Managing Stress When Dealing with the Law

Managing Stress When Dealing with the Law

Managing Stress When Dealing with the Law

It’s your worst nightmare coming true. You are stressed.


by Sheeza Mohsin, PhD., LMFT
Hopemead Counseling & Trauma Center

Maintaining a low-stress family life is not an easy task since it is a different level of stress to deal with. Life can be incredibly stressful when things you may have never anticipated happen, and when you find yourself needing to involve authority such as police, lawyers, and other officials, the distress is considerably higher. Some examples of situations include couples who are going through divorce negotiations, a teenager’s interaction with the law, immigration distress, adoption or fostering and Child Protection or Family Protection Services, co-parenting in the absence of a collaborative relationship, and need for legal aid or death of a family member to name a few.

The number of emotions one can feel during this time are many. Some common reactions to a stressful event includes:

  • Disbelief, shock, and numbness
  • Feeling sad, frustrated, and helpless
  • Fear and anxiety about the future
  • Feeling guilty
  • Anger, tension, and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Crying
  • Reduced interest in usual activities
  • Wanting to be alone
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Smoking, or use of alcohol or drugs

When the above symptoms occur, they can impact the brain and induce fear, which leads to critical thinking may be impacted. This means that decisions about loved ones may be made without clarity and while experiencing emotional distress and fatigue. Here are some recommendations to consider when you are in these situations:

Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise as much as possible and focus on getting at least seven hours of sleep. While your mind may be telling you to keep busy or focused on the stress, taking time out for reflection, yoga, or meditation can be extremely helpful.

Research the legal elements around your challenge. There are blogs and writeups about topics in your area that may benefit your learning.  Interview at least three legal experts. This gives you a good understanding of what each expert is saying while you are simultaneously learning about your situation. Reach out to your community for local referrals to experts. It is a good idea to choose a professional who has specific experience with your topic. The American Bar Association can be a resource to guide you through steps in your area.

Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor. Make sure kids are getting some social time so they can dilute some of the stress they are feeling. Create an advisory council. At a time that your own stress may cloud your judgment, it is a good idea to vent ideas around next steps with a small group of 3-4 trusted individuals in your social and family circles. This helps you get clarity at a time you may be emotionally fatigued with the process.

Talk to a mental health professional. It is a space you can access to work with a therapist or counselor to support you during this trying time. Stress can impact our physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Interacting with the law can be an incredibly intimidating experience for most families. Making sure to take care of the individual self while maintaining calm as your focus on your task is imperative for overall wellness. Emotional support can benefit the entire family and should be sought via a Licensed Mental health provider.


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