Unless you’re an attorney yourself, you probably don’t realize the tremendous amount of stress many lawyers are under. Stress and anxiety often go hand-in-hand, which can lead to depression. In fact, a John Hopkins University study from 1990 found that of the more than 100 occupations examined for issues related to stress/anxiety, attorneys experienced depression at a rate more than 3 1/2 times that of other professions. The bottom line is this: lawyers, regardless of their areas of focus, are stressed out!
There are lots of reasons attorneys are stressed. Sometimes the caseload is enormous, and it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day. Many lawyers are “perfectionists” because they feel they have to be, considering the law profession is extremely detail-oriented. Attorneys want to win every case, and reach the best outcome for every client; this can be extremely stressful. Add to this the fact that many lawyers aren’t eating healthy diets or taking time to rejuvenate themselves, and it compounds the problem.
If you’re an attorney with a thriving practice, how often do you find yourself grabbing a quick cup of coffee in the morning and perhaps not eating anything until late in the afternoon or evening? Even then, it may be a grab-and-go meal from a fast-food drive-thru that’s anything but healthy. Maybe you inhale lunch at your desk, not giving yourself time to relax even long enough for your food to digest. Unhealthy practices for an attorney – and a sure recipe for stress and anxiety! Developing healthy habits are a MUST for those in the law profession who want to enjoy their careers AND their lives outside the office. Undue stress can result in depression, ruined relationships, and ultimately disaster.
While an attorney’s diet or the foods he/she eats isn’t the only factor in managing stress, it’s certainly a key component. What are the best foods for lawyers who are under stress?
First, let’s mention the worst foods you could eat which are those people who are stressed-out typically turn to for “comfort” – pizza, ice cream, macaroni and cheese. Foods that are high in fat make it even more difficult to deal with stress, and can raise cholesterol and blood pressure. The prime recipe for a heart attack!
Now for the good “comfort” foods, according to scientists cause the brain to produce more of a hormone important for relaxation, serotonin. These foods include those that are rich in fiber and carbohydrates such as baked sweet potatoes, sautéed vegetables over rice, whole grain bread, legumes (peanuts, peas, lentils, most beans), and oatmeal.
Fruits and vegetables give the immune system a boost, important because stress weakens the body’s ability to fight disease. Stress is a huge factor in many medical conditions and diseases, so it’s important to fight it with the right foods. Increase antioxidants and vitamins by including plenty of leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, oranges, peppers, broccoli, bananas, blueberries, and avocados.
What about meat and dairy? Foods high in B vitamins provide energy, and include seeds, nuts, fish, dairy products, and meat. Good choices are salmon, turkey breast, grass-fed beef, pistachios, even dark chocolate. The important thing to keep in mind about dairy is you don’t want to eat too much ice cream, cheese, sour cream, or other products that contain high amounts of saturated fats. Everything in moderation!
Attorneys can significantly reduce stress by eating a healthy diet including the foods mentioned above, and avoiding too many fast-food meals or foods that are fried or processed. In a nutshell (no pun intended), eat healthier foods, avoid caffeine as much as possible (in coffee, tea, soft drinks, etc.), and cut down on refined sugar.
In addition to eating healthier foods, take time out to actually enjoy those foods and savor the moment. By practicing a bit more mindfulness and thinking about the foods you use to fuel yourself, your stressed-out mind and body will thank you.