Whether friends, family, schoolmates, professors, coworkers, or employers, build a support system around you.
Although just over 35,000 students passed law school in 2022, the number has steadily declined since 2013, according to a 2022 survey by Statista. An argument could be made that this decline can be attributed to the fact that law school can be challenging, but a more nuanced perspective highlights the detrimental mental health effects it has on students. The Bar Examiners 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being found that substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, and trauma were common struggles for students.
Preventing these disorders and other mental health challenges intentionally is crucial because you’ll need a healthy and strong mind to navigate the work and intensity of law school. Maintain your mental health throughout law school with these practices.
Familiarize Yourself With Your School’s Mental Health Resources
Law school is a big commitment. You’ll spend a lot of time on your studies and campus. You would think that students would be highly informed of all their school’s resources, including mental health resources. However, this is quite the opposite from the reality. Because of this, it’s a good idea to know what mental health resources are available to you while you’re there.
A 2021 study revealed that only 23% of students knew where to go for on-campus professional mental health services — that’s less than a quarter of students. And just because they know where to find the resources, it doesn’t mean they’re using them.
Your school leaders want you to use the on-campus resources available to you for mental health care. So, find them and use them. Visit your student center to find out more information on what’s available and make a commitment to using resources monthly and whenever the need arises.
Actively Nurture Your Mental Health
If your campus doesn’t have the mental health care services you require to get the help you need, the buck can’t stop there. You need to be an advocate for your mental health and actively nurture it yourself.
Your schedule is likely pretty busy as a law student. But that isn’t an excuse to neglect your mental health. You can enhance your mental health with simple activities, like daily walks. There are plenty of benefits with daily walking including lowered stress and improved mental health status. Walks can help you center yourself and reduce symptoms of conditions like depression and anxiety.
However, walks aren’t the only activity that can benefit your mental health in law school. If you’re looking for suggestions, consider the following activities:
- Start a passion project;
- Get enough sleep every night;
- Take breaks throughout the day;
- Keep a positive internal dialogue;
- Take a day off during the week to reset;
- See a therapist or counselor twice a month;
- Meditate for five minutes when you wake up.
As you can see, there’s a whole lot you can do to nurture your mental health. Make sure you’re adopting some of these or other activities and implementing them as much as possible in your day-to-day.
Be Mindful of How You Fuel Your Body
Many external factors contribute to our stress and mental health challenges, including food. In fact, certain food and drinks can affect our mental health and stress levels.
For example, sugary drinks can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes that trigger stress and anxiety. This occurs because sugar and caffeine can stimulate your body’s fight-or-flight response and lead to addictive tendencies that worsen stress and anxiety symptoms.
Avoiding these stress and anxiety-inducing foods is a secret weapon in caring for your mental health. Consume more stress-reducing foods, like:
- Fruits with Vitamin C, such as oranges and strawberries;
- Foods with Omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and avocados;
- Unrefined carbs, like whole grain bread and oatmeal;
- Sugar alternatives like stevia and monk fruit. .
Surround Yourself With Positive People
Law school is one of the most challenging educational paths to take. The long hours, homework, studying for the bar, internships — all of it can leave no time for the outside world. But you mustn’t isolate yourself, as there are myriad negative consequences including an increased risk for premature mortality, poor sleep quality, depression, cognitive decline, and a lower quality of life.
Surrounding yourself with positive people can not only deter you from experiencing the above negative effects of social isolation, but it can also provide the push you need to make it through the challenge that is law school.
Whether friends, family, schoolmates, professors, coworkers, or employers, build a support system around you. You want people that you can be transparent with about your experiences at law school, people that you trust. That way, you’ll be more inclined to reach out to them when things get rough.
Take on a Manageable Workload
The workload law students take on is intimidating, to say the least. 15 credits a semester, piles of textbooks, 1,000-page casebooks, hours of studying, internships, volunteer work — there’s so much to do as a law student and hardly enough time to do it.
You may have to tackle all of these things, but it’s how you do it that will save your mental health. Make sure that you’re only taking on what you can handle at any given time. Even if it means taking fewer credits a couple of semesters or passing on an internship, your mental health and stability are more important than anything.
Maintaining your mental health might be the last thing on your mind as you realize just how much goes into being a law student. But nurturing your mental health could be the difference between you graduating law school and passing the bar and dropping out.
Prioritize the tips above to make maintaining your mental health while in school an easy thing to fit into your life.