It is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year the focus is stress. According to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), two thirds of us will experience a mental health problem at some stage in our lives with stress being a key factor.
By tackling stress MHF believe that we can help tackle many mental health problems including anxiety and depression and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide.
Key research on stress among university students
A recent research report commissioned by Unihealth indicates that stress among university students is particularly common with a reported 82% experiencing stress and anxiety, 45% having feelings of depression and 1 in 5 have suicidal feelings. Worryingly, the report also suggests that a large proportion of the students surveyed do not ask for help because they are either embarrassed don’t know where to find it or think it is a waste of time.
For law students university can be a particularly stressful time. As if the work load is not vast and complicated enough, from the get go there is the pressure of securing a training contract and funding for your LPC for when you finish your degree (that is if you have already managed to decide if you want to be a solicitor or barrister – if not then add that to the list of concerns). By year two you are dealing with study, exams, vacation scheme placements and training contract applications (which take forever) whilst trying to support yourself financially and have some form of a social life. You’re also expected to know what sort of firm you want to apply for and for some reason everyone gets pushed towards the big London corporate firms which might just not be for you. And then there is the added family pressure – often your parents will be so proud that you are studying law that they will have told all their friends which adds to your stress levels as you try to live up to their expectations.
Dealing with Stress as a Law Student
In the world we live in experiencing some form of stress is unavoidable and in some situations a little amount of stress can be great for enhancing performance. The key is having the skill set to manage your stress levels. So for this year’s Mental Health Awareness week Steele Raymond have put together some top tips to help law students manage their stress levels:-
- “Make time for fun – Take the time to do something that you enjoy/ treat yourself in a little way every day – my favourites used to be going to the gym or a walk/baking or making my favourite dinner (I’d look forward to it all day in the uni library).”
– Danielle-Elyse Fordham, Trainee Solicitor
- “Always keep your eye on the prize – the effort now will all be worth it in the long run – a rewarding and fulfilling career awaits. Remember that mountains get climbed in stages – break down your work, study, revision into achievable chunks – the summit is never reached in one go. Keep a sense of perspective – there is more to life than the law! Finally, remember that the only difference between ordinary people and extraordinary people is in that little word ‘extra’ – go the extra mile and the results will follow.”
– Tim Stone, Chairman and Partner
- “Plan, Plan, Plan – Planning is key and don’t leave things to the last minute. Also give yourself enough time to take on the amount of reading you’ll have to do (including some power naps in between chapter)! And ask for support. Universities are great with stuff like this and allow you extra time to complete assignments and in some situations will allow extra exam time. They are very open to mental health now a days, it’s not got the stigma attached quite as much as it did have. The student unions also offer good support.”
– Abigail Weekes, Legal Secretary and final year law student
- “Short Bursts – Study/work in short manageable bursts ensuring that there is enough fun stuff in the middle to de-stress. It is scientifically proven that you retain more information and are able to operate at a higher level and more efficiently if you take regular breaks to disconnect with your stresses and strains. Study with friends which helps to naturally voice concerns amongst your peers – if you are feeling the pressure then no doubt at least one or two of your friends are too! Also set realistic goals in what you want to achieve for that day and once you have got there – stop! There will be plenty of time to put long shifts in – no need to do it when it is not necessary.”
– Shaun Guppy, Solicitor – Company & Commercial
- “Exercise – even if it is as little as a 20 minute walk or jog each day – it will help clear your mind and put everything in to perspective and try to do something at the end of the day to relax your mind before you go to sleep – this may include reading a (non legal!) book or watching an episode of your favourite TV show. If you are feeling overwhelmed stop what you are doing immediately and do something fun e.g. go for a walk/jog (see above) or a coffee with a friend. When you come back to your uni work you will have a fresh perspective. Also speak to family and friends – they are your support network so explain how you are feeling – your friends are likely going through the same things as you are!”
– Alice Toop, Trainee Solicitor
- “Breaks – Take breaks and block out time for some fun (whatever that means to you) – truth is everyone works better when they allow themselves a bit of down time! Also if completing your training contract applications in addition to studying sends your stress levels through the roof focus on your studies first – whilst a TC lined up for straight after uni is great it is not worth messing up your exams for (and if you are feeling that stressed chances are you won’t complete the applications to the standard you would like).”
– Lauren Meade, Solicitor – Dispute Resolution
- “Write To-Do lists – sometimes putting all of your tasks down on paper makes them easier to tackle. It’s often our mind that makes us think we are overloaded and having a clear idea of what we really need to do makes it easier to focus and feel less stressed. Write the tasks down with deadlines and work through them one by one. This will also help avoid procrastination – which in the long run only makes us more stressed!”
– Rachel Murphy, Trainee Solicitor
- “Time Management – Good time management, exercise, and separating your work and play environment (i.e. work at uni and relax when you get home). I used to do a lot of meditation in second year and if all else fails a beer with friends always helps.”
– Taylor Anderson, Legal Assistant and third year law student.
For further information or if you need assistance in dealing with stress please contact the Mental Health Foundation.