By: Heidi Bitsoli
Updated: March 18, 2022
After completing the four years of college necessary to move on to law school, you may think that you can handle the pressure. But the stressors in law school are different from what you have dealt with before, and you may have trouble coping.
Law school brings new kinds of stress that should be managed in a healthy way, and according to Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers, if you cannot handle the pressure, you could find yourself on a dangerous path. Various studies have shown that depression, anxiety, and substance abuse rates are much higher among lawyers and law students than among the general public. These issues may be avoided if you manage your stress while studying law.
What are common stressors in law school?
The stressors in law school are different from those you likely felt during your four years of college. By now, you’re used to being away from home and taking care of yourself. And you probably have a firm grasp of budgeting by now, and financial problems might be less common. Unfortunately, starting law school can create entirely new forms of stress.
According to Insight Into Diversity, 96% of law students experience significant stress, compared to 70% of medical students and 43% of grad students. Law school is more stressful than your first four years of college for a few reasons:
- Workload: Law school is more challenging than your time as an undergraduate because there is a lot more work to do, and it may be more challenging than what you are used to. Law school requires a lot more reading, and the questions on most tests are essay questions. Also, your classes are focused on analyzing real law cases, which requires a great deal of research.
- Student loans: According to U.S. News & World Report, the average law school tuition for a private law school is around $51,268, which is $9,125 higher than tuition for a public law school. If you need to take out a student loan, you could find yourself in debt for years and thinking about paying off the loans in the future, which can be stressful.
- Competition: Competition in law school is more intense than your four years as an undergrad. When you consider the number of law school graduates with full-time jobs in law, the stats are pretty bleak. According to the ABA Journal, law student grads in the 2020 class are having a harder time finding jobs. Around 69.9 percent of the class of 2020 have full-time jobs, and 8.3 percent are unemployed trying to find work. These kinds of statistics can make you worry about your future, causing stress.
Unhealthy ways law students deal with stress
Law school can be challenging and stressful for some law students, and some manage their stress in unhealthy ways. These include:
- Alcohol and drug use: Some law students turn to alcohol or drugs to deal with their stress, affecting every aspect of their lives, including their performance in class.
- Prescription drug abuse: Law school involves a great deal of work, and some students struggle to stay awake to get everything done. Unfortunately, some law students abuse prescription drugs, also known as study drugs, to keep up. According to The Crimson, Harvard University’s newspaper, the most common “study drug” is Adderall. Many students don’t have a prescription for Adderall, and they buy it from others who do. A few other drugs law students abuse to focus better and study more include Ritalin, Concerta, Vyvanse, and Modafinil. These drugs can help with focus. But abusing them can result in developed tolerance, and you will need to take more and more to feel the effects. This can result in withdrawal, fatigue, depression, insomnia, vivid nightmares, and agitation.
- All-nighters: Many law students stay up nights studying to get their work done. The night before a big exam, many college students don’t sleep at all. Sleep deprivation can cause depression, anxiety, stress, weight gain, and other medical issues.
- Stress eating: Many people eat to deal with stress, and since law school is so stressful, some students overeat to handle the stress, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and elevated risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Healthy ways to deal with law school stress
Although there are several unhealthy ways to deal with law school stress, there are also several healthy ways to deal with the pressure that won’t negatively affect your health, relationships, and your life in general.
- Take a 10-minute break every few hours: Working for too long without a break can result in added stress and fatigue. According to an article published by New England Law Boston, regular breaks are essential. Trying to work for several hours straight can cause you to become easily distracted, have headaches, and elevate your stress levels. Fortunately, there are a few healthy things you can do on your breaks. Listening to music, meditating, watching a few funny videos, or playing a game on your phone can help. These are all healthy ways to relax for a few minutes.
- Make sleep, diet, and exercise a priority: A healthy diet, exercise, and rest are essential in combating stress. A lack of sleep can make things worse, and an unhealthy diet can make you feel sluggish, making it challenging to get your work done—all can add to your stress. According to the Cleveland Clinic, regular exercise can keep your stress level down for the long term. Crushendo audio outlines can allow you to keep studying while you exercise or get outside.
- Forgive yourself: As much as you wish you could, you won’t get an A on every test and every paper. If you get a poor grade, dwelling on what it has done to your GPA or what you should have done differently will only stress you even more. It’s important to forgive yourself for the bad grade and move on. You can use it as a lesson, but don’t let it define the next few months of your life.
- Stay organized: Keeping things organized can help reduce your stress level. Make sure the area where you typically work is clean and free of distractions. In addition, you need to organize your time. Making to-do lists and prioritizing tasks, so the essential ones are done first, and planning your entire day can all keep things moving the way they should.
If you’re about to start law school, it’s essential that you understand the healthy and unhealthy ways to manage your stress. Turning to drugs or alcohol isn’t the answer and will only add to the problems in your life.