Why is it Important to Look After Your Mental Health When Working in the Legal Sector?

Work stress can contribute to mental health problems for people working in any industry, but some job roles can be more stressful than others. Jobs in the legal sector can involve long hours during busy periods, and sometimes the work environment can put you under high pressure when dealing with strict deadlines.

Here are three reasons why it's so important to take care of your mental health as a Legal Secretary or PA.

1. Stress can lead to additional mental health problems 

Stress is difficult enough to deal with by itself, but there's extensive evidence that chronic stress can lead to clinical depression if untreated. Stress stimulates key regions of the brain that trigger anxiety, which can lead to these overworked regions becoming exhausted and unresponsive. Some people are more susceptible to this effect than others due to factors like genetics and early life experiences. To minimise the risk of your mental health suffering, it's important to manage work-related stress effectively and prioritise your mental wellbeing.

2. Mental health problems can inhibit focus and productivity

One of the most challenging aspects of being a Legal Secretary is juggling multiple tasks and deadlines at once while maintaining exceptional attention to detail. It's vital to be highly organised, focused and to complete tasks efficiently. Mental health problems like stress, anxiety and depression can inhibit focus and productivity and make it difficult to manage a heavy, complex workload. When you feel overwhelmed by your workload, you're likely to feel more stress and anxiety, which can, in turn, worsen your emotional wellbeing and make it even harder to maintain focus and productivity. By prioritising your mental health and taking breaks when needed, you can prevent this cycle before it begins and successfully stay on top of your duties.

3. Poor mental health can contribute to poor physical health

There's a clear correlation between physical and mental health issues, with a shocking 46% of people with mental health problems also suffering from long-term physical health conditions. In some cases, the stress of enduring physical health problems contributes to poor mental health. In other cases, anxiety and depression can make it difficult for people to recognise or seek treatment for the symptoms of physical health problems. We also know that cortisol, a hormone produced by the body when it experiences stress, can contribute to physical health problems like high blood pressure, digestive issues, fatigue and migraines. We all hope to stay as physically healthy as possible, and taking care of our mental wellbeing is an important aspect of protecting our physical health.

Protect your emotional wellbeing

Now that you know why it's so important to protect your mental health, it's time to focus on how you can do so. Scheduling regular mental health days can allow you to disconnect from work and check in with your physical and emotional wellbeing. Use mental health days to embark on restorative activities like meditation, exercise, socialising, and spending time outdoors.

Additionally, it can be helpful to identify what is specifically causing you stress. Is it a lack of communication? Unclear deadlines? A lack of respect for your work capacity? Once you have established this, you can take steps to consider what your ideal scenario would be. You can use this information to talk to your employer – you may not be able to change everything, but in some cases, team members don’t realise that they’re making your ability to perform harder. By communicating your needs clearly with them, you give yourself (and them) the best chance of improving your workplace. Taking control of the situation, although challenging, can also help you feel less stressed, as you’re doing something about it.

On a smaller scale, ensure that you’re taking breaks, and learning coping mechanisms such as mindfulness that you can use at work. It can also be encouraging to reflect on what you have achieved in the day, rather than all the things you have left to do. By prioritising stress relief and mental health management, you can make sure you're operating at your best both at work and in your personal life.

Article written by Stacy Jacobs.

Stacy is a freelance writer based in Oxford. After having worked in the legal sector for several years, Stacy opted to transition into writing following the birth of her twins. She now works to share her top tips and advice she learned throughout her career, in hopes of helping others be successful while looking after their health.