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Lawyering Program

Stress 101

October 09, 2012

by Lauren McDonald

Law school is an inherently stressful experience.  Although you may know some people who breeze through classes, exams, job interviews, and extracurricular activities without the smallest hint of stress, they are assuredly the minority.  For the rest of us, dealing with stress can be one of the most valuable skills we develop in law school.  The goal of this blog post is to give you some generalized advice and resources that might be helpful in developing your own stress-management regime.  I say stress-management purposefully because it’s practically impossible to eliminate stress from your daily life.  For me, the best strategies handle the pressures of law school are: (1) minimizing unnecessary stress and (2) managing whatever’s left.

When I say minimizing unnecessary stress, I don’t mean that you shouldn’t be stressed about things like exam prep, keeping up with reading, and making sure you have a good handle on the course material.  Instead, I mean that you should be stingy about your stress allocation.  If you think of yourself as having a maximum amount of stress you can tolerate, you can try to avoid stressing out about things that are less important, like extracurricular activities.  This is not to say that you should not get involved with student groups, only that you should be cautious about how much responsibility you take on in your first year, and that you should prioritize your studies over other responsibilities. For me, this meant taking on a leadership role in a few student groups while not taking advantage of other opportunities, like volunteer source checking for Animal Law Review.  I joined Animal Law Review in my second year, but there are still other opportunities that I plan to put off until third year.  Your academic responsibilities will no doubt cause you stress at times, and you should be able to handle that stress without worrying too much about all of your other commitments. 

Managing the stress you do have is equally important.  It sounds cheesy, but something Dean Klonoff said to my first-year class stuck in my mind and has helped me immensely.  He told all of us to make time each week for whatever it is that we love the most.  For me, there is nothing that relieves stress more than sitting on the couch and playing video games with my boyfriend.  When I realized that Dean Klonoff had essentially given me permission to do this as much as I needed to relieve stress, I couldn’t believe my luck.  I think that doing whatever it is you love at least once or twice a week (or every night if you can swing it), goes a long way towards making the daily stress of law school bearable.  There are more ways to manage stress, of course, and you should always be open to experimenting with what works best for you.

Of course, there are sometimes issues that crop up in law school that go beyond simply being stressed.  These can include depression, thoughts of suicide, and drug or alcohol abuse.  If you or a friend is experiencing any of these issues, you are not alone.  There are many resources available to help students who are experiencing serious issues like these.  I have listed several resources below which you should not hesitate to use if you have concerns about yourself or a friend.

Dealing with the stress of law school can be maddening at times, and I am still trying to get a handle on it myself.  The most important thing you can do is to make time for the people and activities you love.  Even if you feel like you don’t have time, spending that weekend day, or even an hour or two, away from the law school environment can give you the respite you desperately need.  You may even find that you work harder when your batteries are recharged, or when you have something fun to look forward to.  I know I do!  So keep playing video games, exercising, spending time in the great outdoors, watching awful reality TV, or whatever it is that helps you relax!

Dean Martha Spence –Dean Spence is the head of academic affairs, and is always willing to help students. 

Email: spence@lclark.edu

Office Phone: 503-768-6634.

Lewis & Clark Counseling Service - The Counseling office is located on the undergrad campus, but worth a trip if you need someone to talk to.  They also have resources on the web page about what to do if you are concerned about a friend.

Website: http://www.lclark.edu/offices/counseling_service/for_students/ 

Email: counsel@lclark.edu

Phone: 503-768-7160

Oregon Attorney Assistance Program – This service, run by the Oregon State Bar, offers a confidential hotline to discuss mental health issues, substance abuse, and any other concerns.  They operate a confidential hotline for attorneys, judges, and law students.

Website: http://www.oaap.org

Phone: 503-226-1057

Law Lifeline – This is another service that offers confidential help for law school students suffering from mental health issues.  The website also provides some self-diagnostic tests and information about a number of issues, including depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and eating disorders.

Website: http://www.lawlifeline.org/

Phone: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (24 hours)

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