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How much stress can lawyers take?

Lawyers are among the most stressed professions, but there are some simple steps they can take to mitigate the damage and restore some life-saving equilibrium, says Dr Bob Murray

7 February 2017

Lawyers are not the most depressed profession – they only rank number 15 on the depression scale of major occupations (firemen, farmers, and forestry workers top the list). But they are among the most stressed, and that is increasing. Eighty per cent of lawyers say that their job is too stressful and one in three contemplate suicide at least once a year, according to the American Institute of Stress’s 2016 survey.

How much stress can we take? The answer is that it varies from person to person, stage of life to stage of life, context to context. Any living system needs a certain amount of stress to function optimally and for each there is a limit. A tree will bend in the stress of the wind, but if the wind is too strong it will snap. Just like a human being when the pressure is too great, when, like the tree in a fierce storm, we exceed our design specs.

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