In law school, stress comes from many different avenues, whether it’s dealing with financial pressures, grades, facing the job market or trying to prove you belong. While stress is inevitable, how you handle it can make all the difference in school. Below are eight ways to manage your stress:
1. Make Your Bed Every Morning
What I mean by this is do one thing everyday consistently. When you’re busy and your mind is in overdrive, it may seem like there’s no time for anything besides studying- especially minuscule tasks. Doing something consistently, whether it’s making your bed in the morning, mediating for five minutes before sleep or cooking yourself dinner each night – will you give you both a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of control over your life.
For example, I’ve started making my bed after I wake up each morning and this two-minute task has been a game changer. Tackling this chore became an easy item to check off my to-do list. This encourages me to get more things done each day.
2. Keep a To-Do List
Speaking of to-do lists – make one! You’re not going to remember everything, and this is a great way to keep track of what you need to accomplish. However, keep it short. If you’re writing twenty tasks on your list that you know you won’t be able to finish, you’ll disappoint yourself and stress out over not getting more done.
3. Be Present
The only thing you can control is the moment in front of you. Sometimes I’ll find myself in the middle of class stressing out about a brief I wrote days ago and wondering what the feedback is going to be like. This is pointless. Not only am I worrying about something I can’t change, but I’m not focusing in class which means I’m going to have to re-learn the information. The cycle of wasting time will continue.
To help yourself stay present, set clear boundaries for your day. For example, how much are you really getting out of waking up at 6 AM to prepare for your 9 AM class? If it’s really making a difference then keep going, but if you find it’s just making you more tired during the day, let yourself sleep.
4. Be Positive
I used to think that making myself miserable in school was a badge of honor and a path to success. When something goes wrong, like a cold call or even a midterm, ask yourself, “how important will this be in 5 years?” The whole point of this is to not overthink or create problems that don’t have a lasting effect.
5. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Taking care of the three fundamentals of energy (healthy diet, proper exercise, adequate sleep) makes a huge difference in your outlook on life and how well you can handle stress.
- Eating healthy can decrease fatigue and gives you more energy.
- Exercise improves learning, memory and also relieves stress.
- Sleep helps you pay attention in class and helps your overall health. At the same time, too much sleep can have the same effect as too little, so aim for 6-8 hours a night.
6. Eliminate Unnecessary Stress
This may be a no-brainer but eliminate stress when you can. This means:
- Automate your payments (i.e. credit cards, rent, electricity).
- Decide what can slide in terms of what you absolutely need to get done each day.
- Lie to yourself about deadlines so you have more time if you need it.
- Identify your stress triggers.
- Nothing gets my stress pumping more than a classmate trying to talk about the test THAT WE JUST TOOK AND CAN’T MAKE ANY CHANGES TO. (See – this is really a stress trigger). To fix this, after I submit my final I immediately put my headphones on and hurry out of class. This keeps my stress level from skyrocketing and saves my classmates from any unkind glare.
7. Be Grateful
You might wonder with so much stress in your life what you have to be grateful for but setting aside time in your day to help you remember all the good things in your life can reduce stress. Whether it’s something big like your health or small like that incredible chicken sandwich you had for lunch, reflecting on these things can keep life in perspective.
8. Give Yourself a Break
Even if you’re projecting to be number one in your class, you are not perfect. You will struggle, and you will fail. Don’t stress out and think that because you don’t understand how to attack a negligence breach or because you’ve wasted too much time not focusing on school that you’re not cut out for the law. Before you can be successful at anything, you need to be kind to yourself.
Stress is inevitable but manageable. However, you don’t need to cope with your stress alone. If you feel yourself falling behind or not acting like your normal self – talk with a friend, professor or even a counselor. There are people all around you who want to help and want you to succeed – including us!
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