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Simple 5 Step Strategy For The Stressed Lawyer
by Alexandra C. Zoppas

Practising law is stressful. Lawyers become easily overwhelmed and stressed because of the crushing demands of articling, then being an associate, then becoming a partner, or because of just trying to bill as many hours as possible while trying to satisfy overwhelming demands of clients. But it doesn't have to be that way. Below I have described 5 simple strategies you can implement into your busy schedule to help you feel less overwhelmed, stressed and anxious as a lawyer. It all starts with relaxation.

Relaxation requires focus and concentration as well as the intention to connect psychologically and physically. Muscles are held in a chronic state of tension as a result from receiving impulses from the autonomic nervous system. Therefore the more stress one feel, the tighter the body. With deep relaxation, the neuromuscular balance can be achieved. Once the body can learn to relax, psychologically the mind does not have to monitor the state of the body resulting in the body gradually letting go and surrendering. It is at this stage that the brain waves slow down and endorphins can be released resulting in a happier state. Deep relaxation integrated with deep breathing is the most effective way to counteract stress.

Here are the 5 quick and very effective stress relievers:

  1. Begin by sitting at your desk and becoming aware of how you are breathing. Take 3 deep and slow breathes from your diaphragm or your belly area and become aware that if you are breathing quickly and shallowly from the chest area this will not help lessen the stress. By breathing from the diaphragm you are helping your system to SLOW down and you are encouraging more oxygen and blood to circulate so that you feel your stress levels begin to lessen.

  2. Close your eyes and begin to scan your body by becoming conscious of areas of your body that feel tight and stressed. Think about your face, eyes, cheeks, mouth and jaw. If you feel tightness in your jaw gently and slowly move your jaw from side to side to help release any stress. Imagine a polished stone as a metaphor for your face -- smooth without any indication of stress. With an imaginary eraser remove any furrowed brows or any lines in your face from stress and any tightness resulting in a softened expression.

  3. Continue to scan your body and focus on your neck, shoulders and back. Continue the deep breathing and allow your spinal column to feel supported by the back of the chair and with each and every breath, imagine every cervical and vertebrae in your neck and back releasing tension and stress. Visualize the deeper you breath, the more space between the vertebrae and cervical is created allowing more synovial fluid to lubricate each and every joint.

  4. Allow yourself to focus on your heart centre or heart chakra and visualize a memory or a moment in your life where you felt happy, contented, serene and felt you were in a safe place. This could have been being in nature, close to a lake, an ocean or in a forest. Keep breathing deeply and allow yourself permission to enjoy this memory or happy state. The key is to give yourself permission and to surrender to the relaxed state.

  5. When you have achieved a sense of wellness feeling serene, relaxed, grounded and content, open your eyes very slowly and come back to the here and now or your office and make a conscious effort to keep the memory of what you visualized throughout the day so that you can monitor yourself and your daily stress levels.

Remember that whenever you feel overwhelmed with time pressure, demanding clients or being on a difficult legal matter or case, these preoccupations or concerns are always temporary and that you can overcome them by doing these simple exercises above.

Contact me if you are a lawyer and would like psychotherapy to help you.