Stress isn’t always bad. A little bit of stress can help you perform better – the stakes feel higher so you react and up your game. It is when stress gets to such levels that it undermines your performance that needs to be combated.
In the early 1960s, the US army conducted several experiments on how the human mind functioned under extreme stress. Participants were deliberately not informed they were being tested.
One experiment involved recruits in an aircraft. Through an elaborate, hoax they were led to believe the plane was about to crash. They were given complicated questionnaires, one of which dealt with providing for their loved ones after their, apparently imminent, death.
It will come as no surprise that they made a lot more mistakes on their forms than the control group who were not subjected to this trauma.
It’s an extreme example, not to mention an unethical one. But if that’s the very top of the scale, lawyering has to be somewhere approaching it. Care for another extreme example? How about an article looking at how working in law might be more stressful than spending 18 months in a POW camp?
The Legal Battlefield
There are features of legal work which make it a prime breeding ground for high and damaging levels of stress. The effects can be seen across many jurisdictions:
Know your enemy
Impairment of performance is just one aspect caused by too much stress. It can have serious consequences for your physical health and lead to severe mental health problems such as depression.
And that’s just you. Stress can have all kinds of knock-on effects for those around you; your family, friends, and co-workers.
Feeling overwhelmed is nothing to be ashamed of. It is no sign of weakness if you want to improve your life by fighting against stress. So how can you fight your way back on top and take down this powerful enemy?
Basic Training – A Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise can be a great way of putting things in perspective. It prompts a physical response from your body which can help to balance out the worries that are causing you stress.
Dropping ‘crutches’ such as alcohol, caffeine and smoking also help build a long-term resistance to stress.
Establishing a consistent sleep and waking cycle is also valuable training.
Draw up your battle plans
Take some time to identify the causes of your stress. Think about what you could do to improve things. If something is out of your control, just move on. There will be some things you cannot change.
Go on the Offensive
The simple resolution to take back your life from overwhelming stress already gets you started. Taking control of your situation, instead of passively hoping for matters to improve, can give you a massive boost. Be proactive. Work smarter.
Take breaks from the front lines
Everybody needs some down time. Make sure that you alot time which will be purely for yourself, doing something you enjoy. Disconnect from your job and any kind of work related to it. Unless you absolutely love cleaning, household chores do not count as down-time. You need to do something for the sole purpose of the pleasure it gives you.
L’esprit de corps – Helping others
Research has shown that helping others can have a positive effect in reducing the levels of stress you experience in your life. If you know one of your colleagues is experiencing stress or any other troubles you might be able to help with, pitching in could help you as well.
You might think stress is all part and parcel of being a lawyer – of being human (yes lawyers are human). After all, what job is without stress? But you can do something about it. If it’s sapping the love you have for your job or even for life itself, you need to do something.
Have you found any particular ways of reducing stress helpful? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments.
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