The life of a law student is not a walk in the park: The intense classes, the unending reading, the study groups, the stress.
It can be easy to fall behind on basic self-care when you are trying to keep up with the reading and impress your professors while dreaming of your future killer career. But taking care of yourself is not something you can opt out of—not if you want to survive law school in one healthy piece. Here are a few things that you absolutely must do:
Sleep. This sounds obvious, but you need to sleep. Your body needs a regular, predictable, robust sleep schedule. Even if you think you are doing just fine on five or six hours per night most nights, you’re wrong: Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and you can’t make up for lost sleep on the weekend. You will be sharper, more energetic, and healthier if you make sleep a priority.
Manage Stress. Stress is unavoidable both in school and at work, so you might as well learn to deal with it in an appropriate manner as early as possible. You probably know all the popular yet unhealthy ways to deal with stress: drinking, drugs, overeating. Avoid those in favor of healthy ways to destress, such as exercise, meditation, and spending time in nature. Don’t ignore your body and mind’s signals that stress is getting to you. If you’re starting to get headaches, feel fatigued, and struggle to concentrate, those are all signs that you haven’t been successfully managing stress. Immediately take the longest break you can get away with, focus on self-care (yoga, a long walk, a relaxing meal out with a friend), and commit to a reset of how you’ve been handling your busy life.
Exercise. Exercise will not just help you deal with the inevitable stress of law school, but will help you in other ways, too. Taking a jog or hitting the weights on a regular basis will raise your energy levels, help you get that all-important sleep, and even help your posture as you sit and read chapter after chapter. Activities like yoga or swimming can also help to clear your mind and leave you more focused.
Have a Life. Yes, you’re busy, but you’re not in jail and you’re not obligated to forego fun the entire time you’re in school. For your sanity, you need to meet friends for dinner, see a movie, or go have a drink every now and then. No one is at their best if they work and study nonstop. Look at it this way: If you’re already allowing your life to be completely taken over by your chosen profession and not giving yourself time to hang out, engage in hobbies, or watch a movie with your cat, how are things going to look when you’re at the mercy of demanding clients and an exacting boss?
Take Frequent Breaks. Besides taking time out to actually relax and spend time doing things that don’t involve being a law student, you need to build breaks into your day. Short, frequent breaks don’t just make you feel better during an intense day, but they help you retain information. Schedule breaks as an official part of your day—use apps or set alarms on your phone if you have to—to avoid losing track of time and working right through them. Use a ten-minute break to take a walk, meditate, watch funny animal videos while stretching, or whatever gives your mind and body a rest.
Eat Well. It’s tempting to surrender to the ease of fast food when you’re a busy student, and some days there just isn’t time to make a perfectly balanced, healthful meal. We get it—and we also know that with a little strategic planning, shopping, and meal prep, you can have quick and easy meals and snacks on hand most of the time, making the occasional pizza, candy bar, or giant burger not a big deal. Stock your kitchen with fruits, nuts, and pre-measured healthy snacks you can grab on the go. Pick one or two days a week to do meal prep, and you can get several meals out of a stew, chopped salad fixings, and rice. Be creative! Your body will thank you by having energy and allowing you to focus while not packing on unnecessary pounds.
Create Achievable Goals. Ok, we know what your ultimate goal is: To graduate, pass the bar, and become the best lawyer in the history of the profession. You’ll need to break that overall goal down into smaller, realistically attainable goals along the way. Give yourself specific, short-range targets to hit and congratulate yourself each time you reach one. The positive feedback as you hit each mark—even if it’s from you to yourself—will help to keep you going strong.
Make three changes to incorporate self-care into your law student routine. What things do you need to change?