Legal professionals who contact LawCare often say they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed – even more so at present when the added stress of living and working through a global pandemic has left many with stress at unmanageable levels, and few reserves to draw on to deal with it. Many lawyers are working longer hours than ever before and finding it hard to switch off, leading to an increased risk of burn out.
Burn out is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an occupational phenomenon rather that a medical condition, and results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed over a period of time.
Those who are experiencing burn out are likely to feel, low energy or exhaustion, increased mental distance from their job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to their job and reduced professional efficacy.
Lawyers with burn out may feel angry or irritated by colleagues or feel misunderstood. They will feel under a lot of pressure to do well at work but will feel like they aren’t really getting anywhere as they find it impossible to focus, feel overwhelmed by the amount of the work they have to do and procrastinate. They will often become forgetful - perhaps missing deadlines or meetings. Their judgement may be affected and they will often think of leaving their job or even the law profession entirely.
Ways to avoid burn out:
· Try to be objective about what is causing you stress. Keeping a stress diary over 2-3 weeks may help.
· Prioritise: don’t over commit; learn to say no.
· Use your full annual leave entitlement at work; take a lunch break and short breaks during the day.
· Do one thing at a time; break complex tasks down into manageable chunks.
· Eat healthily, exercise, avoid alcohol and smoking.
· Try to create boundaries between home and work. Stick to a routine and sensible working hours.
· Work out what helps you stay calm – it might be walking, yoga, meditation, a bath, watching a movie, talking to a friend – we all have different ways to unwind
I think I may have burn out, what can I do?
· Talk informally to someone you trust or contact LawCare on 0800 279 6888 or via www.lawcare.org.uk
· Make an appointment to see your GP.
· Tell someone at work about what is happening, it doesn’t have to be your line manager, someone in HR, another manager or Mental Heath First Aider or equivalent can help.
· Take a break from work if you can – either take sick leave or book a few days off work as annual leave
· You may want to seek private counselling or your firm may have an Employee Assistance Programme or private healthcare you can access.
If you need emotional support call LawCare on 0800 279 6888 or visit www.lawcare.org.uk to access webchat, email support and other resources.