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Jane Barr Horstman, President and CEO of Jane Barr Horstman & Associates.  Courtesy photo Jane Barr Horstman, President and CEO of Jane Barr Horstman & Associates. Courtesy photo

We are in the midst of an escalating mental health crisis, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2020 report. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has generated societal upheaval, economic insecurity and health concerns, which only add to the litany of social stressors that existed pre-COVID. While stress has increased across various groups, it is especially pronounced in the legal industry. We all know that lawyers face especially demanding schedules and heavy workloads. Add that to an ultra-competitive professional culture and constantly changing legal paradigms, and it is no shock that lawyers experience mental health issues at a rate much higher than other professions.

While stress can be healthy in small doses, constant and intense stress can negatively affect all aspects of one’s life. The body responds to stress by releasing hormones that raise blood pressure, cause the heart to pound, make muscles tighten, and prevent concentration. Stress also impairs mood and mental health by manifesting in depression, personality changes, and anxiety disorders. These physical and mental effects can damage one’s interpersonal relationships and job performance, perpetuating a harmful feedback cycle. Unfortunately, burnout, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” is incredibly well-documented in the legal industry because of the prevailing response: brushing stress under the rug instead of learning how to manage it.

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