Mind over Matter: Keeping Your Sanity in Law School

Virginia Capital Trail

by Emily O’Hara, 3L

In law school, you may face similar challenges to those you experienced while studying in college or while working at your job. Some familiar challenges may include lack of sleep and increased stress. In law school, you may also experience new and unique challenges. Law school requires students to complete a lot of reading. Additionally, class and extracurricular activity schedules may lead students to be at the law school from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. Even when you do have a break in your daily schedule, there is always something that you could be doing to get ahead. At times, law school can be overwhelming. Here are some tips and tricks that can help you practice mindfulness and manage stress. These tips can also be of use as you continue preparing law school application materials!

10 Things You Can Fit into Your Schedule to Prevent Mental Burnout – Lessons from a 3L:

  1. Set a Timer for 10 or 20 minutes. Close Your Eyes.
    When feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or tired – take a moment for yourself. Some people call this meditation; some call it napping. Either way, it is helpful to rest your brain. You have been reading and looking at a computer all day. It is time to give your eyes a break!
  1. Engage the Other Side of Your Brain.
    Play some music, doodle, or color in your adult coloring book. Do something creative that makes you happy. Sometimes focusing on something other than law school assignments can help you feel refreshed when finishing those last few tasks on your to-do list.
  1. Set Reasonable Daily Goals.
    If you like to make lists and notice that you are not checking off as much as you would like, reevaluate what you are completing throughout a day. Take the time to reorganize. Prioritize the bigger assignments and the assignments that are due the next day. Leave some time to watch your favorite TV show or read a book for fun.
  1. Learn How to Shift.
    When you cannot complete those tasks on your daily to-do list by the end of the night, do not panic. Look at the rest of your week and find time to reschedule. Trust yourself and your process – you will find the time you need to complete everything.
  1. When Stressed, Think in Increments of Time.
    You’re looking at your calendar. There is so much going on this month! There is so much going on this week! If you start to feel overwhelmed, look only to what you have to complete today. If your list for today seems overwhelming, think only about what you have to complete this morning, or within this one hour.
  1. Do Not Feel Guilty. Take Time to Relax.
    You do not have to feel guilty for taking a moment for yourself! Sure, there are 100 other things you could be doing for school. But taking the break now will result in less burnout later on in the semester.
  1. Block Out Time Each Week to Visit with Friends. Try NOT to Talk About Law School.
    Having a social life in law school sometimes seems impossible, but it is necessary. Block out time each week to go out to lunch with your friends, see a movie, or go to dinner with your significant other. Try not to worry about upcoming assignments or stress about all the reading you need to complete when you get home. Take the time to decompress and enjoy your time as a young adult. Explore your new law-school town with new friends.
  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.
    We are all on different paths. We all have different goals. We all have different life experiences. One person’s version of success looks vastly different than his neighbor’s version of success. When it comes to the study methods you use for exams or the jobs you are applying to for your summer internship – stay true to yourself.
  1. Keep it All in Perspective.
    Law school is HARD. That is why most people do not do it. By even considering law school – you are embarking on a path that most of the population will never walk down. Be PROUD of how far you have come so far. One wrong answer in class will not impact your academic performance. One poor grade will not impact your ability to become a great lawyer. Remember why you are here. Remember your goals. Do not let small failures discourage you.
  1. Ask for Help When You Need It.
    We all need a little extra help now and then. Go to your professor’s office hours and tell them you are struggling. Ask for an extension on an assignment if you cannot complete it on time. Talk to your support systems about your concerns and anxieties. Visit the counseling center. At William & Mary Law, you have endless resources. People are here to help. Use them.