OCCUPATION FOCUS- SOLICITOR WELLBEING
Occupational stress is common in a lot of professions. I chose to focus on Solicitors this month due to the abundance of Solicitors who have contacted me over the past two months.
Just this year, the resilience and wellbeing survey completed by the Law society’s junior Division, identified that 39% of trainees experienced mental health problems. Understandably, the fear is that the negative experiences will cause good trainees to cease their training due to a lack of support or training in mental health issues. A more shocking statistic from this survey is that 98% of all division members had experienced high stress due to their job highlighting a need to focus on change.
Why do solicitors experience high stress?
Individuals who have studied and worked in law are more likely to be self- critical and lack self-compassion. A lack of self-compassion can impact on our self-esteem and by being self-critical you find accepting failure difficult. This can lead to many other psychological challenges.
Feeling like a failure can lead to over compensatory behaviour, where individuals are more likely to work more hours. This often only increases stress and burnout symptoms which only makes the feelings of failure stronger.
Believing you have to be in control all of the time can cause additional stress when you make a mistake or you haven’t planned for additional challenges. Many people who are finding it difficult to manage their work can become anxious or seek control elsewhere. This may sneak into home life (increased cleaning, more lists, more routine).
Symptoms of stress and burnout
Excess workload, self-criticalness and the overwhelming feelings of occupational burden can lead to burnout.
But what does that look like?
- Increased anxiety (perhaps fearing work has been left, you haven’t emailed someone back, fear of not being prepared)
- Snappiness, more expressions of anger in unhealthy ways.
- Increased food intake
- Reduced food intake
- Increased alcohol intake
- Not taking care of your appearance
- Lack of sleep/broken sleep
- Presenteeism (when you go to work but your mind isn’t focused on the tasks in hand)
- Increased physical health complications (coughs, colds, viruses).
What can I do to improve my mental health?
- Be active (regular exercise can improve your mood and productivity)
- Mindfulness (Living in the moment can reduce anxiety and allow you to enjoy more experiences)
- Imagery (develop a picture in your mind that you can go to at times of stress- mine is my grandma’s garden!)
- Acceptance (practicing acceptance that we aren’t perfect and we can’t achieve unrealistic goals)
- Live in line with your values (consider what is important to you and think of ways you could practice what is important i.e if you value the environment consider ways you could preserve it more effectively)
- Talk (it’s likely others feel similar)
- Practice the ten actions of happiness. (I think this is a wonderful way to improve wellbeing and resilience)
- Visit your GP
- Visit a counsellor
- Book onto our Mental Health first Aid course (MHFA)
How could our workplace improve?
- Train some of your employees in Mental Health First Aid
- Offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)
- Have wellbeing days
- Encourage breaks
- All employees to engage in mental health awareness training
- Complete wellbeing challenges
Book onto our Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course
The Junior Law Division published guidance stating that Law firms should consider appointing mental health first aiders to support other employees experiencing stress of symptoms of mental health problems. With the Health and Safety executive (HSE) also recommending that healthy and safety should be assessed and if mental health difficulties are apparent then having a Mental Health First Aider would be advised.