step.