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Top 5 things every law student needs to survive (mentally)

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Stressed Out

Getting through law school is tough. You’ve got late nights, high-stress classes, competition among your peers, the looming law school curve, and that nagging fear that maybe you won’t find a job when this is all over. And let’s face it, the stress doesn’t end after graduation. I’m still dealing with it to this day! That’s why now is pretty much the perfect time to figure out what stress relievers work best for you.

If you’re a little sarcastic like I am, then you might have read the headline and thought, “I already know what law students need to survive. We need to be in the top 5 percent, get on law review, and get a great-paying job so we’re not drowning in debt!” And yes, that’s all true. But sometimes those goals take a little longer to reach, so finding some “zen” before then can really help along the way.  (And even if you’re not in law school anymore, these ideas can still work for professionals too.)

Find a close group of confidantes you aren’t competing against

Look for a close group of friends who can be confidantes. You need people to vent to who understand the stresses of law school. However, it’s important that these are friends you’re not competing with so you can get a break from that stress from time to time. It’s very possible that you can find that group within your law school class – I did. But depending on your school’s environment, you may need to befriend people in the class before or after yours or in the LLM group.

Give yourself a day (or night) off every week

When you’re in law school and your entire future is dependent on grades, it’s hard not to make your life incredibly myopic and do nothing but law school. But if you stay on that course, you’ll eventually burn out. The same is true in your professional life. I have a pretty demanding job right now and often work 12+ hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. Around Christmas, I took two days off and couldn’t believe how amazing it felt. Then it hit me… some people get that every week and it’s called a weekend! Haha.

Give yourself a day off once a week – or at the very least a night off. If you burn out, your ability to study will diminish, your memory will suffer, and your creativity will plummet.  One of my friends in law school devoted a lot of time to cheerleading in addition to classes. He ended up with great grades and a wonderful law firm job. The key is balance. Don’t burn yourself out.

Exercise!

Sure, at this point it may sound a little cliché. But working out really is good for you both physically and mentally. The key is finding an exercise routine that doesn’t stress you out more. When you’re in law school, you need something that will occupy your mind, invigorate you, and make you feel better, not worse. So look for something you enjoy. For me, that was swimming. Every time I jumped in the pool and swam laps, I felt refreshed and happy. For some people, it might be running so they can go outside and get that endorphin rush. For others, it might be getting a good workout, showering off, and then relaxing in a hot tub.

Get a pet (or two)

Depending on your situation, this may or may not be a feasible idea. But it can make a huge difference! You’ll feel pretty good about yourself when a fuzzy little dog is greeting you every time you come home. (Some cats do this too.) Petting an animal has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve your health in lots of other ways. If you have a dog, you’ll need to take it out for walks and fresh air. If you have a cat, you can train it with clicker techniques and impress your friends. For my first half of law school, I didn’t have a pet. For my last half, I had two cats. They weren’t lonely when I was gone because they had each other. But when I came home, they were waiting at the door for me and competed for my attention. Their funny, playful antics distracted me when I was feeling down. Owning them was a big stress reliever that last half of law school.

Join an organization outside of law school

One of the most important things you can do in law school is network – both with your peers and outside school. But to keep a little sanity in your life, you might also want to join a non-lawyer group. Maybe for you this would be a church that you attend on weekends. Maybe if you can’t afford a pet, it can be volunteering at an animal shelter or a rescue group. Whatever your choice, being around people who aren’t always talking about law can be good for your mental health.

Have any of these suggestions worked for you? Have other ideas that weren’t mentioned? Leave a comment below!