The legal world is a stressful place. Paperwork, deadlines, details, confidential information, anxious clients – this and more is enough to stress out anyone, even seasoned attorneys, paralegals and support staff. Tight deadlines and reams of paperwork are unavoidable in the legal world, however. Many legal professionals do their best to power through, with no stress management plan in place.

Ignored workplace stress has very real side effects on your health – none of them positive. Stress often results in poor diet choices, such as a fast-food habit, too much caffeine, sugar, etc. Stress can result in physical pain and worse. The real, physical effects of stress include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension and aches
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Poor sleep or insomnia
  • Irritability

These discomforts can drive people to further unhealthy choices, like tobacco use, or zoning out in front of the tv, adding fuel to the fire. Ultimately, unchecked stress can lead to serious health issues, e.g., high blood pressure, obesity, and even heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States. Stress need not lead to such dire results, however. Stress is a fact of life to be taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

There are many healthy tactics you can use to manage stress. Here is a short list of suggestions.

  • Take breaks. These can be very short if deadlines dictate!
    • Do a lap around the office/home/neighborhood. This provides both a quick mental break and movement for a little endorphin push.
    • Stretch! A couple minutes of stretching can make a big difference in your mood.
    • Look out a window and take a few deep breaths, maybe give your neck a little stretch, or just take your time drinking some water.
    • Go outside for a few minutes with a cup of coffee. Enjoy fresh air and quiet.

Different studies suggest different intervals, so figure out what works for you and your workload and start taking little breaks to refresh. Don’t waste the break scrolling on your phone. Rest your eyes and avoid unpleasant news notifications, etc.

  • Move more. Work and technology have made us a very sedentary society, unfortunately. Sitting too long is no good for your health, so get up! There are many different types of exercise, so there is bound to be at least one you will enjoy. Some activities are especially good for working up a sweat and dissolving daily stresses. These include:
    • Dancing! Who doesn’t enjoy dancing? Maybe not in front of other people, but most of us love to dance. Turn up your favorite music and break out your best moves.
    • Walking is fantastic low-impact cardio work. It is also a great time to organize your thoughts, work out a problem, or just unplug and enjoy nature.
    • Kickboxing is a great way to “attack” stress. Literally punch and kick it out. Kickboxing also requires coordination and focus, so you’re distracted from daily worries and get a real mental break while engaging in a healthy activity.
    • Team sports! Grab a friend for a tennis match, make a regular date with some buddies for basketball, whatever game you and yours like. You get to be active and enjoy the company of your friends, a surefire way to melt anxiety and calories at the same time.
    • Yoga requires a lot of focus and encourages deep breathing, both good for stress relief, as you are focusing on your posture rather than your problems, and deep breathing has a very calming effect. Yoga also stretches your muscles, releasing tension you may be holding in your neck, shoulders, low back and hips, areas stress loves to creep into and torment.
  • Talk to someone. Stress can be overwhelming, and any human can relate. Talk to a trusted friend. Release some of the pent-up frustration. They may have advice or just a good ear and sympathetic word. They may be able to see if you need to talk to someone else, like a professional who can help you better cope. Again, stress should not be treated lightly, and it’s ok to need extra help!
  • Sleep. Stress is an exhausting phenomenon. Don’t let it wear you down and weaken your immune system. Get some rest.
  • Do something you love. Hobbies are beneficial. They are an opportunity to get some “me time” and an instant mood boost. It is never too late to discover a new hobby to love. Learning a new activity relieves stress by providing another healthy distraction and the feeling of accomplishment as you master a musical instrument, for example, or see your vegetable garden’s first harvest!

Stress is a frustrating element of work. It has benefits, in that it gives you an adrenalin kick that can spur you to meet your deadlines or put in the extra effort and give a terrific presentation. However, stress can very quickly lead to severe consequences, if not properly managed. The past two years have been particularly stressful for many, reminding all of us of the need to take all aspects of health seriously. Take the time to tackle your stress and feel the weight lift off your shoulders. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

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