We asked members of the Legal Cheek team to share some of their top tips they have found useful for managing their mental health and wellbeing. Here’s what they had to say…
By Editorial Team. Published 25 September 2023.
My tip would be to have a hobby that is completely separate from your studies. With application season in full swing and deadlines looming, it is easy to get burnt out and not take the best care of yourself, which can negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing.
Having hobbies such as cooking or running, and ensuring you make time for them each week, means that you are making yourself a priority. This can help your mental health, as it is quite easy to put your wellbeing second to your studies and be hard on yourself when facing rejection from applications. Having a hobby also allows you to have a positive, productive outlook separate from your studies where you can learn and develop a skill whilst mentally removing yourself from the stressful world of academia.
One of my most important takeaways from university is that sometimes your mental health and wellbeing must take priority over work and deadlines. In such an intense, deadline-driven environment, it’s easy to let university work and applications consume your life. Although these things are definitely important, I think it’s crucial to bear in mind that you can’t pour from an empty cup; no matter how hard you push yourself, you’ll never achieve your best work if your mental health is suffering, and in the end you’ll only feel worse. I would recommend setting aside plenty of time for yourself to relax and unwind – even an hour a day spent doing something enjoyable can really boost your mood and keep you going. I also think that it’s important to let people know when you’re struggling so they can support you – be that an academic tutor, a friend, family member, or your GP.
I would advise those studying and putting in applications to consider how your physical health impacts your mental wellbeing. As a law undergraduate, I found that prioritising my physical health had a significantly positive effect on my mental health.
Try to focus on your sleep pattern, drink plenty of water, go for regular walks or join a sports club. Also, where possible, maintain a balanced diet (Pot Noodle is a good snack every once in a while) and manage your caffeine intake. It is easy to let all of these aspects take a back seat when the pressure of deadlines and workload is building, however, I found that treating these habits as non-negotiable meant that I could deal with that pressure more effectively, and the quality of my work improved too.
My top tip for law school would be to try not to compare yourself to others, whether that’s with studying, or seeing what other people are doing on LinkedIn. Not comparing yourself to others is much easier said than done, especially when it comes to law school, but part of university really is learning more about yourself and working out what works best for you.
Don’t feel pressured to study for a certain amount of time in a certain way because that’s what other people are doing; some people work better late at night; some people work better treating studying like a 9-5 job. The most important thing is that you know the best way for you to study and you go with that. Everyone is so different and our minds work in completely different ways, and it’s so important that you look after your mental health and listen to your body to ensure that you work in the best way for yourself to prevent burnout. Sometimes, taking a break and giving yourself some down time will mean that you can study better in the future.
My biggest tip during university would be to join a society or sports team outside of your degree. One advantage of joining a sports team is that it allows you to get regularly scheduled exercise, which is something that I felt was really important to prioritise during my studies. There’s also a really important social aspect. You’ll be able to meet new people outside of your degree and make friends with lots of different types of people.
For me, joining a sports team helped me take a break from my studies and move my body for practice and training sessions. This can be great for someone who struggles to implement breaks in their work and often works for hours on end without some time away from the computer.
My biggest takeaway from university is to not take anything too seriously. I learnt this the hard way. Often participating in competitions like moot courts, I always attached myself to the outcome too strongly, thereby missing out on the fun that the process could offer me. Where the results weren’t in my favour, I remember feeling dejected, which would take a huge toll on my mental health. Over time, I learnt to take everything in my stride and start treating each challenge I faced as a new opportunity. Law school is a unique experience, and one should make sure to savour every bit of it.
Another good piece of advice is to do what you enjoy at university, be it sports, academics, or writing. The undergraduate years of your life are never going to come back, and life is only going to get busier. It is, therefore, important to explore your interests while you can, and figure yourself out as an individual.
There are various moments during your studies when a challenge may feel insurmountable. The thought of working through some really challenging material, tackling applications, getting a top grade in an important essay or exam can all make students feel a lot of pressure and have a detrimental effect on their wellbeing.
Taking the time to break down these tasks into bite-size chunks, where you feel like you can make tangible progress can provide a strong sense of satisfaction, as well as reducing a mountain to a few manageable tasks. Go for short periods of high-quality studying rather than spending more time being less focused and productive. If you think you need a break, take one. If you need to change the pace of your work, go for it. You know yourself best and you will do better running your own race – don’t let the stereotypes of spending all day studying damage your wellbeing.
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