Hello friends! It’s quite possible that we don’t know each other yet, but we’ll be good friends in a minute because I’m guessing that if you’re reading this we have a lot more in common than if I’d written an article for Wildfowl duck hunting magazine (It exists - look it up!)
In case you hadn’t noticed (you had), law school is a pain in neck. A very rewarding, fulfilling, ego stroking, pain in the neck, but a pain in the neck nonetheless. And if you’re reading this to find out the trick to getting five HDs every semester, stop reading now. Because we all know the answer to that – hard work. There’s no trick, secret or spell. You have to work hard to do well academically in law. Now that we’ve cleared up what we all already knew (but may have been in denial about), let’s move on.
If you’re looking for a few tips for balancing law school with life/coping with stress/dealing with the temptation to poke people’s eyes out with a pen during semester, you have come to the right place.
I’m not saying I’ve got it all figured out (I think I’ve probably got about 5% of it down pat), but here are a few tried and tested recipes for the soul that have gotten me through the past four years (note that at this point all of my close friends still have both of their eyes – a small round of applause, please).
1. You are not alone
Oh my good goodness, you have never been less alone in your life. Except possibly at Soundwave.
Every time you find yourself beginning to hyperventilate and spiral into that oh-god-oh-god-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-I’m-going-to-die-no-point-going-on-but-who’ll-take-care-of-the-cat? state, just remember that there’s no shame in feeling like you’re not coping.
Each of us is affected by stress in different ways, and get stressed out by very different things. If anybody in law school tells you that they’ve never completely lost the plot, they are a lying, lieface, liar. And if they’re not lying, then they’re superhuman and we must not go comparing ourselves to superhumans for fear of inducing even greater feelings of inadequacy.
The best way of reminding yourself that you’re not alone and that the horrible feelings are going to pass is by putting your hands in the air, flailing them around and yelling “HELP!” Someone will come. Maybe don’t do it in the water – they take that stuff pretty seriously. Actually, maybe just do it in a figurative way. There’s no shame in asking for support.
2. Make time for you
With most law students, when things start to get busy, the first thing we tend to drop off of our ‘to do’ list, is taking time out for ourselves. Tempting? Yes. Sensible? No. Bad. Naughty. Silly.
It is absolutely vital to your sanity that you make regular time for yourself. I don’t just mean going out on the weekend – although I recommend that in moderation as well. What I mean here is really taking some time out to do something for you.
It doesn’t have to be timetabled into your planner, but it does have to be regular. It could be anything from getting a massage, playing your latest Xbox game, reading a trashy magazine in the bath or watching some reality TV. Whatever makes you feel good; something that brings you back down to earth.
Make a conscious decision not to spend that time thinking about your assignment or figuring out when you’re going to find time to milk the goat (I don’t know you, okay? I’m trying to be inclusive!). Figure that rubbish out before hand. You know you’re going to get it done, and you’re going to be in a much better frame of mind to do it if you’re feeling your best!
3. Release the Dolphins
Releasing the dolphins is super important. If you’re a normal person and not related to me, you probably refer to this as releasing endorphins.
Endorphins are a hormone released in your brain that increase your pain threshold and in summary, make you HAPPY! The best way to get the dolphins swimming is to do some exercise. Hard out ‘I’m-gonna-puke’ exercise is the best for this, but even a stroll around the block will do wonders for your mood.
You can also release endorphins by listening to classical music, laughing, watching scary movies, skydiving or eating (a moderate amount of) chocolate. Right now you might be asking how I become so wise in the ways of endorphin chasing. Google my friend, Google.
But seriously, a 20-minute run may be all it takes to improve your mood. And if you still feel rotten after all the running, relaxing music and skydiving, just imagine how much worse you would be feeling if you hadn’t done all those things! Hooray for positivity!
4. Maintain perspective
Perspective is a very important thing to have when you’re doing such an overwhelming degree. People attain perspective in very different ways. Some people only need to turn on the news to feel overcome by the blessings in their own lives.
What works best for me is to take a few minutes to take a deep breath (or ten) and remind myself that this moment is only taking up a miniscule fraction of my life. I like to think about how insignificant the things that bother me today will be in 5 years (or sometimes in only 5 minutes time – I can be fabulously fickle).
In summary, don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff (hey, what a catchy little phrase. Somebody should create a series of motivational books by that title… Oh wait).
5. You gotta have faith (faith, faith)
George Michael was right. Self-belief is truly the most important thing for, well, life. You’ve got to have faith in yourself. Faith that you can do this and handle absolutely anything else the universe decides to throw your way. And you have to have faith that no matter what, everything is going be okay. Because guess what? It is! Everything is going to be totally fine!
You’re smart and kind, you have wonderful friends and family and don’t forget that delightful pet goat of yours! And don’t panic. If you ever drop the ball and lose a bit of faith in yourself, I promise that I’ll still believe in you.
See? I told you we’d be friends!
This story was adapted from an article that first appeared in a publication of the Griffith University Law Society. Reprinted with the permission of GULS.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 11 April 2013.
Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the Survive Law weekly newsletter for more.