Is This Anxiety?

Change AheadAs attorneys, we understand we have to manage stress. A little stress may help us perform at our best, but too much can be a problem—and may cause excessive anxiety.

If you were able to worry less, what improvements would you see in your life and your practice? Do you want to find out? Read on for some steps to get started.

1. Accept that you’re in good company.

In any given year, approximately 18% of adults in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. While more serious than everyday stress or worry, anxiety disorders are not a sign of weakness. Start by accepting these truths for yourself. Yes, some people still believe mental illness carries a stigma—but with 40 million people affected every year, that perception is unjustified. (There’s a reason why CLEs on mental health are often approved for elimination-of-bias credits in Minnesota.) You take care of your body when you have a physical illness, why not take care of your mental health as well?

2. Learn more about the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

An anxiety disorder can take various forms, including generalized anxiety disorder, phobia, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. To learn more about the symptoms of each, here are some resources:

3. Don’t let fear stand in your way.

Even if the symptoms sound familiar to you, you might still hesitate before talking to someone about them. Some attorneys, perhaps due to work in litigation or personal experience with the legal system, fear their mental health records might be discoverable. Others worry about how their life will be upset by a diagnosis. They wonder what will happen, and what may need to change. These fears are natural. Acknowledge them, investigate them as necessary, and work to release them. As an attorney, you are trained to evaluate all of the “what ifs”—so what if you could be living a better life?

4. Take charge of your plan.

Along with the fears that are a barrier to seeking advice on mental health issues, some people believe that reaching out for help will lead to a medication regime. This is not necessarily the case. There are many approaches to dealing with anxiety. Remember, if you do suffer from anxiety, you still have control over how it is addressed; medication is only one option. Trust yourself to evaluate your options and make the best choice for your situation.

5. Make the call.

Many organizations provide assistance to attorneys on mental health and addiction issues. Some offer free counseling. Attorneys in Minnesota can reach out to Minnesota Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers to speak with staff or a counselor. LCL can talk with you confidentially about your options and make appropriate referrals. If you are in another state, the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has links to programs nationwide.

If you are worrying about your worrying, it is time to take action. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Please note: I am not a doctor or psychologist, but I believe in the happy and healthy practice of law.

Effective June 1st 2016, Lynn Walters is no longer accepting assignments as a freelance attorney. Lynn’s new company, Blackstock Walters, LLC, offers litigation support services such as legal research, motion preparation, and document summaries on a project basis.

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