Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

The Role of Acceptance in Stress Management

By Elizabeth Lembo, MS, LPC, LAC, Clinical Coordinator, Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program


It's natural for humans to look for ways to ease suffering, tune out stress, and distract themselves. We have amassed a litany of means to disconnect from the more difficult aspects of life. Unfortunately, most of them come with consequences, and many have the potential to create additional suffering in the long term. For example, coping with stress with excessive use of alcohol or other substances prohibits us from developing the skills we need to effectively manage and mitigate stress. In extreme cases the outcome of use might lead to legal or disciplinary problems that could negatively impact your practice, your relationships, and worse, your health and safety.

The practice of law requires a tremendous amount of time focusing on and analyzing fact patterns and situations that are about other people, which can lead us to avoid focusing on our own issues and mental health. It's a type of "occupational hazard" that contributes to the research that lawyers report experiencing high levels of anxiety, depression, and substance use issues. To keep avoidance from creeping into the ways we cope, it's important to accept that stress is a part of the human experience, and to use coping strategies that support us in navigating difficult emotional experiences rather than trying to avoid them altogether. Social media, advertising, and other messaging we are exposed to support the notion that something is wrong with us if we aren't "happy" all the time, and that quick fixes will solve our problems, but this is financially driven on their part and often not grounded in research. When we can embrace and accept moments of suffering as a part of life that we're able to cope with, we can put down the fight to "make it stop," and instead use our energy to cope in safe and helpful ways. Here are some ideas for making space for the wide range of emotions that accompany life as a human:

For more information on self-medication, avoidance, and healthy coping over time, or to schedule a free, confidential wellbeing consultation, reach out to COLAP:
303-986-3345 | |