The other day, I spoke with a woman who told me that she wakes up every morning with generalized anxiety.  There’s no particular matter she is worried about specifically, yet her heart races and her eyes pop open in fear. 

She’s also not able to be present with her husband.  He’s traveling again for work, and even when he’s home, she’s not.  At least not physically.

Her parents ask her when they can see her for dinner, and she shrugs. 

I checked to make sure she’s getting mental health services, and she is.

While I am NOT a mental health clinician, I speak with a lot of lawyers who’ve been expected to be “always available” since the pandemic began.  Because of this, I’ve coined a term:  compounding anxiety.

Weekends and evenings have disappeared.  

The phone and laptop go EVERYWHERE on camping trips, dinners with friends, poised at the edge of the hot tub.  I see people suffering from the expectation to always be available, and the lack of personal time and space to decompress.

No human is designed to sustain this kind of consistent stress.

It’s leading to burnout, often signaled by apathy.  Women tell me they are drinking too much, not working out and feeling like they are not themselves.

If this rings true for you too, try one or ALL of the below:

  1. Get mental health services.  I know it’s hard now to find someone, but do not take no for an answer.  Tell your primary care provider, and seek help from a mental health professional immediately.
  2. Try to complete some of the “stress cycles” that occur throughout your day.  We may no longer be in danger from saber tooth tigers, but our triggers are now the email from the partner, the demand from the senior associate and an unexpected vet bill.

    Write down all the things you’ve got on your mind.  What can you take care of now?  What can most quickly give you a bit of psychic relief as you close that loop?

  3. Consider taking a medical leave.  This has been done by many WILL members.  Talk to your HR team.  You have rights, and your firm has responsibilities. 

Finally, if you want to leave (big) law, and figure something else out, you don’t have to do this alone.   

A drowning person cannot save themself. 

WILL is a path, a community and a life preserver.  You are not alone.  Grab hold and we’ll pull you to shore, rub you down with a warm towel and sit by your side as you begin to trust that you are back on solid ground.


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