By Rebecca Fiss • March 03, 2013•Writers in Residence
This month's post is part two of a two-month installment inspired by a conversation I had with a 1L at a social event. She asked me what I would do differently if I could do my first year of law school over again. Two things immediately popped into my head. The first one, as I explained last month, was that I would get involved in a student organization right off the bat and more enthusiastically pursue a leadership position, rather than being scared off by my irrational fears of public speaking and of not getting my reading done.* The second one, and the theme of this month's post, is that I would take better care of myself.
It's pretty common for people's eating habits to get thrown off when they're stressed. Some start snacking and can't stop; I, meanwhile, lose my appetite, resulting in my weight getting unhealthily low around exam time during my first year. Going to the gym is often one of the first things to get booted from the schedule when law students feel themselves getting busy, and almost everyone increases caffeine intake and decreases sleep time. Obviously, these changes aren't particularly good for things like focus and self-confidence, and yet it's so easy to brush them aside when you've got other things to worry about.
There are an absolute mountain of articles on how to take of yourself as a law student (for example, articles on yoga, using exercise to cope with the job search, the general importance of staying healthy, and more yoga), which just speaks to how important it is and yet how often it gets neglected.
"But Rebecca," you say, "I came here to read about how to be more social in law school. What does that have to do with exercise?"
Ah ha. See, one of the great things about being in school while all your non-law friends are out there making money at their big-kid jobs, is that you still get free access to the university gym. Many of those gyms host group exercise classes, and this is where the social part comes in. By inviting a few of your law buddies along after school, you get to kill two birds with one stone: grab some of those endorphins AND strengthen your relationships with fellow students just by virtue of doing something outside of class with them. You don't need to already be good at whatever exercise you try out; I know from personal experience that stifling laughter with a classmate after you've both fallen on your backsides trying to do a yoga pose is a pretty good bonding experience. Find someone who's willing to make it a weekly date, and you're sure to come out with a friend (and maybe some sweet abs).
And if your goal is to be more social, exercise can help in another way too. It's easy to feel standoffish when you're stressed or not feeling particularly good about yourself; exercise is a well-known stress reliever and confidence booster and might be just what you need to bounce back after an embarrassing cold-call or a rejection by an employer (even if you've got a top résumé, it's bound to happen at some point, so you might as well be prepared).
*With effort, both of these fears have greatly abated since 1L. Especially the second one.