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Nine tips to managing stress as a law firm student or law firm employee

Workplace stress is a significant issue in the United Kingdom, with around 602,000 workers reporting work-related stress, depression, or anxiety in 2019/2020, so if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with your law degree, job search or career, you are not alone.

Stress in the workplace can lead to various physical and mental health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, burnout, and decreased productivity so it’s important that you prioritise your health no matter how much desire you have to become a lawyer or develop your law firm career.

But if you are feeling stressed, how can you manage and relieve it when it comes to studying for a law degree or in your legal career?

1. Manage your time 

One of the most important things you should do if you are feeling stressed is to take a breather and think logically. It’s easier said than done we know but try not to get too overwhelmed with the never-ending list of things you need to do.

Take a step back and think about what is a priority – is there something you know will take longer than the other tasks, something that you aren’t as familiar with etc. Get these tasks tackled first.

It is also important to manage your time by setting realistic deadlines for yourself and others and break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps.  If you are not given a deadline for a piece of work make sure you ask for a ‘by when’. 

2. Take regular breaks

When you’re managing your time, ensure you are setting aside 10 – 15-minute breaks for a time out. Regular short breaks throughout the day can help recharge your mind and reduce stress.

Use this time to get outside, take a breather, stretch, eat, or engage in activities you enjoy. 

3. Set boundaries 

One of the best ways to reduce your stress is learning to set boundaries. Taking on too much work is one of the key causes of stress.

Can you learn how to say ‘no’ to excessive workloads or commitments that may contribute to stress? And we know how hard this might be based on the workload some Trainees and NQ Solicitors might be faced with. 

Establishing clear boundaries can help maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

4. Develop a support network

A support network will be a great resource when it comes to managing and relieving stress.  

Choose a trusted friend, family member, or colleague that you can talk to about your stressors.

Sometimes, just venting or getting a different perspective can provide relief. But if not, they might be able to tell you about their experiences and ways to manage and relieve stress.  

5. Try a hobby

A great way to take your mind off your work and university stress is taking part in an activity or hobby you enjoy doing.

Physical activity can be a great way to relieve stress as it releases endorphins, which are natural mood enhancers. Find an exercise routine that works for you, whether it's going for a walk, hitting the gym, or participating in a sport.

You could also try something creative like knitting or baking or pottery. There are lots of options out there to give you something else to focus your energy on.  

6. Practice relaxation techniques

Self-care might seem like a buzzword, but practising relaxation techniques can have a significant positive effect on mental wellbeing.

Deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.

7. Get a good night’s sleep

No one enjoys being around someone who is irritable and grumpy because they haven’t got a good night’s sleep. And poor sleep can exacerbate stress levels.

Some top tips on getting a good night’s sleep include:

  • Writing your thoughts and worries down in a journal so you can fix them in the morning instead
  • Stay off your phone before going to bed
  • Don’t eat or exercise too close to going to sleep
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol

You should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to improve focus, mood, and overall well-being. 

8. Positive thinking

Negative thinking can increase stress levels, and make you feel as though you can’t cope with the tasks at hand. Try to replace negative thoughts and self-criticism with positive affirmations.  

Can you focus on your accomplishments and strengths rather than dwelling on perceived failures? Is there a particular essay you were proud of and got a great mark in? Have you worked on a difficult case and got an excellent outcome for your clients? 

Write a list of your successes and accomplishments, no matter how small they might seem to you!

9. Seek professional help  

If stress is a continuous hinderance, is affecting your life significantly or becomes overwhelming, consider seeking support from a mental health professional who can provide guidance and coping strategies.

Stress shouldn’t be how you should be spending your time, and there will be firms and careers out there that can support your mental wellbeing more than your current situation.

Does your employer have some kind of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that you can take advantage of? 

Ready to find a law firm that prioritises mental health? 

Employers who prioritise employee well-being, promote work-life balance, provide support systems, and foster a positive work culture are more likely to reduce workplace stress. Have a look at our careers page to see which firms are currently hiring and fit the bill here.