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5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress as a Lawyer

The holidays are upon us. Is it just us or did 2022 move at lightning speed? How is it that a time of year meant for gratefulness and reflection became a time of massive stress and anxiety? And how does holiday stress always boil over into the new year? With a big list of personal appointments, shopping, and spending time with family that you must balance with your professional deadlines, it’s no wonder that stress management for lawyers is necessary.

In this blog, we’re exploring the importance of stress management for lawyers according to statistics. Then, we’ll give you five stress relief techniques you can try to help with your holiday stress management.

Related: Stress Management for Lawyers: 4 Tips for the New Year

Why Stress Management for Lawyers Is Important

Although many children dream of becoming a lawyer when they grow up, statistics show that stress management for lawyers is an essential skill. A survey of close to 3,000 lawyers showed that 25% of female lawyers and 17% of male lawyers leave the legal profession because of mental health or stress. For women who leave the legal profession, the stress of work life balance is the overwhelming factor, whereas the study showed that “stress” is the leading cause for men.

To be clear, stress as a lawyer happens at some point. It happens to lawyers regardless of whether they are married or have children. It happened before the pandemic, certainly hit a peak during the height of the pandemic, and it will continue.

Another study by Bloomberg Law showed that attorneys average around 5.8 hours of self-care per two quarters; that amounts to a little less than one hour per month for six months. And, again, female lawyers along with Senior Associates are the ones at the short end of the stress management stick.

Now that we’re in the holiday season, stress as a lawyer is particularly concerning. Many people, regardless of their profession, experience profound sadness, anxiety, and depression during the holiday season. Taking the negative holiday emotions and combining them with a high stress profession can be a deadly combination. According to the ABA, over 11% of lawyers have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point, thinking that suicide was a way out. Yet, what professionals with those feelings really want isn’t to end their lives so much as they want the stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout to end. Those are the feelings that often drive suicide. If you’re feeling depressed or suicidal, there are many places that can and will give you the help that you need, even anonymously. You can text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can reach out to The Crisis Text Line will spend all the time you want or need with you through Facebook Messenger, text, or over the phone. The National Alliance on Mental Health also has resources. Finding help in your area can be done with a Google search. If you are worried about your privacy, open an incognito browser.

These 5 tips to avoid holiday stress can be used any time of year. It’s important that we state while you may see some immediate stress relief, most stress relief techniques work best if you practice them on a regular basis. If these techniques don’t seem useful to you, there are more stress management techniques than what you find here. The objective for holiday stress management (and beyond) is to design a program that works for you. It should be something you look forwar4d to doing because that’s the best way to increase the likelihood of you participating in it. And if you feel like you’re too busy for stress management for lawyers? You need it more than anyone.

Stress Relief Technique 1 – Return to Your Hobbies

What is your favorite hobby that you’d do if you just had more time? Think about why you enjoy that hobby. It brings a sense of focus that takes you away from existing stress. Here’s a pro tip: you will never have more time to return to your favorite hobbies. You must make time. Non-work-related activities can help you by reducing your overall stress level.  One study showed that three-fourths of individuals who regularly took part in hobbies experienced reduced stress, less depression and anxiety, and an overall sense of well-being.

You don’t have to engage in your hobby every day (although for holiday stress management, it might be a good idea). It is important, though, that you schedule time for your hobbies. Pick a day and time in advance and mark it off on your calendar. Doing so can help you minimize the risk of burnout.

Stress Relief Technique 2 – Learn and Practice Mindfulness

There’s a lot of hype around mindfulness. When it’s done properly, there’s a good reason for it. Mindfulness can take place no matter what you’re doing. The short version of “what is mindfulness” is staying present in whatever it is that you’re doing. And, no, it’s not as easy as it seems. Think about all the times you’re with your family or friends and your mind wanders back to work-related projects. Think about all the times you were working and your mind floated off to worrying about something personal.

There are many mindfulness exercises that you can start with. One exercise is mindful breathing. You sit and focus on your breathing. That’s it. You keep your mind focused on when you breathe in and when you breathe out. You can slow your breathing down if you’d like, but don’t slow it down too much or you might end up dizzy. Walking mindfulness meditation is also helpful. As you walk, you keep all of your focus on what your feet are doing and feeling, the air outside (what does it feel like and smell like), the colors and sounds around you, etc. The goal is to do so without any type of judgment and to keep your mind focused on what is going on during your walk: to be fully present.

Stress Relief Technique 3 – Take Breaks

Taking breaks is about more than putting together a reasonable work schedule for yourself. Holiday stress management is also about making time for yourself during the season (and, hopefully, beyond. Yes, this is the time that we routinely spend more time with our family and friends (and colleagues). However, to avoid burnout and additional stress, make sure that you schedule in time for you to take a break.

Learn to say no…and do it. Taking breaks is good for you both physically and mentally. It helps calm your central nervous system and improves how your brain functions. So, schedule in that nap. Take a break from social media. And say no to attending whatever it is that you didn’t really want to attend, but you felt obligated to say yes to attending.

Stress Relief Technique 4 – Embrace Exercise

‘Tis the season when we all throw our diets out the window! With all the delicious foods and treats, we certainly understand. Most people wait until January 1 to start that new exercise routine. Yet, multiple studies have shown that even a moderate exercise routine can help lower your stress. When you lower your stress, you do wonders for your brain and your heart. This doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym five or six times a week and make yourself miserable. If you’re new to establishing an exercise routine, first you need to talk to your doctor. Second, find easy things that you enjoy so that you’ll stick to doing, such as taking a 30 minute walk a few times each week.

In addition to lowering stress, exercise has also proven to make us more productive and energetic. While you may not be looking for more productivity this time of year, it’ll certainly be helpful in reaching your goals for next year!

Stress Relief Technique 5 – Use the Right Tools to Make Your Work Life Easier

Another way to combat holiday stress is to take a good look at how your law office operates. Is there anything that can be done differently that will help you reduce your stress? Determining what you could do differently could look like:

  • Making sure you have enough help, either temporarily or permanently. This could be hiring another attorney on a contractual basis, hiring an associate, or hiring a paralegal or legal assistant. Depending on how large your practice is, it could also mean you stop wearing all the hats. Maybe you need to hire someone to handle the billing and payments or someone to handle your marketing and social media.
  • Use the proper practice management software. The proper practice management software makes your life as an attorney easier, not harder. If your current practice management software isn’t working for you, it’s time to look around and think about changing to something that fits your needs better.
  • Find easy ways to embrace law firm automation. You don’t need to automate everything at once. Think about the things that take the most time or cause you the most stress. Are there certain legal documents you create over and over again that eat up time you could spend doing other things? Legal document automation can be extremely helpful and simple to use. While providing you with more time to work on what really matters (or creating extra time for you to rest), legal documents created through automation are also more accurate. One easy place to start is by automating client intake. By collecting a few pieces of information from new clients, the intake form can be automatically populated.

Related: Legal Intake: 6 Things to Keep in Mind So That You Get It Right

Lawyer Stress Is Serious – Design Your Own Stress Management Plan

Stress as a lawyer is serious. While we hope these tips are helpful, it’s crucial to recognize that you must create your own stress management plan that will support you through the holidays and beyond. Make sure that you share this information if you found it helpful. If you’re ready to begin the law firm automation process, schedule your free demo with LawDroid. We’re here to help you by providing custom solutions for each of our clients.

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