Often, we won’t notice subtle changes in the way we feel, think or behave or we try to ignore them, hoping they will go away of their own accord. It is much better to try to identify stressors at an early stage. We can put tried and tested strategies in place to help manage feelings of stress and counteract ill effects before they get worse.
Although stress is not a psychiatric diagnosis, it is very closely linked to our psychological wellbeing. So, it is important to pinpoint your stressors during the early years in practice, so that it can be managed without exacerbating any physical conditions.
Stress can be caused by a range of factors, both in your pupillage and in your personal life. Some obvious stressors to be aware of from the outset are:
There is a thin line between the two, but it is important to understand that stress and pressure are two different things.
The HSE’s formal definition of work related stress is: “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work.” Stress is not an illness – it is a state. However, if stress becomes too excessive and prolonged, mental and physical illness may develop
Pressure often enables us to function and perform to our optimum capacity. You need to recognise what this point is, and make others aware of it so you do not routinely exceed it. When demands are high and possibly unreasonable, we may not feel we can adequately respond to these expectations. We may feel out of control and overwhelmed, especially if these pressures accumulate over a long period of time. This is when we tend to experience stress responses.
Excessive levels of stress have been shown to lead to burnout; a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion.
People cope with stress and stressful situations in many different ways. Some withdraw into themselves, some will talk excessively, and some will become angry very quickly whilst others can be prone to tears. Remember, there is no set pattern of behaviour when it comes to stress.
The quickest way to reduce stress quickly and effectively is to engage one or more of your senses. This could involve movement – standing up, stretching or taking a short walk. It could involve raising your gaze and taking in every sight around you in a systematic and detailed manner. The simplest solution is to take in more oxygen, reduce adrenalin and calm yourself through deep breathing. Some other means of managing your stress include:
If you would find it easier to read this content as a document, please download it here.
The information and resource packs above are designed to help you during a very specific period in your training to become a barrister. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing amongst those in a similar position to yourself please get in touch.
Training to become a barrister is pressured and demanding. Intensive competition for limited pupillages (and when in pupillage for tenancy or employment) can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage those stressors, make emotionally informed, wise decisions and hopefully thrive in your chosen profession.
A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’
2 in 3 barristers feel that showing signs of stress equals weakness