Stress Management Tips for the First Semester of Law School (and beyond)

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I just passed the halfway mark of my first semester as a 1L here at BU and while it has presented me with new challenges and stresses, I’ve largely been able to navigate these new waters through stress-management and self-care techniques. They have carried me thus far and I have no doubt that I will continue to use them throughout my years here. Let’s dive in:

1. Getting Enough Sleep

This is huge for me personally, because I don’t feel physically or mentally my best when I’m operating on too-little sleep. Everyone’s body is different in this arena, but I aim for 7 hours per night. Sleep sets the foundation for so many functions in our body, and helps to restore us from the stresses that we encounter each day, which are processes that can only help us as law students. Arianna Huffington recently wrote a book titled Sleep Revolution which I am looking forward to diving into during winter break when I have some time for reading for pleasure again. While I realize that getting adequate sleep is not always realistic, giving it more priority can help with being more productive with readings and more focused in class, as opposed to doing as much work as possible with as little sleep possible and burning out.

2. Exercise

Again, I know how unrealistic this can be because my exercise routine has changed significantly between the summer and the start of the semester, but I always find that when I carve out time for exercise, my body and my brain thank me for it. I try to squeeze in gym time when my laundry is up on the weekends, and I even started bringing one of my supplement books for Torts for when I’m at the gym because the reading isn’t as dense as a traditional casebook. This might sound crazy to some people, but it works for me. If walking while reading isn’t your jam, there are also free yoga classes available to law students on certain Thursdays throughout the semester. Just moving your body for 30 minutes can help to re-center you during the school week or weekend.

3. Meditation

I know that this word might be extremely off-putting to some, but I started meditating in earnest about a year and a half ago and it has really helped me to manage my stress. I’m not perfectly consistent at it by any means, but acquiring the skill set is essential so that you can apply it when you’re in a moment of panic or worry, or feeling good but needing a little reminder to focus on the present moment. I find that even focusing on my breath for a few minutes of my commute to class helps me to feel a little bit more ready to meet the challenges of the day.

4. Practicing Self-Compassion

This is major for someone like me because I tend to be a perfectionist, which doesn’t always mix well with the feelings of overwhelm that I was met with during the first month of classes. For me, being cold called will probably always be mildly horrifying, even though I have improved in this arena already. What’s key here is not letting any “one” moment define the way you see yourself. We are all here for a purpose: to learn. We each start law school at different stages of the gate, but we share the collective status of deserving to be here, and not giving the “best” answer or getting the “best” edits on a writing assignment does not take that away. Speaking to yourself with kindness and knowing that you will improve in whatever area you feel like you’re lacking in are invaluable tools to navigating a legal education because we will all give the “wrong” answer or impression at some point. It’s how you handle the bumps in the road that will determine your success.

5. Finding What Works for You

This last tip is really just about finding your own adventure. No one knows you better than you know yourself, which means that you are the captain of your ship when it comes to navigating law school and discovering the tools that can help you to feel and do your best. If you’re a night owl and do your best work then, go with that. If, like me, you’re a morning person, make a schedule that is conducive to you. Maybe none of these tips sound remotely appealing to you – that’s totally fine. Finding a little bit of relief from the stress of law school might take the form of taking time to draw, or listening to a podcast, or doing absolutely nothing for ten minutes. The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving your well-being, which is essential during a rigorous educational experience like law school.

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