If you’re in law school, stress is probably a feeling that is quite familiar to you. Between readings, outlining, keeping up with legal writing assignments and managing extracurriculars, things can start to feel overwhelming pretty quickly. Managing stress is a skill that every law student should develop, but it’s also something that is always harder than it sounds. Here are a few things to consider doing to manage your stress in law school:
Keep Yourself Physically Healthy
Our bodies are far more capable of managing stress when we’re healthy. While you might feel like you don’t have time to eat well, sleep and exercise, keeping your body healthy is imperative to managing the stress of law school. As fundamental as they are, taking care of these basic needs is one of the easiest things to neglect when school and work gets overwhelming, but doing so can quickly result in feeling rundown or burned out. Try to think of these things as equally important to your school work (if you neglect them your work will likely suffer anyway). You should carve out some time each week to plan easy meals and get at least some exercise. Most importantly, try to block off enough time to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Consistently getting less than this can lead to lowered cognitive function – something that no one needs in law school!
Maintain a Life Outside of Law School
Of course, being involved in school activities and finding friends at school are important, and may even help relieve some of the stress of academics. Too much of this, however, might leave you feeling like your entire life has been absorbed by law school. Having a few things in your life that are completely unrelated to law school can make a huge difference in fighting stress and burnout. They give you some time to totally disconnect and tune in to something completely separate from your law school life. This can be especially helpful if you are able to spend time with someone who does not go to (or have any connection with) law school. More than likely, they aren’t going to want to listen to you go on and on about school, so you’ll be forced to focus on something else and give your mind a break.
Be Realistic in your Extracurricular Commitments
It may be tempting to get involved in as many extracurriculars as you possible can in an effort to bulk up your resume with law-related activities, but it will be in your best interest to be selective in your commitments. Many clubs may not seem like they are a huge time commitment, and in the abstract, it always feels like you can “find a few hours” to spend on those commitments. However, those “few hours” can add up quickly. Given the pressure that comes with the law school curve and the importance of grades in the job market, you will likely be far better served by committing yourself to your courses, and choosing only a couple of extracurriculars that you can fully commit to without feeling like you’re stretched too thin.
This is incredibly easy to neglect, and often it can feel like there is no time for breaks in your busy schedule. On top of that, it is very easy to feel “guilty” for taking a break – after all, there is virtually always something that you could be working on. But, no one can work every hour of every day, and trying to do so can leave you feeling exhausted and frustrated when you inevitably begin to lose focus. It is crucial to plan in short breaks when scheduling your study time – taking just a few minutes to walk around can help you reset so that you work more efficiently. In addition to giving yourself short breaks while studying, it is crucial to plan in some time off each week – even if it’s just an evening to watch a movie. Doing so can help you to recharge and avoid burnout, so that you’re able to maintain focus.
Try Some Relaxation Techniques
If you’re really struggling, consider trying some relaxation techniques like meditation, breathing exercises or talking to a therapist. I know, some people are skeptical about these things, but for many of these methods there is at least some evidence that they really do work! There are a number of apps available now that offer guided meditation, which can be a great introduction if you’re new to meditation. Even if you’re skeptical or feel like you don’t meditate “correctly,” the fact that you take a few minutes to just sit and breathe can help you reset. Try to fit a few minutes in at the beginning or end of each day to see if it helps you relax. In addition to the things you can do on your own, talking to a therapist can be a huge help in learning how to handle stress in a healthy way. Many schools have some sort of health services where you can talk to a therapist free of charge, so be sure to look into this if you think it would help you!
Law school is an inherently stressful time for most people, but it doesn’t have to be out of control! Taking some time to learn how to manage your stress can help you to be healthier, happier and ultimately a better law student.
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