Friday, October 9, 2009
Stress and anxiety are increasing as the semester reaches the halfway point. More students are mentioning that they are not sleeping well, cannot focus, are prone to procrastinate, and feel guilty or depressed about their academics.
In many of the conversations, students share with me the types of negative self-talk statements that cycle through their heads. Here are some examples:
- Everyone else seems to "get it." What's wrong with me?
- I am way behind and won't catch up no matter what I do.
- I will never finish this memo/paper with a good grade.
- I should be paying more attention to my boyfriend/spouse/ children/sick aunt and am such a bad person.
- I will never understand ________, so why not just give up.
Students often believe this internal negativity without any question. Instead they should rebut the negativity and refuse to blindly accept it as true. The rebuttal should take a more positive position and determine a strategy to resolve any problem. Examples of rebuttals to the negative self-talk above might be:
- Realistically, I am not the only person who is confused. I can get clarification from my professor/tutor/study group by asking questions.
I am behind in my reading and have a strategy for catching up. I'll stay current with my new reading and slip in back reading one case at a time next week.
I will do my very best. I have time for one more draft and several more edits.
I am not a bad person. I am balancing my time between school and personal obligations. My family members and friends understand the importance of school.
This course is hard, but I can learn it. I shall spend some time today writing down my questions and talking to my professor.
There are other actions that can also assist in dealing with negativity in one's outlook. By following some simple steps, life begins to look less awful:
- Get enough sleep. At least 7 hours. With appropriate rest, our brains are more alert and productive. And problems do not seem as overwhelming.
- Exercise. Exercise is one of the best stress busters. By taking a break for some cardio, students renew themselves for the next round of studying.
- Eat nutritious meals. Our bodies and brains perform better when we include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat or fish in our diets. Junk food, sugary snacks and drinks, caffeine, and processed foods provide less nutrition. And skipping meals is total no-no!
- Surround oneself with positive people. Avoid law students who are complaining, moaning, and groaning. You can take on their negativity if you are not careful.
- Break larger tasks into very small steps. You will feel more motivated and confident about completing a small step when the larger task seems too overwhelming.
- Take time to write down a "blessings" list for yourself. Write down all the things you can be thankful for and read it whenever you begin to lose your perspective.
- Remember that you are the same very bright and capable person who entered law school. You are dealing with challenging material and are among others who are equally bright. If you use the many resources available at your law school, you can learn more efficient and effective strategies for your studies that will help you succeed.
- Seek medical advice if necessary. If the negativity makes you ill or turns into depression, go to a doctor or counselor for assistance.
Most law students feel overwhelmed at some point during law school. However, it does not have to be an ongoing way of life. (Amy Jarmon)