Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stress-Busters: Six Suggestions for In-House Counsel

Stress! It's just part of being an in-house counsel. It can come from your workload, a teammate, your boss, your internal clients, your compensation, or personal issues outside of work.

With some discipline and commitment akin to New Year's resolutions, you can take steps to manage your stress. If you've run out of ideas for reducing yours, then consider stress-busters such as more exercise, more sleep, and more actions to change the things that stress you.

Hopefully, one or more of the six approaches discussed below will work for you or someone you're coaching:
  • Exercise more. It's amazing how many of my over-stressed friends and colleagues haven't discovered the value of the good endorphins produced by exercise. Accept this as a friendly reminder (and not medical advice) to walk more, bike more, swim more, etc. See Exercise and Depression (WebMD). Your stress may still be there, but you'll have more strength and vigor to combat it.
  • Sleep more. "The costs [of too little sleep] show up physically, emotionally, and cognitively." You Can't Do Your Job if You Don't Sleep. Fortunately, there is an easy fix. Commit yourself to going to bed earlier, allow for at least 30 minutes of relaxation before bedtime, and stick with it when you can. As with exercise, with more rest you'll be in a better position to combat stress.
  • Act more (to change things that stress you). This one will take real effort, but it may be the most effective of all. Make a list of your stress points and decide if there are one or more on which you can take action to change. For example, if you're losing sleep over a difficult internal client or your boss, come up with an action plan to improve the relationship. See Take Time to Invest in Relationships; and Embrace your "difficult boss," in-house counsel. Whatever you do, proceed with careful deliberation and forethought. You will need plenty of "courage to change the things [you] can." If you succeed, you will have proven a Peter Bregman premise, that an effective way to reduce "stress and frustration that comes from unmet expectations" is to "change the reality around you." The Best Strategy for Reducing Stress.
  • Push yourself more (and rest more). Taking a contrarian approach with an idea he says "sounds a little nutty," Tony Schwartz writes: "Subjecting yourself to stress is the only way to systematically get stronger — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually....The real enemy is our failure to balance stress with intermittent rest. Push the body too hard for too long — chronic stress — and the result will indeed be burnout and breakdown. But subject the body to insufficient stress, and it will weaken and atrophy.” Stress Is Not Your Enemy. On a similar note, see Work-life balance for in-house counsel: a contrarian view.
  • Lower your expectations. If everything seems to be out of your control, then follow Peter Bregman's alternative advice by lowering your expectations. Bregman says: "get used to not getting what you want. I know this isn't consistent with the kind of go-get-'em attitude most of us have been taught to embrace. But most of the time, fighting reality is not worth the effort. We can substantially reduce our stress by recognizing that in many situations, we have become perfectionists in realms where perfection isn't necessary, realistic, or even useful." The Best Strategy for Reducing Stress. For example, if you're frustrated by not getting a bonus or raise the last couple of years, then tell yourself that they are not that important. Or take advantage of a horizontal career opportunity (rather than craving a promotion). See Horizontal career moves are good for in-house counsel.
Given these difficult economic times, stress is in abundance, even for in-house counsel. Now may be a good time for you to take some actions to reduce yours. See other work-life balance posts on this blog.

This summary was prepared by Perry Cone and posted at LeadingInHouse.com.

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