Working into the Ground
Law school often reminds me of the theory of natural selection - a survival of the fittest where the beneficial traits include an irrational ambition, unreserved contempt for sleep and a robo-like focus completely detached from emotion. But as a mere mortal, I often find myself wondering at the pressure we place ourselves under.
Competition and comparison has, and perhaps always will, run riot amongst law students. We’re often racing to meet the next deadline, to achieve the next aspiration, the next success. Some days I feel like the kid running after the school bus yelling in a futile effort to make it stop while everyone else peers at me from the back window. We probably all feel like that at times, but we need to ensure that we look after our health and each other during the mid-semester crush, and also keep our priorities in order.
Our stress is partly attributed to the common law student traits of perfectionism and pessimism, and compounded by the fact that, as one lawyer said to me, ‘universities are churning out far more lawyers than could ever be inflicted upon the population’. Supply is high and demand is low.
While we all joke about caffeine and artificial stimulants, statistics suggest that alcohol and substance dependency is on the rise as students look for a way to cope with stress and anxiety.
Instead going down that path, opt for more constructive methods of dealing with mid-semester stress:
If you are excessively stressed, anxious or depressed, ask for help. Talk to someone you trust and remember that although it might feel like it, you are never alone. Even veteran law students struggle at times to juggle the demands of their degree, work, relationships and extra-curricular commitments.
Maintaining a sense of perspective is key. Even just reaching out to someone and telling them how you’re feeling can help you achieve that. Whenever you can, try committing to an evening, day or weekend without study. This will help you refocus and study more efficiently.
Consider your priorities. Ask yourself what you really want to achieve in life. It’s no use competing in law purely for the sake of it. I’m not saying we should all abandon our law degrees, but the choices we make right now (and at any stage of our lives, really) should reflect what is truly important to us.
Be realistic, but most of all, be kind to yourself. Yes, your marks matter. Yes, your career matters. But don’t make the mistake of being so scared for your future that you end up losing your health, your relationships, or your passion for law in the process.
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