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Being a Lawyer: Stressful Work Can Lead Into Depression - How to Prevent It?

Being a Lawyer: Stressful Work Can Lead Into Depression - How to Prevent It?

Published: July 26, 2022

Stress is a normal response to life's ups and downs. At moderate levels, it can even be healthy, encouraging us to work hard and act in creative and resourceful ways. However, chronic stress is harmful and can lead to mental and physical health conditions like high blood pressure and depression.

Everyone is vulnerable to chronic stress, but lawyers may be particularly at risk. Law is a profession full of talented, intelligent, and hard-working individuals undertaking meaningful work. However, the adversarial and unpredictable environment may also lead to long working hours, difficult working relationships, and complicated cases.

In this environment, individual and collective self-care is a priority. It's crucial to look after yourself and your colleagues to avoid chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. Healthy workplace culture and stress management strategies can help to keep work stress levels low and maintain overall well-being.

What Is Major Depression?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder defines major depression as a period of low mood that lasts for over two weeks and has a significant impact on your daily life. According to the World Health Organization, it may affect around 5% of adults globally.

This impact of depression can be wide-ranging: our mental health affects our physical health, our productivity at work, our relationships with our friends and family members, and our capacity to enjoy and thrive in life. However, depression can be treated and there are steps you can take to decrease your risk of developing the condition.

What Is the Link Between Stress and Depression?

Stress is a mental, physical, and emotional response that affects the body as well as the mind. Symptoms of stress include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset stomach
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Low mood or depression

We feel stressed in response to events that we perceive as a threat so that we can react quickly and effectively. When you're stressed, your body produces more of certain chemicals such as cortisol that make you more alert. Certain functions of your brain also become more or less active, as do brain structures and immune responses.

A healthy person will experience these biological changes when they're stressed, before returning to normal when the event is resolved. However, if you experience chronic stress, sustained chemical imbalances and altered brain activity can affect your mental health and body and may lead to conditions like major depressive disorder.

How to Take Care of Your Mental Health on the Job

There are some steps you can take to reduce stress at work and reduce the risk of mental health problems.

Share With Others

If you're experiencing poor mental health, you're not alone. A study conducted by the American Bar Association Commission found that 28% of lawyers deal with some level of depression and 19% with anxiety.

Sharing your feelings with others can help reduce the burden of psychological distress. They may be able to support you to find ways to reduce your workload, de-stress, or seek professional treatment.

Maintain a Good Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a good work-life balance is key to keeping psychological stress levels low. It's important to set boundaries and not allow yourself to become overworked, as this will be detrimental to your productivity in the long run. Make sure you find the time to do things you enjoy, like spending time with family members, engaging in hobbies, and seeing friends.

Practice Good Self-Care

Practicing good self-care can help all aspects of your mental well-being, reducing stress and preventing depressive symptoms. Self-care practices include:

  • eating regularly, with nutritious and balanced meals
  • physical exercise
  • healthy sleep habits
  • relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga
  • avoiding cigarettes and alcohol
  • find green spaces - according to the Mental Health Foundation, nature can play a role in supporting and protecting our mental health

Visit A Mental Health Professional

Living with mental health issues is tough, but there is help available. Extensive scientific research has uncovered a range of effective treatment methods to help you recover from mental health issues like major depression and prevent them from developing. These include talk therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication, group therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy.

Every individual is different and no one treatment works for everyone - you may have to try a few options before you find the one that works for you. Most mental wellness treatment programs offer in-depth assessments to determine what treatment approaches will best suit your needs, and adapt the program as you progress through treatment.

Is It Depression or Burnout?

Burnout is a condition that you develop as a response to difficult working conditions. It's characterized by emotional exhaustion, and may involve depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment.

Depression, on the other hand, is a mental disorder characterized by persistent low mood and an inability to enjoy things. However, though distinct, the two conditions share many symptoms. The emotional exhaustion of burnout often manifests as depressed mood and fatigue, two symptoms of depression. Moreover, the causes of burnout are also risk factors for depression, so you may develop both conditions at once.

If you are unsure whether you are suffering from depression or burnout, it's a good idea to talk to a mental health professional. Ultimately, neither condition should be dismissed and both may require professional support, so it's important to receive expert advice.

What are the Signs of Work Depression?

The signs and symptoms of work depression are similar to those of major depression but may seem particularly connected with your workplace. You may find yourself:

  • unable to concentrate at work
  • missing goals and deadlines
  • missing days of work
  • crying unexpectedly
  • lacking energy or motivation
  • no longer enjoying your job

Work depression may manifest at home as well as at work, as sleeping problems or irritation.

What Can You Do If You Feel Depressed While Working?

If you notice any signs of work depression, it's important to seek support as soon as possible. You could talk to the human resources department about services that your workplace provides or speak with another mental health provider. Meanwhile, try to focus on self-care practices and ensure you maintain a good work-life balance.

Mental Wellness Treatment GIA Miami

At GIA Miami, we offer evidence-based mental wellness treatment specially designed for professionals. We understand that you may not be able to take a break from your work to attend treatment, and we design our programs around your schedule so you can continue to fulfill your responsibilities. We appreciate the unique demands and circumstances that lawyers encounter in their lives and the type of support it requires.

We base our treatment programs on the forefront of scientific research, applying the latest advances to your recovery journey. We ensure you receive the very best treatment available and deliver it with confidentiality and compassion.

We're pioneers in the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, an innovative, FDA-cleared treatment for depression. Our founder, Dr. Bonci, is a world leader in the field, ready to share his expertise with you.

If you're feeling stressed or depressed at work and in search of extra support, contact us today. We can talk you through the options available and answer any questions you may have. All calls are fully confidential.

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