Managing Law School Stress

Topics: Stress

A little bit of stress can nudge you to study harder and stay organized. Too much stress can be paralyzing and negatively affect your health. It can cause mood to plummet, anxiety to magnify, blood pressure to skyrocket and even your immune system to weaken.

In law school you can easily feel like you’re drowning in stress. You’re expected to grasp complex material in a short amount of time, your free time keeps diminishing and there’s always something else you can do, learn and master.

But you can manage stress successfully and safeguard your mental health. Remember, you’re not alone – most students struggle with the same stressors. Here are some tips to help.

1. Identify your stress triggers.

Consider the sources of your stress. Is it creating case outlines, writing papers, interacting with competitive students or your living environment? Once you can identify specific stressors, you can work to overcome them.

Also, consider how you react to stress. Engaging in unhealthy habits, such as drinking alcohol, loading up on caffeine and pulling all-nighters, can unwittingly fuel anxiety and tension.

2. Take care of your basic needs.

As you’re swamped with school, you might forget that eating well and getting enough sleep are bare minimum habits that contribute to your health and academic success. Make it a priority to get enough sleep and nourish your body.

3. Create a life outside of law school.

Many law students think that the key to success is pursuing every activity and opportunity, and spending non-class hours chained to the law library. This is especially tempting as a 1L when you’re not used to the strain and pace of law school. Many students say that suffering for success isn’t just necessary, it’s a badge of honor.

But taking on too much is the fastest way to burnout. While you might not have as much free time as you did before law school, find time to engage in activities you love. Remember that law school is just one part of your life.

4. Remind yourself why you chose law school.

Why did you want to attend law school in the first place? Maybe it was to become a policy-maker, champion for social justice or to follow in a role model’s footsteps. Whatever the reasons, remind yourself why you’re here and why it’s worth it.

5. Take advantage of school resources.

Attend professors’ office hours with outlines and exam questions in hand. Participate in study sessions with other students. And use any other supportive services offered by your school.

6. See a counselor.

Because research has confirmed that excessive stress can both sabotage your success and hurt your health, it’s important to be proactive and troubleshoot potential problems. One of the best ways to do that is with the help of a counselor. Fortunately, most campuses offer free counseling sessions to students.

7. Practice relaxation techniques.

Relaxation techniques decrease stress by slowing down heart rate, reducing blood pressure, alleviating aches and tension, sharpening concentration and minimizing negative emotions. Try deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or visualization.

8. Exercise.

While studying non-stop might seem like a better use of your time, exercising regularly has immense benefits. Exercise relieves stress, improves your mood, enhances energy and helps you think and focus better. Be sure to pick physical activities that you genuinely enjoy.

9. Be selective with extracurricular activities.

There are many choices when it comes to student organizations, with everything from law-related groups like the law review to sports and social clubs. Getting involved is a great way to connect with students and take a break from poring over outlines and case studies. But avoid adding too many extra activities, which can add stress.