Looking After your Mental Health in Law School
Anyone studying law knows just how content-heavy and intense a course it can be. Combine this with pressures during application season and the competitive feeling we all get, it can be incredibly overwhelming. That's why it's so important to prioritise your mental health during your studies.
Law students experience so many different stresses and pressures - deadline season on top of application season plus pro bono, extra-curricular activities and many more. It's no wonder that we're always 'on' - thinking about the next project we need to complete or the upcoming deadline we have to meet. I've had my share of emotional moments over the last two and a half years, particularly given all the uncertainties surrounding COVID. So, how did I look after my mental health?
“I always make sure to schedule 'me time' in my calendar. That way, I never feel guilty when I take time off.”
It's important to notice signs of burnout as they appear. For me, it always begins with a lack of motivation to get anything done (which later only adds to my stress as I get further behind on everything). Now, when I start to notice signs of burnout, I will remind myself to set time aside for things I enjoy, whether it's Netflix, a glass of wine with a friend on a Friday night, journalling, or reading a book for pleasure that is completely unrelated to law.
How to Find the Time for Self-Care
I'm a big fan of planning. I use both a paper planner and iCal to plan my weeks and days. My paper planner is what I use to list all the tasks I want to accomplish over the week, and iCal is what I use to schedule my day hour-by-hour. This matters, because I always make sure to schedule 'me time' in my calendar. That way, I never feel guilty for taking time off.
The time you take to yourself can be 30 minutes a day every day, it can be two or three evenings a week, or one or two full days without working - you need to find what works best for you. Personally, I find taking a full day off best because that way my brain has a full 24 hours to reset and look at my course materials with fresh eyes.
What Small Things Can I Do?
One way to really boost your mental health during law school (which is perhaps easier said than done) is to get enough sleep each night. Getting anything less than 7-9 hours a night might leave you feeling worse than having pulled an all-nighter. Brains need time to rest to be able to absorb new information and deal with stress.
It is also important to eat relatively healthy. I know that during deadline season it can be much easier and more convenient to get a takeaway so you don't have to spend time cooking, I'm guilty of doing this much more than I should. However, you'll thank yourself later for having that healthy meal instead of another takeaway meal deal. Fast food might give you a quick burst of energy once you've finished eating, but you'll wind up feeling more tired, groggy and less enthusiastic than you would had you eaten something healthy.
Finally, make sure to move your body on a regular basis. You can take short 10-minute walks during study breaks. It's helpful to see the sunlight and breathe in some fresh air. Doing so will likely give you more energy when you get back to the books.
These are just a few small tips for how to care for your mental health during law school, but there are so many ways you can do this that I haven't listed in this blog post. Leave a comment below with your top mental health tips!