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Stress management tips for anxious attorneys

femalelawyer_mainThe percentage of Americans who feel anxious at work is high, and those numbers are only continuing to grow. According to the CDC’s National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, studies have found the number of Americans who feel “extremely stressed” at work is up to 40%.

It wouldn’t be surprising if attorneys made up half that number. Anxiety and stress can be debilitating in the workplace, and the law is no exception.

If you identify as an anxious lawyer, do yourself a favor and review these six stress management tips to help calm yourself down.

Stop multitasking

Seriously. Stop it. You’re just asking for your anxiety to spark when you respond to an email, listen to a voicemail and read a legal brief all at once. It also isn’t helping you get more work done. Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. It also reduces your efficiency and performance because your brain can only focus on one thing at a time — not to mention it makes you feel more stressed and frazzled as heck.

Put. The. Coffee. Down.

It’s 3 p.m. and chances are you don’t need that fifth cup of coffee for the day. But unfortunately, pouring another cup is a common go-to move on stressful days. However, coffee is a stimulant, and stimulants promotes our body’s “fight or flight” response that can make us more irritable and agitated to everyday situations. The caffeine in coffee can also cause feelings of agitation, restlessness and increased heart rate – all of which help boost anxiety.

Go on a walk at lunch

Buddhist monks walk regularly for a reason. It’s an easy way to meditate while breaking up long bouts of sitting throughout the day. Sedentary lifestyles don’t do anxiety any favors, so combat the stress of constant sitting by getting some exercise for your lunch break. As an added bonus, studies show that just a 10-minute walk during the day can boost your mood and help you sleep better at night.

Stay organized

Planning ahead to stay organized can greatly decrease stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late and will help you leave work on time, or early. Keeping yourself organized also means avoiding the negative, anxiety-inducing side effects of clutter and missed deadlines.

Be comfortable

It’s difficult to relax if you aren’t comfortable in your working space. Take the time to make your office, cubicle or desk space an area that you want to spend time in. Does your back hurt? Get a new chair. Do you have a lack of sunshine? Get a Vitamin D lamp. Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable and establish an anxiety-free work zone.

Read some fiction

A study by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex suggests that reading is the best and fastest way to combat stress, even more than walking and drinking tea (though we still encourage lunch break strolls and putting the coffee down.) According to the study, just six minutes of reading was shown to reduce stress by as much as 68%. So put aside the legal briefs for a moment and read a chapter of your favorite novel. The long-term mental health effects will astound you.

In short, if you’re feeling stressed at work, make an effort to make a quick mental, physical or emotional escape. Anxiety is productivity’s worst friend. Do what you need to do to stay focused and relaxed at work.

Maura Mazurowski