By Claudia Ojeda • March 19, 2018•Law School, Other Law School Issues
As a second semester 3L, I've learned some nuggets of wisdom along the way that I hope to pass on to current and future law students so that you can get past the “surviving law school” stage and actually thrive in it and in your personal life as well. All of the tips on this list are things I’ve incorporated into my life and daily routine, I hope they’re useful to anyone reading this post! In no specific order, here it goes:
1. PROTECT YOUR HAPPINESS: I recently read a book on happiness and the flaws of having a goal-driven mindset, read that again… a “goal-driven mindset.” Doesn’t that seem like the mindset the majority of us law school students tend to adopt? Many people think: “if [I] work hard, [I] will become successful, and once [I] become successful then [I] will be happy.” Quoted from The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Similarly, in law school, students think—if I just make it on that journal, get accepted to that clinic or get that summer job, then I’ll be happy. I’ve experienced receiving both the dreaded rejection and the desirable congratulations email. What I’ve noticed over time is that the “happy” I thought I would feel by “winning” is never long-lasting. While it’s true that “staying hungry” and achieving personal goals is important, making happiness depend on achievements also makes happiness a constant moving target. Considering how competitive the legal industry has become, I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way. Unfortunately, attorneys are increasingly affected by depression and substance abuse. In my opinion, the feelings of inadequacy and general lack of happiness substantially contribute to those issues. This is why I’m suggesting that you do yourself a favor and protect your happiness. Don’t make your happiness depend on extrinsic events that may or may not be in your control. Instead focus on your health, your family (and their health), how far you’ve come and your greater potential, focus on all the blessings in your life whether they be big or small and the rest will follow. Remember the law of attraction, focusing on the good in your life will bring you happiness which will attract more positives to you.
2. MEDITATE: I know you’ve heard this before, and if you have, don’t roll your eyes and be open minded! I first turned to meditation in the Spring of my 1L year. I was feeling overwhelmed and sometimes even discouraged by the amount of work I constantly felt I was behind on. I had no idea how to meditate but I figured if I could have 20 minutes where all I did was think about my thoughts and just breathe, then maybe this could help me power through the rest of my 1L year. So, I downloaded an iPhone application on the App Store called Headspace. Headspace is a great meditation app for beginners because it is easy to follow the guided meditations and keep track of your progress. Now, nearly 2 years later I have used many more apps and guided meditations on YouTube and sometimes I’m even able to guide my own meditations by focusing on the breath. I think meditation has helped me become more aware of others and their feelings and more mindful overall, it has also helped me have more positive reactions to everyday stressors, and overall has increased my emotional strength. I highly recommend trying to meditate at the same time every day, if possible twice a day but certainly at least once a day. This shouldn’t take a burdensome amount of time from your day, I meditate for 5-15 minutes in the mornings (depending on my morning schedule) and 20-40 minutes every night. Try it out, I’m sure you’ll begin to feel better and more in tune with yourself and you may even become more productive throughout your day!
3. TAKE A CELLPHONE BREAK: This one goes hand in hand with tip #2. I will admit, this is hard to do. As a millennial, I realize we are so constantly plugged in that it is a real struggle to not pay attention to your cell phone. And while I know that cellphones are fantastic devices—they help us find where to eat, how to get there, and even what to eat, taking a break once in a while is just necessary for your vision, productivity and sleep! That last one is important, sleep. If you’re like me, late at night before you go to sleep you check your cell phone, make sure your alarm for the next morning is on, and then you might proceed to check your calendar, e-mail, unanswered texts, LinkedIn, Instagram, and any other account you may have. The light from your cell phone screen, even if dimmed, is awful for inducing a good night of full sleep and the longer you stay on your phone, the more likely it is that you will then have trouble falling asleep. Recently, I decided to stop checking my phone at night, before bedtime I put my iPhone on do not disturb (DND) mode and then meditate. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “what if something happens and I get an emergency call in the middle of the night?” Well, not to worry, iPhones are set to ring, even if on DND mode, when a favorited contact calls you or when someone calls you multiple times (sorry Android users but I’m sure you have something similar). As to phone usage throughout the day, it is inevitable, but you should try to check it at certain time intervals when you know you need to get work done so as to minimize interruptions. And, if you have a Mac, you can also set your laptop on DND mode and avoid e-mail and iMessage notification pop-ups.
4. STAY ACTIVE: I think everyone can benefit from some physical activity that pulls you away from your lecture hall or study spot every day. In my life, I’ve made it a priority to set aside some time to exercise every day. I also make sure whatever I’m doing is something that I enjoy, because it is not only my time to be active but also my mental stress relief time. For me, Crossfit and Indoor Cycling provide just the right amount of sweaty challenging fun I need. But exercise is not one size fits all, if you hate the gym, then try something else. Whether it be swimming, Pilates, yoga or ultimate Frisbee, everyone can find something they enjoy. The most important thing, is to pick something and stick to it even if it means on some busy days you’re only able to do it for 30 minutes.
5. “YOU” TIME: Law school is hard work and while I’m not an attorney yet I’m sure our future careers will not be any easier, which is why I think it’s important to make time for yourself and treat yourself every once in a while. Just as individuals have different love languages, they have different ways of pampering themselves or making “me-time.” This can really be anything, it can be going to watch a movie with a significant other, having a Friday girls/boys night, getting a mani-pedi alone or with friends, or just even reading a book for pleasure. Whatever appeals to you, it’s important that you make time for it. I try to have some “me-time” at least once a week no matter how long my to-do list may get. I think it is especially important to get this habit going early so that it will carry on into your professional career. It becomes increasingly hard to perform at your best if you never set aside time to focus on yourself and your needs, so do it now so that you will do it later!