Throughout my legal career, I have been pretty fortunate when it comes to good health, both physically and mentally. I have a knack for managing deadlines and have always been able to crank out work pretty much as needed. Still, like everyone, there are times when I feel overwhelmed by the weight of what is on my plate. And, the higher up you are on the food chain, the more pressing the weight becomes as more and more people rely on you to come through (e.g., your team, fellow employees/clients, senior management, the board of directors, shareholders). It can be a lot of pressure, which is just another word for stress. For me, stress usually manifested itself in clenching my jaw (which required that I wear a splint) or migraine headaches. The latter I can say without hesitation truly suck. I know I am not alone, especially in the legal profession, as lawyers typically are more susceptible to stress and depression than most any other field. The work and deadlines take their toll not only on the lawyer, but on their family as well.
Why am I focusing on all of this unpleasantness you ask? Because I just realized that May is now mental health month. And while Hallmark has not taken over the festivities (yet), it is an excellent time to take stock of our own mental health and, for in-house lawyers, that of the legal department as a whole. Over the years, I have learned some things about preserving my mental health in an incredibly stressful job. Most of the time I just sucked it up and kept any issues to myself, I realize now that that is exactly the wrong type of behavior. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. But, this edition of “Ten Things” discusses some ways in-house lawyers can reduce stress with things I have done and still do, as well as things I wish I had done (or done more of). I’ll try not to get preachy, and I hope there are a few things here that will help you deal with the massive amount of crap that comes over the transom every day in the in-house world; a world where there is never enough money, time, or manpower to do the job: