7 tips to combat stress


work life balanceStress at work or stress in the workplace can be debilitating on both personal and professional levels.  This article has some tips to help you keep stress at bay.

An article from Forbes (which you can find HERE) set out a helpful list of ways in which you can create a stress free work environment.  All of those will assist with your environment, helping to create more inspiring and less stressful surroundings for you.

However, what about stress that isn’t caused by clutter and colleagues as much as it is by virtue of your workload, situation, or external factors which you can’t control?

After more than a decade in the legal profession, I’ve seen many offices with stressed out lawyers wondering how they are going to get through the day.  Stress itself comes about through a number of avenues, but professionally stress has a tendency to creep in when we find ourselves going out of control.  That is, we can no longer hold together the amount, type or deadlines for the work that we have to do.  Perhaps it is clients or supervisors putting pressure on for the completion of a job, and we don’t have any idea how to go about getting it done.

For some, the response can be to bury our head in the sand – after all, perhaps if we just plug on the client won’t remember that they asked us to complete something by Friday afternoon, right?  Wrong.

Temporary stress such as this can make or break a professional career.  You will not be able to find a completely stress free job, so simply complaining that you are stressed is unlikely to achieve anything other than a lot of time lost in the whinging process.

Here are some practical techniques to combat stress that have helped me, and might help you in times of increased stress:

  1. Time out.  Whether it is 30 seconds or 5 minutes, take time in your day to take a deep breath, collect your thoughts and surround yourself with a bit of silence.  A short time in quiet contemplation, where you are not trying to “get things done” can help refine you, rejuvenate your spirit a little and refocus you for the day.
  2. Eat well.  If you are stressed, junk food might seem like the best answer some days.  However, the reality is that junk food will fill you with sugar, chemicals and leave you feeling like you’ve just eaten – well, a pile of junk food.  Eat something that’s good for you, that leaves you feeling refreshed and energetic.
  3. Don’t burn energy complaining.  It’s tempting to spend times of stress complaining with our similarly stressed friends and family about how stressed we are, so that they can sympathise and perhaps make us feel better that our job/client/supervisor/partner/colleague that is causing the stress is just a bad person and they’ll be gone soon.  Aside from feeding our own negativity with that of others, you will also find that you don’t get very good advice here.  Seeking out other stressed people to advise you in your time of stress is unlikely to be beneficial.  Rather, find somebody who you can learn from about stress.  Somebody who demonstrably reacts well to stress, uses it for positive outcomes and can assist you to do so as well.  Please note that complaining is very different from seeking help (see 6 below).
  4. Stay focused.  This is connected with (1) above, however, focus is a critical component of keeping stress at bay.  As I said above, stress ordinarily arises from a sense of powerlessness.  Keeping focus, and using some quiet time to keep your wits about you, can help you stay on track so that your stress doesn’t derail your entire day.
  5. Don’t procrastinate.  Stress is often a tool for us to try and complete every task necessary other than the one about which we are stressed in the first place.  Perhaps you have found a problem with a file that you are running, and you know you have to speak with your boss.  Instead, you find yourself so busy with all the other work you have to do that you just don’t get around to it.  This won’t work.  Bite the bullet, see your boss (or whatever it is) and get the difficult conversation out of the way.  Keeping the bad news to yourself is bad for your firm/company, bad for your reputation, generally only exacerbates the situation and might well give you an ulcer in the process.
  6. Get assistance.  If your stress relates to an inability to complete a task on time, then there is no harm in asking for help.  You might need to swallow a bit of pride in the process (especially if you promised you could do it, or the delays are your fault) but it’s better to get a quality task completed on time then to delay because you’re feeling precious about your own ego.  Take a breath, see your boss (if you have one – if not, just see whoever you need to see) – ask for help.
  7. Remember that something cannot really “make you stressed”.  Stress is your reaction.  The event, person or issue might be a catalyst, but it is your reaction to that which is the important part.  Understanding that truth is going to take you a long way to managing your reactions to external, uncontrollable, factors.

Well those are my tips.  From observing many professionals,  the ones who deal best with stress are those who don’t let issues simmer.  They get on the front foot, resolve the issue and then move on all the better for it.  Issues might not be able to be resolved, but at least acknowledging them and dealing with them as much as possible can be a good step in the right direction.  It’s about reclaiming control of the issue, rather than the issue controlling you.

Sometimes ongoing debilitating stress can be an indicator of deeper issues.  If you think that you, or a colleague, has possible depression or requires some kind of counselling, there are lots of places they can go to seek confidential help.  Here are a few:

  1. Love Law, Live Life (Queensland Law Society)
  2. LawCare (free counselling for lawyers and family)
  3. Beyond Blue (for depression)
  4. LifeLine (crisis support)

Here’s hoping that you can keep long bouts of stress out of your life.  You’ll feel more positive, productive and energetic if you can.

Happy Lawyering!