Hi Guys (and Girls) 👋
Being transparent about every one of my personal experiences including the negative ones is something that I feel so passionately about. For legal professionals, burnout is something that I’m sure lawyers will face at least once in their life due to the intense demands of the job, yet I have heard very few professionals speak about it.
After conducting some research, I found that no two definitions are the same. However, the definition I resonate the most with came from The HelpGuide (website and article linked below). They defined burnout as ‘a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress’. Interestingly, as of 2019 the WHO now officially recognise burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”.
My Personal Experience
Now I am no doctor, so please seek professional advice if you feel that you are suffering with burnout. I simply wanted to raise awareness and share my own personal experience with you all. For me, burnout became an all too familiar occurrence. Throughout my schooling and university days I did not know how to stop. I felt the constant urge to keep striving for the best, getting the best grades etc. (which are both positive) but not when it comes at the expense of your body and health. I never took self-care days or chill days where I would watch a movie. Now I’m not saying that I didn’t socialise in uni because let’s be real, I worked hard, and I played hard. Saying that, I would sit working on my computer for up to 12 hours a day 7 days a week along with going to events, seeing friends and networking. There would come a certain point in the semester when my parents would beg me to slow down and look after myself, but I never listened. I felt if I took even one day off it was a waste of time and I had so much more that I could’ve been doing with my time.
The first burnout came when I was in my second year of uni and it starts the same way every time – I get sick. Now I don’t mean sick as in a cold or flu I mean full on sick, Glandular fever type sick. Of course, this had to happen right in the middle of my end of year exams. Still, I didn’t listen to my body and continued studying until I physically couldn’t anymore and ended up bed bound with virtually no vision. I have to give my (now) fiancé credit here as he came up every single night and talked about what he learned and what he thought was important exam wise because not only that I couldn’t read my textbooks but I had no energy to do so even if I wanted to. Things got so bad that I ended up falling asleep in my land law written exam for 45 minutes until the invigilator came over to ask if I was okay. However, after some much needed rest, antibiotics and many pots of blackcurrant jelly I came back around and recovered. But I didn’t learn, and the vicious cycle repeated itself again…
Fast forward to the summer before my LPC. I had completed my undergraduate degree and graduated with a great grade. I was frantically looking for a job and further ways to fill my time when disaster struck. I got sick again, but far worse this time. My kidney decided to give in. I remember being sat in A&E with Mike and I wouldn’t even call my parents to tell them because I said I couldn’t stay in hospital, I had too much work to do. I am going to dedicate a full post to this soon as that experience shaped my entire outlook on life. In that one moment everything was put in perspective and all that work I HAD to do became irrelevant and meaningless.
Dealing with burnout
The reason I am telling you about this is to highlight that burnout has far more serious consequences than you may think. I want to encourage you to listen to your body. When you’re tired rest, when you feel run down have that lazy day, when your brain feels hazy call it a day. There is a reason your body is giving you these signs. We are not robots manufactured to constantly work. I wish I listened to my body earlier. If I did, I may not have missed out on the first 6 weeks of the LPC or put my body and my family under immense pain and stress. Although we shouldn’t reach the point of burnout here are some things that helped me deal with the aftermath of burnout…
- Catching up with friends and talking to them about how you feel
- Having what I like to call a ‘brain’ day – i.e. not using your brain. Be it watching a movie or going for a walk outside.
- Catch up on sleep. When possible, I like to have a full day in bed resting. I always feel rejuvenated and motivated after.
- Switching caffeine for herbal teas – I love my coffee but drinking obnoxious amounts of coffee can sometimes mask your hunger and leave your body feeling malnourished.
Getting back up
Like I’ve said before, everyone’s experience of burnout is different and lasts for various durations. Therefore, it would be naïve of me to say to simply push through it. I find getting back up even harder than the burnout itself because I am already drained. But it is possible. Surround yourself with good people that have your best intentions at heart, and I can assure you that slowly you will begin to feel yourself again.
Wow, this post took an emotional turn but once I started writing I couldn’t stop. If you feel like you need further help or advice, I have left some great sources below that provide an in depth analysis of the causes, symptoms and treatment.
The Lawyerist – How to recognise and prevent lawyer burnout by Kate Mangan https://lawyerist.com/blog/recognize-prevent-lawyer-burnout/
If you want to chat to me further about this or even if you’re having a bad day you can always reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or on any of my social media links which can be found at the top of my website 🥰
Until next time,