Ms. JD

Myth: Law School Leaves No Time for a Healthy Lifestyle

Ed Note: This summer, Ms. JD solicited lessons learned from law students across the country.  Several law students mentioned the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while in law school, including weekly exercise, nutritious meals, and plenty of sleep.

Joanna, a student at the University of Buffalo, wrote:
In listening to 1L war stories, I was often told that the only things I would have time to do were go to class and read.  I took this advice to heart, and often neglected to exercise regularly or pay enough attention to what I was eating.  That was a big mistake.  I am sure that my 1L year would have been more productive and less stressful if I had worked in a daily visit to the gym.  In addition, packing healthy lunches and snacks would have saved me both time and money (both of which were often spent by running to the nearest convenience store or restaurant when I was hungry). It is truly an error to underestimate the value a healthy body contributes to a healthy mind.
A student from the University of Oregon fully agreed:
Managing my time was the most difficult thing to learn while I was trying to pass my first year of law school.  However, with my first year over, I now know that I could have done things differently and that forcing myself to work out and eat healthy could have significantly improved my physical and emotional condition. Exercising is crucial, it might be one of the few ways to relieve stress, feel energized after hours of reading in a cold and dark library and days of recitation.  

Cynthia N. Zamminer, Barry University School of Law, suggests getting plenty of sleep during law school:
I don’t suggest missing sleep at all.  I’ve found that I function much better and I can actually pay attention in class when I’ve had good nights sleep.  After my first semester of functioning on 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night, I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I would listen to my classmates brag about how they stayed up all night to prepare for class and how they read enough material to be prepared for three classes ahead. The bags under my eyes and the gray hair sprouting everywhere was a clear indication that I was working against my health which in turn kept me from being able to concentrate and absorb the information I needed.  Not sleeping is always a bad idea.
Anette M. Divjak, Barry University School of Law, shared a personal experience:
Take care of yourself: such a simple idea, but one that could have saved me much agony.  A lot of stress was unnecessarily created when I got sick.  If I had given myself a chance to relax, eat right, and sleep more than 5 hours a night, my cold may not have turned into bronchitis and pneumonia.  I had to argue my appellant brief with no voice and a terrible cough.  If I had focused on better health and caring for my illness early on, I may not have suffered so much.  The stress of missing class because of an illness makes the whole situation worse.  You do not want to have to rely on classmates’ notes.  It is much better to be there yourself and not have to worry.  That is my number one piece of advice to new law students: don’t forget to take care of yourself.  In the end, you will have saved yourself from much anxiety.
Jacklyn, a student at West Virginia University College of Law, summed up the importance of a healthy lifestyle:
Nothing-—not good grades, not social status, not scholarships, not the perfect internship—-nothing that happens in law school is more important than maintaining your health, mentally and physically.  Make time to run, jump, and play.  Make time to eat fruits and vegetables.  You will actually be more productive and a better student if you take the time to take care of yourself.  This is the hardest thing on my list for me to remember, but it is by far the most essential.



I could not agree with this more.  I think my exercise regimen helped me a lot more than it hurt me.  If I exercised, I could focus better, I could sleep better, and it helped stave off the law school weight gain that a lot of my fellow students went through.  I found that allowing myself an hour a day to do anything that wasn’t law school made me feel a lot better, and made everything I was going through seem more manageable. 
I also found that law school made me more focused and determined.  While going through my first year, I ran my first 5k, 10k, and 10 miler.  As I go into my 2nd year, I’m training for a half marathon.  What is so fun about running 13.1 miles?  Well, its not lawschool. 

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