Stress and Burnout
THE DE-LAP ZONE: Stress and Stress Management
BY:  Carol P. Waldhauser

Today, Jean is a skilled attorney and a loving mother; but she is feeling more distress than ever.  As an attorney, Jean is putting her problem-solving skills to use.  Jean begins to analyze both her personal, as well as her professional life, to determine where she could ease the stress in her life and prevent burnout.  Sadly, despite Jean’s best intentions, her analysis falls short.  There is an emergency in the law office and as usual, Jean addresses the emergency rather than her own wellness.
If you ask most lawyers whether they have stress in their life, not only will they say “yes”, they will have a whole list of examples.   Generally, it seems that many have it and everyone talks about it.  In fact, it is difficult to go through the day without seeing or hearing the word stresses somewhere or someplace.
Equally as important to note is that the practice of law is full of stress, anxiety, and worry.  Sadly, this is true whether you are a patent attorney or a litigator, a prosecutor or a probate lawyer, whether you practice alone or in a large firm.  The legal profession is full of requirements for exact and timely performance.  Lawyers carry the burden of their clients’ problems as well as their own.  Many lawyers find satisfaction in the profession, and even grow and thrive, professionally and personally, in the face of these pressures.  But many experience mental and physical problems or develop other career related concerns.
Studies have found that lawyers fall prey at an alarming rate to burnout, job dissatisfaction, depression, chemical dependency and a host of psychological, behavioral and physical symptoms related to stress from the practice of law.  This is devastating to the lawyers who suffer these effects and the clients whose matters affected lawyers may fail to attend to.  Equally as important to realize is the very tools that “promised” more leisure time, that technological conveniences are now thought to be associated with several diseases, including but not limited to coronary heart disease.
Subsequently, for most there is no quick way to avoid stress. Americans spend more time working than they did in previous decades.  Cell phones, telecommuting, e-mail, smart phones have breached the wall between work and leisure time.   In fact, the rapid pace of technology may appear to make life simpler, but experts agree that the fallout, called techno-stress, will take its toll by increasing demands on both time and money and decreasing personal time.

Principles and Strategies for Stress Management and Wellbeing

Conversely, however, a certain amount of stress in life is desirable.  You would not want a life without stress.  How boring that would be?  Some stress keeps us motivated and productive.  This is often referred to as good stress.   When properly regulated and channeled good stress can be one of life’s most positive energies.
On the other hand, too much stress or stress experienced over a long period of time  (distress) without relief can be harmful to our physical, mental health and spiritual well-being.
Some Physical Symptoms of Stress:
Anxiety or depression and/or unexplained crying
Difficulty concentrating; nervousness; restlessness
Shaking or trembling; dizziness
Heart palpitations; chest pain; headaches; difficulty; breathing; upper and lower back pain; stomach problems;
Sleep problems; chronic fatigue; no energy or stamina;
Lack of interest in sex
This type of stress can wear us down, saps our energy and can make us so irritable that no one wants to be around us.  It also has physical consequences.  Our bodies are not meant to remain under distress.
Your stress symptoms are a response to the stressors in your life.
Fortunately, stress can be managed.  And, effective stress management programming must address issues related to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.  For example:
First, the tools are many that we can put in our stress management toolbox:  exercise, get enough sleep, eat right, talk to someone, get out, and take a time out are just a few.
Second, the right attitude means that we can be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with our stress.  If there is a major case ahead, plan for it well in advance.  Learn to prioritize by making a list of what you need to do and re-frame items when necessary.
Third, look for whatever helps you to cope with change in a positive way.
And, check out our seminars, webinars, and other information to build a coping plan to manage your stress and obtain wellness.  Hopefully, you will acquire new tools to develop practical wellness skills that will enable you to successfully handle difficult situations that will affect your professionalism and representation of your clients.

Other fantastic references:
Lawyer Wellness is Not An Oxymoron, Andy Clark
Stress Management for Lawyers:  How to Increase Personal and Professional Satisfaction in the Law, Amiram Elwork, PH.D.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms of distress or if you know a lawyer who is in need of confidential assistance, or if you want additional information on issues of stress management, please call me at (302) 777-0124 or e-mail

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