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Managing Your Mental Health in Law School

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Our lecturers and tutors regularly remind us that depression and anxiety are more prevalent among law students and lawyers than in any other industry, and how our pessimistic attitudes and competitive natures leave our mental wellbeing the worse for wear. These reminders often include a list of helpful services, such as beyondblue and on-campus counseling services.

Sharing such information is vital and ‘see a doctor’ is great advice, but the journey to recovery doesn’t end there. For some, short-term medication or contact with a psychologist is enough to snap the brain out of the cycle of depression or anxiety, while others may need many months or even years and a variety of treatments to regain control of their lives.

Good mental health management is also essential to keep you on the road to recovery. Here are some of the things that have helped me minimise the impact of my illness on the rest of my life…

Pick up a hobby

People will often suggest yoga, meditation or running to help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, although these activities aren’t for everyone. Activities such as playing an instrument, and even sewing invoke a similar state of focus, and even provide a sense of purpose and achievement. Pick something you enjoy and make time to do it a few times a week.

Write yourself a letter

When you’re feeling happy and confident, write yourself a letter as if you’re talking to a friend who needs your support. Write down all the great things about yourself, some of your achievements and maybe the names of special people your life. Put it in a safe place and have a read of it when you need some reminding of your positive attributes.

Pat a dog or cat

Sounds silly, right? It’s called “The Power of Patting” and it has been shown that regular contact with animals can have many health benefits including relief of depression and anxiety symptoms. Whether you’re a dog or a cat person, find a cute companion and enjoy some fluffy cuddles.

Set a date and dress for the occasion

Catching up with a friend for a cup of coffee is great motivation to get out of bed. Whether you decide to confide in them or not, some good company always goes a long way to improving the way you feel. Make the most of the occasion by putting on a nice outfit and doing your hair/makeup. The first step to feeling good is looking good!

Take the day off

Sometimes fighting the way you feel just seems to make everything worse. When all else fails, sometimes taking the day off to stay in bed and let the feelings wash over you can be almost cathartic in itself. Just make sure that if you still feel like it’s all too much tomorrow, you have a plan of attack to either call your doctor or catch up with a friend.

Even if you don’t have a mental illness, studying law can be hectic and stressful, and at times overwhelming. Instead of waiting to hit rock bottom before contemplating your mental wellbeing, it’s important to find ways of coping with everyday stress factors. Just as a little bit of study each week avoids a whole lot of heartache at the end of semester, taking care of your mind will limit the impact depression and anxiety can have on your study, relationships and life.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 12 September 2012.

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