My fellow law students — congratulations on making it to your semester break. Whether it’s your Spring Break or Thanksgiving Break, whether you’re a first-year wondering how you’re still surviving or a third-year realizing that you’re just under five months away from taking the bar exam (sorry to bring it up), I wanted to check in and remind you to take time for yourself this break.
I’m sure you’re sitting in front of your computer screen reading this saying, “HA! Take time for myself, but I have [insert lengthy list of law school obligations here] to get done before break is over.” Believe me, I’m sitting here writing this saying the same thing. I have outlines to work on, readings to get through, an appellate brief to research and write, finalize preparations for trial team tryouts next week, and twenty-hours of work to get through.
But at the same time, I’m sitting in front of this screen thinking, “All I really want to do, is binge [insert bingeworthy show here], and sleep for days.”
Guess what? It’s totally ok to do both!
But don’t forget that the key word in Spring Break or Thanksgiving Break is BREAK. It’s here for us to take a break from the everyday stresses that law school brings. And I want you to take some time to give your mental health a breather.
Here are just a few suggestions as to what to do over your break.
Stay away from school for a day or two
Personally, I’m not one to do all my studying in the library, but this semester, I have found myself on campus until 8 p.m. three out of five school nights. I’m convinced my cats think I have left them to starve to death those evenings. Then there’s the time I spend studying in the library on weekends. Most of law school life revolves around the work that is done on campus.
But, this is a “break,” everyone! Take time away from school. Do anything in your power to stay away! If you find yourself tempted to go to campus, use that time to explore campus. I don’t know about your individual schools, but Creighton’s School of Law is confined to one building on campus. Until last semester’s fall break, I didn’t know what the “other side of campus” even looked like. I had never been to the student center, the fitness center, or even to the large Catholic church that is the “centerpiece” of Creighton.
So, I encourage you to explore your campus during break. You may even find a new study spot you like more than your current one.
Get out of your house/apartment and explore!
If you’re anything like me, if you’re not studying on campus you’re studying in your home or apartment. Don’t fall victim to trading one studying space for another!
Get out of your place. If you’re like me, you moved to a new city, perhaps a new state, for school. Learn what the locals like to do. Find a museum to check out. Go for a walk in the fresh air and explore nature. Find a new coffee joint. Whatever it is you choose to do, get out of your place.
Take advantage of the ability to get out of town if you are able. Explore the next town over from you. Check out a state park. Tired of hitting the same PokéStops on campus? Use this time to find new spins and gyms in the area while playing PokémonGo.
that movie you’ve been wanting to see since it was released. Eat that pint of
ice cream without feeling guilty. Check out that nearby restaurant Yelp!
suggested to you. Turn out all the lights, close the blinds, and sleep! Do
something, anything, that you think is a treat to do.
You’ve worked hard this semester and that hard work should be rewarded.
Take a few days off from the school work
You look at the clock and tell yourself, “I’ll start studying in an hour.” Next thing you know, it’s a half-day later and the only thing you’ve managed to do is blow through an entire season of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.
That’s OK! You don’t have to spend every single day doing school work to try and play catch up. Take a day or two throughout break to do absolutely nothing. Don’t be afraid to take some days off!
By this time in the semester, you have already spent every day for six to eight weeks doing work. Give your brain a break! Take the first few days of break to relax and avoid doing any school work, if you can. This is the whole point of break. To reward yourself for all the hard work have put into the semester thus far and allow your brain to refresh.
Don’t beat yourself up
If there’s a day where you say you’re going to do so much work and you only do half because you spend the other time watching a Netflix documentary, don’t sweat it! Take a breath and remind yourself that you’ll get back on the horse the next day.
It’s not the end of the world!
If the semester hasn’t been going as well as you had planned, don’t beat yourself up about it. This time is also to reevaluate and start fresh. As a former friend once told me, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” I pass this along to you! Don’t look back on the semester up to this point and bring yourself down. Rather, look back and ask, “What can I do to make going forward better?”
End break by getting back to the grind
Take the last weekend in your break to get back on the horse and back to your regular school routines. Remember, this week is for a breather, and at some point, you’re going to have to get back to the law school grind. I say to do this the weekend before you go back to class because this may be your normal routine for the weekends as is; I know it is for me.
By this point, your brain should be ready to go back to the grind, and you have made a significant dent in your sleep debt. So, get back on the horse and focus on the finish line: finals! Never forget, you’ve made it this far, you can definitely make it another four to six weeks!! I believe in you!
No matter what you decide to do this Spring or Thanksgiving Break, have fun and be safe. More importantly, as my 1L Legal Research and Writing professor would say, “Don’t do anything you would have to report to the bar.”
More on wellness from Student Lawyer
⇒ Test stress: Take care of yourself during exam season
⇒ From the deans: The law school wellness questions they hear the most
⇒ Why I walk: Staying physically and mentally healthy
⇒ Law School Essentials: Mental health resources