A study at John Hopkins University about career anxiety revealed that lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression during their jobs. A 2014 study of Yale Law School students showed that 70% of the students had mental health issues while they were at law school.
There are a few clear character traits that almost every lawyer has going into law or develops over time. Two of these are perfectionism and pessimism. These two qualities also happen to be traits that make people more prone to anxiety. It is a part of a lawyer’s job to look for the problems and wrongdoings of others, so their outlook becomes more cynical and negative. Additionally, law is not a field that welcomes mistakes. If you make a mistake as a lawyer, it can do far more damage than in other professions. This adds to the stress.
All this anxiety can lead to lawyer burnout. This is when you are exhausted, worn down, unhappy, and struggle with motivation in your job.
Mindfulness Meditation Can Help
One way to cope with this is through meditation. Some law schools have started offering courses in mindfulness, and there are centers around the country that offer meditation retreats that are just for lawyers. The main idea is to shift your thinking away from prior and future stress and be more present in the moment.
Focusing on the present can have positive effects on all areas of your life, including your job. About half of the respondents in the Yale Law School study said mental health issues negatively impacted their ability as a lawyer. Mindfulness can be a way to help combat this.
You can also focus on how and where you are expending energy. Lawyers often end up working crazy hours and cutting back to 45 hours a week may help alleviate some claustrophobia in your life. If you have clients who are unnecessarily difficult or not worth the stress they are causing, drop them.
Leave Your Work at Work!
Never take work home with you; separate your work life from your personal life. It also helps to utilize vacation time. Taking a break and escaping the law office can help you become happier with your job.
There are also basic, physical actions you can take to help avoid burnout. Sleep is a foundational need. Allow yourself enough time to get an adequate amount of sleep to feel rested for the day. Exercise is an effective way to alleviate stress.
You Do Have Choices
In any profession, it is important to keep in mind that you do have options. This is especially important for lawyers. Even though lawyers put in many years and large sums of money to be able to work at a top, bustling law firm with the most high-profile cases, sometimes that is not the best situation for them.
For some people, the solution is moving to a less stressful law firm or changing professions entirely. This may mean taking a significantly lower salary, but that may be a worthy sacrifice if you are feeling depressed and anxious at your job.