Law Practice and Exponentially Increasing Anxiety
It’s your first week as an attorney, a supervisor comes to your office, tells you to review something, and walks out. That’s your instruction. You don’t even know what it is because much of your knowledge was mostly common law from the 18th and 19th centuries that you studied in law school and maybe some bullet points from your bar exam review class. Basically, you have no idea what you’re doing and have no support or guidance from the supervisor. It usually doesn’t turn out well and the supervisor loses the small amount of confidence she/he had in you.
Another example involves boundaries of work load. You’re stretched to the max, and even if you worked 80+ hours for the week, you could not take on one more matter and still provide the quality of work product that is required. Of course this is the exact time a supervisor would come with another urgent assignment. If you say yes and take on the new assignment, you get no sleep and possibly turn in a sub-par work product. This would result in the supervisor forgetting that you took on this assignment and instead focusing on the result.
These and other similar incidents over the following months and years can lead to a perpetual downward spiral into a loss of self-confidence, an increase in your already self-critical and perfectionist nature, feeling overwhelmed, and your anxiety and stress moving towards unmanageable levels, which can also lead to depression.
Anxiety: Can I Feel Better?
Occasional mild anxiety is a normal human emotion for all of us. But what about some who are anxious often? Sometimes for what seems like no reason at all. Symptoms can include a tightness in your chest, sweating, uneasiness, upset stomach, insomnia, ruminating thoughts, and others. And some whose anxiety is so powerful at times it’s paralyzing and causes such stress that it keeps them from their daily responsibilities, like work, school, family, and others. The tips and strategies below can help.
· Distraction: Do anything that usually makes you feel good. Listen to music, go for a walk, watch TV or a movie, explore nature, play an instrument if you’re a musician, etc.
· Deep breathing: Our normal breaths during the day are short and shallow. They’re getting just enough oxygen that our body needs. Instead, take at least five long, deep breaths once an hour. Inhale in slowly for 5 seconds, hold it for 3 seconds, exhale slowly for 5 seconds. Repeat.
· Positive affirmations: I know this may sound corny, but they do work. Say out loud or in your mind “I feel good,” “I’m OK,” “I’m strong,” “I’ll get through this” and anything else that will help. Even when you don't feel good or are not doing OK, saying these things to yourself can change the pattern of thoughts in your mind to positive ones.
· Family/Friend(s) support: Spend time with loved ones and friends.
· Journaling: There’s something powerful about writing. When you’re ruminating, the same thoughts are going around and around in your head. Writing them down is a way to sometimes break the cycle. And if you don’t want to keep a journal, just grab some paper, write, and then shred it. The point is not the product, the point is the release.
· Meditation: I recommend taking a class for this or finding some resources on the web.
· Yoga: I also recommend taking a class or finding some resources on the web.
· Other exercise, especially interacting with others.
· Massage therapy: In addition to helping with any physical health issues such as chronic back pain, massage therapy can help with anxiety, stress and other mental health issues through relaxation.
· Therapy with a mental health professional: Among other things, a therapist can help you better manage and even alleviate excess anxiety by you: (a) developing skills in how to deal with demanding supervisors, including assertive communication that sets appropriate boundaries with work load, and by managing expectations of your supervisors, (b) building your self-confidence, (c) understanding the effect these outside negative forces have on you, and discovering how your own internal issues add to the difficulties, (d) supporting you in creating career and life goals, (e) reestablishing hope in your life, and (f) ultimately improving the quality of your life.
· Medication: If you’ve tried all of my recommendations and others, maybe it’s time to see a doctor (psychiatrist) to discuss other possible options. There are two types of medication for mental health issues: one you take every day to keep your day-to-day baseline anxiety lower, and one you take as needed during the difficult times.
· Incorporate some together: While you’re journaling, do deep breathing. While you’re meditating, do some positive affirmations. Whatever works for you is what’s important.