Law school can be an extremely daunting and stressful experience. Generally, law school attracts the type-A personalities. The overachievers. The workaholics. The perfectionists. The highly conscientious. It can be easy to get caught up in the idea that there is never-ending work, that there is always something more you can do to excel.
However, high-level pursuits do not have to be colored by stress and anxiety Before starting law school, I made the conscious choice to stay mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit during the process. Having previously sacrificed my well-being for academic success, I knew the gut-wrenching lows that could result from ignoring my body and mind. I was no longer willing to give up my happiness. The outcome? Three productive and enjoyable years at law school. You too can retain your peace of mind if you take the right approach and stick to it.
Ten ways to turn law school and other high-level pursuits into a gratifying adventure and maintain inner peace:
1. Cultivate a spiritual practice.
Devoting time to my personal development during law school kept me grounded and helped me preserve my well-being. Every morning, I journaled three pages in a stream-of-conscience format. Whatever was on my mind, I would put onto paper. I wrote daily gratitude lists and read short motivational scripts. For you, possibly meditation, yoga, nature walks, prayer, artistic endeavors, support groups, or breathing exercises will work just as well.
2. Plan weekly friend dates and do not cancel.
Throughout law school, I kept a weekly dinner date with my closest friend. I never second-guessed my decision. In fact, I was more productive knowing all of my pressing work had to be done so that I could enjoy dinner and be present. I also maintained group get-togethers three times a week. Studying is important, but so are friendships. It’s all about maintaining priorities and finding the balance that works for you.
3. Don’t forget to do the things you love.
I love live theater performances, so I routinely attended shows. Block off time for activities you love, plan your schedule accordingly, and enjoy the experience when the time comes. Don’t forget who you are and what makes you happy.
4. Get sleep.
I habitually got eight hours of sleep, even during finals. I consciously chose not to procrastinate to ensure sufficient sleep at a regular time. With a good night’s sleep, I was much more productive the next day, had a better attitude, and felt rested. Not enough sleep means inner turmoil.
5. Regularly spend time outside.
Having two dogs, I took them (and me) to the park daily. I also walked to and from school. Regularly getting fresh air and sunshine keeps you feeling refreshed, awake, and high-spirited.
6. Move your body.
A regular exercise routine is so important! Those hours sitting in class and at the library add up. Intermittently move your body throughout the day even if it’s just a short stroll around the library.
7. Don’t internalize anxiety-driven chatter.
Being around law students can generate anxiety. You hear reports of hard work they’re doing for Constitutional Law class and you think, “Oh my gosh, I haven’t done any of that!” In those situations, consciously choose not to let it bring you down.
Don’t question your own abilities and decisions. I chose to avoid the chitchat as much as possible by not living near other law students and studying at home, but that approach does not work for everyone. Find what works for you.
8. Remember the study habits that best serve you.
People give a LOT of advice. "You must condense outlines. Brief all cases. Join a study group." My first semester, I took this advice to heart. I felt I was wasting tons of time and not studying effectively. The second semester, I successfully studied my way. By the time you’re in law school or other high-level pursuits, you’ve climbed the academic ladder. You know what it takes to succeed. Be confident that your usual study habits will not fail you.
9. Moderate alcohol consumption.
Law students are notoriously heavy drinkers. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation. Waking up hungover and exhausted will not cultivate inner peace. Balance and moderation are keys to maintaining a positive outlook in law school and in life. You will also have more time and energy for activities you love if you limit alcohol consumption.
10. Give your body premium fuel.
A nutritious diet leaves you feeling great. Keep healthy snacks on hand. Don’t resort to vending machines. Moderate caffeine.
These 10 techniques worked for me, but your methods might need to be uniquely identified and implemented. In any case, a mindful approach to high-level pursuits is best if you want to maintain your inner tranquility.