It took me a while to notice how depressed I actually was. When I burst into tears sitting at my computer for third time in a week, I looked around my room and saw that I was just surrounded by papers and textbooks. I realised that I had not left the house for five days and that I hadn’t called any friends or family in over a fortnight. How did I get here?
During my law degree I became more competitive and if I got less than a credit in an assignment I would start to feel like a failure. I always wanted to the ‘most prepared student’ in tutorials. I stopped hanging out with my friends and threw myself into my study. I stopped eating proper meals and lived off two-minute noodles as I didn’t want to take time away from my study to prepare food. The only social connection I had was what I saw on Facebook during my study breaks. None of my friends or boyfriends could ever seem to grasp that my studies always came first: before relationships, before friendships, before family. I ‘lost’ two boyfriends because I was too involved with my studies.
But I got so wrapped up in being the perfect student that I had lost focus. I was no longer studying to learn – it had now become like a drug – I needed to be the best. But the lack of study/life balance meant I wasn’t performing at my best. All I was doing was sitting in my room and reading cases, legislation and textbooks.
After this breakdown it took me a while to realise that I needed to take time to look after myself. I needed to have more ‘me time.’ In my last semester of law I decided to have more of a study/life balance. I realised how important it is to look after myself. I needed to have free time, to put down the books and enjoy life! Having this balance ensures that you are focused when you study and means you are able to study more effectively.
Everyone knows that law students are a unique bunch of people. We are high-achievers, highly competitive and perfectionists. We work and study hard. During semester we don’t get to ‘play’ much. We have an unreasonable amount of readings and study to do every week and having a life outside of study is not on our priority list. The combination of these common law student personality traits and a demanding course and is part of what makes us more susceptible to depression. Most law students feel that they don’t have time to relax or hang out with friends. My message is that you do, and that you need to.
So before semester gets really crazy, get into the habit of taking some ‘me time’ and find activities that get you away from the books – writing for Survive Law and doing yoga have helped me.
You’re still not completely sold on the importance of study/life balance? In my last semester when I finally managed to grasp the idea of study/life balance I actually got the best results of my entire law degree (two distinctions and two high distinctions) and I even managed to meet some great study mates.
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