The Advantages Of Volunteering At Your University’s Legal Advice ClinicJanuary 18, 2024
Picking Your Elective Modules: What Factors to Consider?January 18, 2024
Article written by James Tonge, Philosophy Undergraduate at The University of Manchester.
Throughout any career or academic study, you are naturally going to be stressed. Law is not different, and luckily there is a plenitude of specific, psychological literature which explains this phenomenon in the context of academic law. This article will discuss some of the most prominent literature as well as the implications.
Stress is particularly common in law students. An Australian study notes that Australian law students experience an elevated level of stress in comparison to other university students as well as other community norms. In turn, this has led to a greater risk of depression. These conclusions are not new. Research began over 35 years ago according to Nancy J. Soonpaa who, when measuring stress in law students and two specific studies, stated that legal training influenced the formations of attitudes and that the anxiety produced from this training in turn affected all aspects of post-graduate legal work. Regardless of these studies, the feeling of stress and anxiety are very tangible feelings for most law students. While it is natural to feel stressed, and the idea of feeling no stress or anxiety seems alien to most, the following sections will both discuss attacking these feelings at the root cause and what efforts can be put in place to deal with them.
The implications of repetitive stress will hinder anyone. A discussion in the Handbook of Health Psychology by Dougall and Baum describes that stress not only affects the mind but also the whole body. This affects mood, productivity, problem solving and, perhaps one of the most relevant ones for our discussion, a change in an individual’s motivations and goals. This idea is key, as students entering the field of law have the ambition to pursue a legal career. This means we have good motivation to deal with stress, as it will allow us to continue pursuing our chosen career. Some ways to deal with stress involve removing oneself from the environment for a short amount of time. These measures can include going for a quick walk or jog, listening to your favourite music, meditating, or even just closing your eyes and stretching. Other measures include a broader scope of techniques; reducing your time on social media, ensuring you get a good night’s sleep, making time for hobbies, and spending more time reading. The point is there are numerous techniques to help cope with the stress of law school or legal work.
The following techniques come from Harvard Medical School and were first developed by cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson as a relaxation response.
Focus on your breath: Long, slow, deep breaths are used in this simple yet effective method. As you breathe, your mind gradually disengages from distracting ideas and feelings.
Perform a body scan: This technique combines breath attention and progressive muscular relaxation. Following a few minutes of deep breathing, you concentrate on one section of your body or set of muscles at a time, mentally releasing any physical tension you feel there. A body scan can increase your understanding of the mind-body link.
Guided imagery: To relax and focus, visualise pleasant pictures, places, or experiences. You can find free apps and online recordings of tranquil scenes; just be sure to select imagery that you find relaxing and meaningful.
Mindfulness meditation: This technique entails sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and directing your attention to the present moment without becoming preoccupied with the past or the future.
Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qigong: These three ancient disciplines incorporate rhythmic breathing into a set of postures or flowing movements. The physical parts of these routines provide a mental concentration that can help you avoid racing thoughts.