What is Stress?

Stress is a physical, mental and emotional response to life’s changes and demands. It is experienced in levels – from low to high. Not all stress is harmful. In fact, moderate stress can be positive, challenging people to act in creative and resourceful ways. When stress is high, however, it can be damaging and lead to serious health problems such as depression and heart disease.

Everyone experiences stress. Any number of factors may contribute to stress, including personality, physical and emotional health, personal relationships, major life changes, and social and job issues. It’s not always possible to avoid stress, but it is possible to change your response to stress.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress affects the body, as well as thoughts and emotions. Below are some common symptoms of stress.

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Stomach upset
  • Sleep problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sadness or depression

How to Manage Stress

Although it’s not always possible to avoid stress, there are ways to help minimize stress. If you recognize signs of stress, the best way to manage and alleviate stress is to develop coping strategies. Some coping strategies include:

  • Avoid controllable stressors
  • Plan major lifestyle changes
  • Realize your limitations
  • Prioritize
  • Improve communication
  • Share your thoughts
  • Develop a positive attitude
  • Reward yourself
  • Eat and sleep well
  • Exercise

How Stress Affects Lawyers

Stress affects all people and all professions. Stress in the legal profession, however, is well-documented. Lawyers often have demanding schedules and heavy workloads, which may contribute to increased stress levels.

Lawyer assistance programs (LAPS) are available to help lawyers manage stress effectively. Contact your state or local LAP.

How to Help a Colleague Experiencing Stress

Chances are that you know a colleague experiencing high stress levels. If you recognize that stress is taking a toll on a colleague, encourage him/her to develop positive coping strategies.