By Scott R. Mote, Esq.
She calls it the Sunday Night Special. It’s the feeling she gets the evening before she has to return to work on Monday. It feels like someone is punching her in the stomach each time she thinks about going into the office tomorrow. She tries to think about other good things in her life, but the sinking feeling of returning to work keeps distracting her.
When she gets to work on Monday, she’s tired, unmotivated and disengaged. She snaps at her co-worker when he tries to small-talk. She thinks about what she will do this weekend.
She is suffering from burnout.
How did she get here?
She is a full-time lawyer with a family, and many responsibilities at work and home. Many events led her to feel this way.
She lacks work-life balance. Her work at the office takes up so much of her time that she doesn’t have the time or energy to spend quality time with her family.
Her supervisor is a bully who undermines and micromanages her even though she has been successful at her job for years. This causes her unnecessary stress.
She has no control over her schedule, assignments or workload, and her employer does not give her the resources she needs to succeed.
As a family law attorney, working with domestic issues is chaotic and challenging at times, which requires energy that she doesn’t seem to have anymore.
She feels isolated at work, which causes her more stress.
These are not the only causes of burnout. Some feel that their job is monotonous, they have unclear job expectations, or that their values don’t align with their employers. All of these signs can lead to stress, which can lead to burnout. If left unchecked, burnout can affect your health, happiness, relationships and job performance. If you think you are having symptoms of burnout, try some of these steps.
Think about what is relaxing to you. Maybe it’s reading a book, going on a walk, playing an instrument, or binge-watching your favorite show. Designate a time each day to relax. Put it on your calendar.
Stay in tune with your emotional health.
It’s no secret that lawyers have stressful jobs. Dealing with emotional clients, tight deadlines, and micro-managing supervisors all leads to stress, which can cause depression, anxiety and other issues, such as stomach problems, headaches, increased alcohol and drug use, and family conflict. It is important to pay attention to your own thoughts. If you notice that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to turn those thoughts into something positive. Think of all of the accomplishments you have had in your legal career instead. If you find it challenging to reverse your negative outlook, the first step is to talk about it. This can be through a counselor, a co-worker, the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program or a significant other.
If you get fewer than six hours of sleep a night, you are at a higher risk for burnout. Lack of sleep can have major implications at your job. It leads to fatigue at work, feeling unmotivated, makes you agitated, and can lead to major errors on the job. Shoot for at least seven hours of sleep a night and be consistent with your schedule.
Organization is key when dealing with burnout. If you are suffering from burnout, you are probably constantly worrying about what you’re forgetting to do. Keep a to-do list, either electronically or on paper, and work on high-priority items first. Make sure you cross off your tasks when you are finished; this gives you a good feeling of accomplishment.
Leave your work at the office. Turn off your cell phone and laptop when you are spending time with loved ones. If you have to check your email after work, do it at a time when you won’t be interrupted from doing things you enjoy.
Know when it is time to re-evaluate your job.
Make a list of pros and cons about your current job. If you find that the cons outweigh the pros, then it is probably time to either change the things you can to make your current job better, or start searching for other opportunities.
Burnout is not just a trending topic. It is real, and it will not go away on its own. If you ignore it, it will only get worse. Remember that when you are burned out, you are not performing at your best and your belief in yourself is compromised. Take the steps necessary to get back to being yourself.
By Scott R. Mote, Esq., Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program.
If you are suffering from burnout and cannot get past it, contact the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program. All inquiries are confidential. We have helped hundreds of lawyers with these same types of issues. (800) 348-4343/www.ohiolap.org