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Solo Sanity: 3 Mental Health Tips for Solo Practitioners

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By Catherine Hodder, Esq. | Last updated on

There is no doubt that lawyering is stressful. And it is even more difficult for solo practitioners, who often do not have much of a safety net or support team.

Stress is bad in and of itself, but it can also lead to other mental and physical problems. Here are a few tips to ease stress and boost your mental health.

Put Yourself First

Make self-care an active practice in your life. If you don't care for yourself, you will not be able to handle your personal and professional demands. Here are the following strategies to make yourself a priority.

  • Relax and meditate: The American Psychological Association reports that mindful meditation reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation improves both mental and physical health. If you are new to meditation, using an app such as Calm or Headspace, which offer guided meditations, can help.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Physical well-being helps with emotional health. Schedule walks at lunchtime, eat balanced meals, and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Small changes often lead to significant results.
  • Set up a sustainable work-life balance: Figure out your goals of what "success" means to you. Avoid heavy caseloads, especially around times when you have other commitments.
  • Find outside hobbies or interests: Burnout in the legal profession is real. Having hobbies or interests can help you switch from "work mode" to "rest mode." Doing something completely different than the law, such as gardening, crocheting, or woodworking, gives your hands something to do so your mind can relax.
  • Take breaks and vacations: Everyone needs to recharge and refocus. Not only do you need physical downtime, but you need a mental break as well. You may find solutions to pressing problems appear when you step away from them.

While suggestions are easier said than done, once you make yourself a priority, everything else will fall into place.

Create a Support Network

Even if you run a solo practice, you should not be alone. If you do not have a staff, you handle all the aspects of your firm, which is a heavy burden. Reach out to other lawyers with small or solo practices. You can share advice and resources. If you have a problem case or client, chances are another lawyer has had a similar experience and can help you navigate the situation.

Consider joining groups to surround yourself with people. These include community boards, nonprofit groups, trade groups, or recreational sports leagues. Making friends and personal connections helps to keep you happier and grounded in the community. Not only that, but more people will also meet you and perhaps refer clients to you.

Get Professional Mental Health Help

It is common to experience stress in the legal profession. Often high stakes depend on the outcome of a case. And lawyers who take on the emotional weight of their clients can suffer from compassion fatigue.

As an attorney, you may recognize when a client may need mental health treatment. You've probably done at least a few CLEs on detecting substance abuse and mental health issues. If you notice yourself exhibiting some of the signs you've been trained to clue into, don't hesitate to get yourself to a mental health professional.

If you can't remember the last time you didn't drink after work or the last time you were truly happy, consider scheduling at least monthly or quarterly check-ins with a counselor.

Although solos are usually reluctant to accept help, take care of mental health issues before they evolve into debilitating problems that could irreversibly harm your clients and practice.

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