Legal Burnout: How To Limit Stress In The Workplace

Legal Burnout: How To Limit Stress In The Workplace

This is a short article about legal burnout and how to limit stress in the workplace. Work-related stress can have devastating impacts both on the individual suffering from burnout, and the company bearing the cost of stress-related illness, under-productivity, and absences.

The legal profession is known for being a high-pressured and fast-paced environment, and while it can be a rewarding profession – personally and financially – the increasing rate of stress and burnout, alongside other mental health issues, contribute to some alarming statistics.

In 2019, insurance provider Protectivity published statistics on stress which compared different age groups, cities, and professions, and the report showed that 63% of people working in the legal profession felt overwhelmingly stressed on a daily basis.



What is Legal Burnout?

Burnout is a term coined by Herbert Freudenberger in his book, ‘Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement. The term burnout refers to a state of mental and physical exhaustion, lacking motivation, creativity, and drive. It can present itself physically through fatigue, headaches, nausea, and other stress-related symptoms, as well as being a mental barrier to productivity which, for a job as high-pressured as the legal profession, can be a vicious cycle.

The average person will spend one-third of their life at work – and for those working in the legal profession, those hours are significantly increased. It is reported that around 18% of people working in law delivered upwards of 10 hours unpaid overtime every week, taking their working hours to nearly 125% of those in other professions.

This heavy workload leaves little time for stress-reducing activities – and spending so much time in a job you have increasingly limited motivation and drive for while being unable to pursue other interests, can seriously exacerbate stress and lead to burnout faster.



How Do You Combat Legal Burnout?

Burnout is a result of prolonged stress, so the best way to combat burnout is to tackle the root cause:


  • Exercise – any aerobic activity can be beneficial both mentally and physically. Mentally, it can offer the opportunity for reflection, meditation, and problem-solving. Group activities such as team sports are opportunities to socialize and bring more fun and a distraction from work to your day. In addition, all exercise has the added physical benefit of producing endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters.


  • Sleep more – sleep is vital for rest, recovery, and rejuvenation. Starting a day feeling well-rested and prepared improves concentration, decision-making and is key to reducing stress. In addition, the deep sleep phase has been linked to a reduction in anxiety, so uninterrupted sleep is beneficial to both sleep and anxiety reduction.


  • Set goals – setting realistic goals, professionally and personally, provides motivation as well as structuring your activities to ensure you are not overwhelmed by excessive expectations, and provides a roadmap to ensure you achieve success.


  • Find joy – dopamine, described as the ‘feel-good hormone, is released when we experience joy, whether triggered by exercise or through taking part in hobbies and activities that make us happy. Carving out specific times in the day for these activities helps to reduce stress.


  • Set boundaries – knowing your limit is one thing, but the greatest challenge can often be enforcing your boundaries. However – you will be even less motivated and productive if you do not take the time to exercise, do something you enjoy, and get a good night’s sleep.


So take our advice on board, and watch as you thrive once more in your legal profession and enjoy your chosen career without the burden of burnout.

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