It’s no secret that as an occupation lawyers are more prone to clinical depression and substance abuse problems. In law school you can easily feel like you’re drowning in stress. You’re expected to grasp complex material in a short amount of time, your free time keeps diminishing and there’s always something else you can do, learn and master.
To make matters worse, over twenty years of empirical studies conducted around the world indicate that contrary to conventional wisdom, nobody does better under pressure; the fact is most people perform below their capabilities in their pressure moments, like taking a test. In addition, pressure bends your ethics, and makes your relationships more conflict ridden. Mix these findings with the culture of law school and it is obvious that if you want to have your day in court, you are going to have to battle pressure to get there.
Can you prepare a defense against pressure? Some law students, you squeeze them, they focus. Others fold. Can you summon your talent at will? Can you deliver on a deadline? Can you sleep at night?
But you can manage stress successfully and safeguard your mental health. Remember, you’re not alone – most students struggle with the same stressors. Here are some tips to help.
Identify your stress triggers.
Consider the sources of your stress. Is it creating case outlines, writing papers, interacting with competitive students or your living environment? Once you can identify specific stressors, you can work to overcome them.
Also, consider how you react to stress. Engaging in unhealthy habits, such as drinking alcohol, loading up on caffeine and pulling all-nighters, can unwittingly fuel anxiety and tension.
Take care of your basic needs.
As you’re swamped with school, you might forget that eating well and getting enough sleep are bare minimum habits that contribute to your health and academic success. Make it a priority to get enough sleep and nourish your body.
Create a life outside of law school.
Many law students think that the key to success is pursuing every activity and opportunity, and spending non-class hours chained to the law library. This is especially tempting as a 1L when you’re not used to the strain and pace of law school. Many students say that suffering for success isn’t just necessary, it’s a badge of honor.
But taking on too much is the fastest way to burnout. While you might not have as much free time as you did before law school, find time to engage in activities you love. Remember that law school is just one part of your life.
See a counselor.
Because research has confirmed that excessive stress can both sabotage your success and hurt your health, it’s important to be proactive and troubleshoot potential problems. One of the best ways to do that is with the help of a counselor. Fortunately, most campuses offer free counseling sessions to students.
Be selective with extracurricular activities.
There are many choices when it comes to student organizations, with everything from law-related groups like the law review to sports and social clubs. Getting involved is a great way to connect with students and take a break from poring over outlines and case studies. But avoid adding too many extra activities, which can add stress.