Building Resilience: Coping with Stress at Law School

Building Resilience – Written by Jan Blair.

Life as a student at Law School can be a real challenge. You need to adjust to a new environment – deal with new concepts, subject content, ways of thinking and meeting deadlines (often multiple ones) tutorials, tests, presentations, social events and in most cases work commitments, as well as endeavouring to achieve some balance to your life.
As a consequence, you will need to develop the ability to function effectively under pressure, avoid burn out, manage stress, develop resilience and the skills that will enable you to thrive on the challenges you face and achieve to the best of your ability at Law School.
It could be said that the stresses and challenges you face throughout your studies are not dissimilar to your future life as a lawyer.
The real key to success is to develop strategies to cope with pressure, and stress and more than anything is to build resilience (individual stress management), and an ability to bounce back from adversity. A relevant mantra to consider, and apply, is “when the going is tough, the tough get going”.
Also never forget that everyone is anxious – not just you.

Helpful Tips to Manage Stress:

1. Look after your physical well-being:
• Sleep at least 7 – 8 hours;
• Take care of your body:
• Maintain a healthy diet;
• Limit caffeine, alcohol etc;
• Hydrate (2 litres of water per day at least);
• Maintain regular exercise;
• Massage.
• Take 30 minutes each day to spend “alone – me time”.

2. Take & Learn:
• Catnaps;
• Relaxation exercises;
• Visualisation (achieving and succeeding);
• Positive self-talk;
• Forehead massage;
• Breathing in for 8, hold for 8, out for 8;
• Sing and listen to relaxing music;
• Stretch;
• Meditate;
• Maybe learn yoga.

3. Relationships:
• Maintain healthy positive relationships with friends and family;
• Get involved in law school, student life and events;
• Form and attend study groups.

4. Personal Management:
• Work smart – if you work more effectively in the morning, do the more difficult tasks then and vice versa;
• Develop effective time management skills. Suggest only have on your daily “to do” list what you could achieve in that day – list no more than 5;
• Stay in the NOW. Concentrate on the daily list – not the end of the week or next week;
• Do create a long term plan as well – but plan only what is manageable for the day;
• Ensure your daily plan is balanced – not just work or study (e.g. put in exercise and time with friends/family as well);
• Attend relevant workshops available to you e.g:
• CV preparation;
• Interview skills;
• Time management;
• Building resilience;
• Wellness;
• TALK to someone – SEEK HELP if you are anxious or dealing with difficult personal or work related issues;

5. For study issues/extensions:
• Talk to your Supervisor;
• Tutor;
• Student services.

6. For Personal Issues:
• A counsellor;
• Student health;
• Your GP.

7. Learn to Relax:
• Walk with awareness;
• Connect to your body. Know when it is not functioning well;
• Study things that interest you;
• Listen to or play music;
• Draw; paint; colour in;
• Be in nature;
• Meditate;
• Maintain a spiritual dimension;
• Focus on a calm relaxed pleasurable feeling (practise);
• Be in the moment – NOW;
• Maintain correct posture, inhale from belly, not upper body;
• Learn relaxation exercises.

8. Some further useful tips to shrink your worries and day to day anxieties:
• Is it really your problem?
• Share it with someone else. Others will welcome your trust;
• Put it on paper. It’s easier to see it in perspective;
• Raise your shoulders, then drop them. Relax your whole body;
• Inhale deeply, exhale with a sigh a few times. Let your tension go as you breathe out;
• Give yourself 15 minutes to concentrate on your worry, then firmly leave it behind;
• Do something physical. Give your tension an outlet;
• Look for some humour in the situation;
• Imagine a few years from now. How much will it matter then?
• Find a good side as well as the bad;
• Picture the worst that can really happen. How likely is it?
• Say “stop”, pause and steady your thoughts. Now take a fresh look;
• Notice something enjoyable around you. Get into the present;
• Get up earlier to prepare to face it;
• Surround yourself with joyful colours, sounds and use your strengths.

Remember that once you have developed resilience and applied the skills to maintain a healthy balance to your life, they will form the foundation for ever.

Written by Jan Blair.

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