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“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn
It is Monday morning and you can feel every bone in your body begging you not to go to work. You are tired, exhausted, and need every minute of sleep you can get. For the past couple of months, you have been going in early, staying late, and now your weekend has been reduced to one day instead of two. Working in the legal field can be stressful, and the constant need for perfection does not make it any better. You stay awake late at night thinking about a million things that need to be done and worry about not having enough hours in the day to do them. You love your job and could not picture doing anything else; however, you have been experiencing a horrible case of the Monday morning blues for months now. It is possible that your body might be experiencing some form of stress and you are now seeing the symptoms. Maybe it is time for the much-needed rest your body has been begging for. If they are not dealt with, stress and/or anxiety can have major implications on your health.
According to Rose Gartner, “Stress alone costs three hundred billion dollars annually, including lost productivity, workers’ compensation, and leaves of absence.” (Gantner, 2012, p. 25) Stress is extremely expensive to organizations and, more often than not, our bodies pay the highest price. It is not possible to live a more fulfilling life while constantly being stressed.
What is Stress?
What is stress anyway? According to the American Institute of Stress, in the beginning it was hard to define exactly what stress was, “Since stress is such a subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us, there really is no satisfactory definition of stress that all scientists agree on.” (http://www.stress.org/daily-life) The article goes on to state that “Selye subsequently had to create a new word, stressor, to distinguish between stimulus and response. He struggled unsuccessfully to find a satisfactory definition of stress and in his later years suggested the best definition of stress was ‘the rate of wear and tear of body.’” If physicians had a hard time coming up with the definition of the word “stress,” no wonder we have a hard time figuring out if we are stressed. Stress appears to be the symptom of issues going on with the body, which may or may not materialize into anxiety at a later date.
Types of Stress (http://www.stress.org/daily-life/)
Acute Stress: Fight or flight; the body prepares to defend itself.
Chronic Stress: The cost of daily living, e.g., bills, kids.
Eustress: Stress in daily life that has positive connotations, e.g., getting married or having a baby.
Distress: Stress in daily life that has negative conotations, e.g., divorce or physical injury.
Research indicates that the number one cause of stress in the U.S. is job pressure, and, even more startling, a study entitled, American Workplace VII Stress, “found that 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help learning how to manage stress, and 42 percent say their coworkers need such help.” (http://www.stress.org/workplace-stress/)
A couple of years ago I started having really bad headaches. Sometimes they left me feeling nauseated. After several visits to the doctor and a couple of tests later, she had no idea what was wrong. So I was referred to a specialist. Looking back, I often chuckle because I was so worried that I even had an MRI done. I was convinced there was something major going on, especially since those throbbing headaches would not leave me alone. My best friend, Google, had so many different opinions. I later found out that I was having tension headaches. I knew something in my life had to change, and, after careful consideration, I decided that I needed my health more than I needed the job. In that moment, I truly felt that my sanity was more important than a paycheck. Working in an unhealthy work environment is detrimental to your state of mind.
What is the solution?
If you are beginning to feel stressed, it is important to try to figure out what is wrong early. Do not wait until it is too late. A healthy employee is more productive. Go to the doctor as soon as possible, get a routine checkup, and start taking care of yourself. If you are Googling symptoms, this might give you additional stress. Remember, Google is not your doctor.
When you are at home, try not to think about work. While this might be hard, you need to find time to give your body and mind the rest they need. Your health depends on it. If possible, find time to incorporate doing something you love like meditating, reading a book, or going for a stroll. Surround yourself with positive people who build you up. Hanging around negative people can drain your energy and you will only know the difference after they are no longer in your life. A heavy load will be lifted.
If you work in an extremely hostile working environment, it might be time to leave. If you are not able to leave right away, start creating an exit strategy because you can always make money, but you cannot always regain your health. There are still some things money cannot buy and your health is one of them. The solution can be changing jobs within the same firm. Sometimes we have jobs that stress us because we are not working within our strengths—for example, working as a bookkeeper when you obviously hate numbers.
In conclusion, taking care of our mind and body should be at the top of the list. Some of us spend more time taking care of material things than our health. You only have one life to live so enjoy it. As crazy as working in a law firm might be with its endless deadlines, your health comes first. Take time to breathe, set boundaries, and have a good laugh every once in a while. Buddha once said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Start figuring out how to manage and deal with situations so the little hills you encounter do not turn into mountains. So what is the solution? That is for you to figure out.
About the Author
Tashania Morris, ALS, CDF, has been a paralegal for over six years specializing in foreclosure and later transitioning into bankruptcy. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management and loves all things career development. Her love for the topic led her to complete a certificate course to earn the designation of Career Development Facilitator. If you have any questions about any of the articles written, suggestions about something you would like Tashania to write about, or enjoyed reading the article, send her a quick note. Tashania’s hope is to engage, inform, educate, and promote change within. You can reach Tashania at Tashania_m@hotmail.com.
Gantner, R. K. (2012). Workplace Wellness Performance with a Purpose. Moon Township: Well Works Publishing LLC.
http://www.stress.org/daily-life. (n.d.). Retrieved August 2, 2015, from The American Institute of Stress: http://www.stress.org/daily-life/
© Copyright 2015 NALS. This article originally appeared in the September, 2015 issue of the NALS Docket.