How can I get through Law School unscathed? Five pieces of advice we picked up from Wellbeing Week 2016

With over seventy responses to out Wellbeing Week survey, we distilled the most useful ones into a list that can make your law school career easier. Here are our top 5 tips:

1. Remember to relax.

Law students are the most stressed out people I know.

It’s easy to get stressed out at law school, especially when everybody around you is too. If you feel like things are getting overwhelming, these pieces of advice could be good to keep in mind:

“The most difficult thing about being a law student is having to always be around other law students. Law students are the most stressed out people I know. My main piece of advice is: Relax! Breathe, prioritize and surround yourself with people who make you feel calm and at ease. Don’t let those crazy, competitive law students stress you out or make you feel as though you’re not doing enough.”

“Take baby steps, in other words, do not think of law school as “LAW SCHOOL.” It is a continuum of learning and each class prepares you for the next. You will get there at the end.”

2. Organisation is key.

Work smart, not just hard.

The key to staying on top of your work lies in organisation. Being structured in approaching your work will help you avoid pressure, and thus take some of the pressure off. What measures can you implement to make things easier? Try the tips below to get off to a good start:

“Do not leave work until the last minute. Ensure all readings are done on time,” one reaction reads. “There is a tendency to do leave everything until the end. The issue with that in my experience is it increases performance and focus however increases levels of anxiety too. Plus you learn more by slowly taking in information and taking time to process it.”

“Keep a diary and write To-Do lists. Prioritise assessments, but don’t forget to prioritise your social life every now and then.”

“Work smart, not just hard,” another graduate suggests, “focus on the areas you struggle with and always take a break when you need one. Your brain, mind and body need time to reenergise to be able to work effectively.”

3. Socialise, know yourself.

Don’t let uni consume your life.

As a law student, it is crucial to remember to be social, even when you have a pile of work waiting for you at home. If this is something you are struggling with, there are some great initiatives on campus to meet people. Keep an eye on the LSA homepage to attend a social event, or join one of La Trobe’s many sport clubs.

“The biggest tip I could give anyone at law school would be to get involved and socialise,” an alumni writes. “It helps to know everyone is in the same boat. And when you need help, your friends will be there to pull you up.”

“Make friends and share problems, especially with friends you work well with. Share your problems as it is a good relief. And it is likely your mates are going through similar things and may even have a solution!”

“Don’t let uni consume your life,” another student recommends. “Join the LSA netball club or get involved in mooting competitions. Have a work-life balance.”

4. Listen to your body.

No, not me! I’m kicking butt!

As one (former) law student illustrates, it’s incredibly important to get enough rest and sleep enough – even if you feel like you’re on top of things. We’ve received some insightful stories, as well as some great hands-on suggestions that could improve your health straight away:

“I was 23 years old and had an awful headache that didn’t go away. One night I took a bath to relax, and my skin felt like it was burning.” They write. “I got out of the bath and had a rather beautiful rash, shaped liked butterfly wings, symmetrically running down my back. I went to the GP at uni. He asked about my lifestyle. “I am really healthy,” I said. He asked about my week, and I told him how I went to the gym every afternoon, catching up with friends and family, eating well. He asked what I was studying, and when I replied, “Law,” he nodded and asked more questions. I was studying law full time, keeping a grade point average of 6.4 on a scale of 7.0, working night shifts full time, sleeping on average 4 hours a night. The GP checked my teeth, my skin, and took my heart rate and blood pressure. He told me that I probably had anxiety and depression. I thought, “No, not me! I’m kicking butt!” He explained what the symptoms were, and I ticked every box. I was outwardly coping, but I wasn’t well. My blood pressure was 190/110 – dangerously high, my gums had started to recede from grinding my teeth at night, and my hands were shaky. I had six months of my law degree to go, and I had a decision to make. Implement significant changes in my lifestyle now, or fill and script and undergo weekly monitoring for my response to medications.”

“Sleep well, sleep often. Try and find and way to exert your stress by either running or other general exercise that is fast and sudden, like martial arts or boxing.”

Install flux on your laptop and phone so you don’t get too much blue light at night so you can sleep properly.”

5. You are human.

Remind yourself: you are an individual first and a law student second.

At the end of the day, remind yourself that there is a whole world outside of law school. If you are struggling, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure, it means that you’re human. Reaching out can be incredibly helpful:

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, talk to people, have snotty cry, do some exercise! It is not weak to admit that you need help, this is a very tough degree and I feel like people don’t like to admit they are struggling”
“Law school can be challenging, just remember that stress is just the body’s way of preparing you for action! Think of it in a positive way rather than worry about worrying that can be an endless cycle.”

“Personally I struggled with the length and intensity of my law degree. It’s a hard and long road and without significant support from your friends, partner and family, it can become incredibly daunting. Your law degree does come to an end, however, and practicing law brings a whole new set of challenges that you will have to deal with. Always remain open to change and accept these new challenges.”

“Remind yourself you are an individual first and a law student second – surround yourself in positive people so that you can bounce off each other – put your studies in perspective to the rest of your life and the greater world – Last, remember that no matter what tomorrow will be another day and it will be what you make of it.”

La Trobe