If you are suffering from stress, even in its earliest stages, it is important to take steps to control it. Stress can have severe consequences, including mental illness, heart disease and other physical illnesses, and family problems if it is ignored.
There are also steps you can take to minimise your stress. These include:
- Eating a healthy diet (losing weight, if necessary) and taking regular exercise.
- Eating regularly: you may find you are skipping meals, particularly when you’re a pupil and too nervous to eat during a case or before an afternoon case. Carry a healthy snack with you, such as a piece of fruit, to ensure you have something healthy to eat on the way back from Court.
- Giving up smoking and restricting your alcohol intake, ensuring you have at least two or three alcohol-free days each week. (You may also like to think about how much coffee you drink.)
- At work, learn to prioritise, delegate where appropriate, be realistic about what can be achieved, build in breathing space, take frequent breaks to reward your activity, and work methodically.
- Take a proper lunch break and DO NOT work while you are eating.
- Take holidays.
If you are under severe and prolonged stress and fear that it is having, or could have, an effect on your overall health, it is vital that you see your GP as soon as possible.
It is possible that your GP will sign you off work for a time. Many lawyers are reluctant to take time off, but it is important that you prioritise your health and comply with your doctor’s advice. Your GP may also prescribe medication and/or refer you to a counsellor.
Finally, it is most important that you look at the reasons for the stress and address them. If these are largely work-related, then you must consider your working habits and patterns and seek assistance from chambers, colleagues and/or employers to make any necessary changes. Visit http://www.lawcare.org.uk/get-help/stress/ for more helpful information.
Neil Seligman, corporate mindfulness and wellbeing expert and founder of The Conscious Professional (www.theconsciousprofessional.com), is also qualified as a barrister and spent 8 years in chambers in London. He now works as a professional skills trainer, offering mindfulness, resilience and wellbeing programmes to corporate and professional clients, including the Bar. He recommends (amongst many other things) reducing electronic interference, which can of itself be stressful, and at a recent Bar Council Wellbeing seminar suggested the following to young barristers:
- Turn off ‘push notifications’ on mobile phones and tablets. This stops you being constantly bombarded by irrelevant material.
- Create a ‘tech-free zone’ at home. This can be the bathroom, the bedroom, or even just a sofa in the living room.
- Have one screen-free meal a day.
- Introduce a ‘tech-curfew’, to allow a break from technology before sleep.
- Close windows on your computer when you are not working on them.
For further information and resources please see www.wellbeingatthebar.org.uk.