Yup, you guessed it, stress.
I never thought I’d sound like such a cliche, but I guess cliches become cliches for a reason?
I’m almost halfway through the first semester of my second year, notoriously known as the hardest semester in the entire degree, so I’ve heard anyway. There’s a number of reasons for that in my opinion, and let’s just go through that first so we can figure out where the stress is stemming from exactly.
As we all know, clerkship season is looming, which means this semester is the last four months you can try and cram as many as those coveted but oh-so-vague extracurriculars into your CV as possible; volunteering, student associations, part time work, competitions, anything under the earth that is even remotely law-related, the list goes on. Time management (buzzword on its own) has never been so crucial.
2. Study load
The subjects are notoriously difficult as well this semester, and although I don’t think anything is overly complicated right now, it is definitely a struggle and a half to keep up with the readings, whether you’re doing three or four subjects. In fact, I know many people, including myself, started falling behind as early as week two and three. With mid-semester assessments just around the corner, it’s really time to tackle those readings.
3. Improving your WAM
Again, clerkship clerkship clerkship, the worst word of the year. Most people found transitioning to law school at least a little bit difficult, and given that we all had the intelligence to get in, it really comes down to adapting to this whole new way of learning, and as a result, marks first year generally does not reflect a person’s ability. However, those marks will come into play in determining whether you can get a clerkship position or not. Consequently, many people need to do extra well this semester, in order to pull up their average. Given point 2, i.e. the difficulty of the subjects, this is not an easy task to achieve.
It’s time to start networking, some of us may have started doing this last year already, or even in our bachelor degree, especially if you were in commerce. However, these events are on all the time now, whether held by the Law Student’s Society or law firms, and can take up a lot of your time and energy, and some can go on for as long as three hours. These events can be scary enough on their own, and the time you are at an event is time you are not spending on your readings, hence the falling behind.
With LinkedIn becoming more and more predominantly used in the professional world, it becomes a place that you can research (and by that I really mean stalk) about the experiences your fellow cohort has had, what your lecturers did before teaching, or that HR person you spoke to, that grad on the panel that was just so Goddamn well spoken, and just about anyone in-between. And let’s be real, we all know that comparing yourself to others is one of the most pointless activities, but, we’ve all fallen down that rabbit hole, and end up feeling as though we are not good enough, because we don’t have a running list of experiences and achievements accumulated over the last two decades of our lives.
Let’s just leave it at those five things for now, and after reading that, I’m sure you can understand where the stress is coming from. All the things correlate with one another too, and often end up having a bit of a snowball effect. Let’s move onto a more upbeat list now, things you can do to somewhat deal with the stress.
1. Notice the changes
Of course, a healthy amount of stress and pressure is good for you, and some people even perform better under pressure. However, when everything’s completely whacked out of balance, that’s when things can go from meh, to bad, to terrible. That’s why it’s important to look out for signs in those moments that you are affected by the stress more than usual, and to deal with them promptly.
2. Speak up
There’s no magical week that all the stress is laid down on you, we all experience it differently, and that’s why it is really up to you, ultimately, to look after yourself. Friends and families are going to be there for you too, of course, but instead of waiting for them to check up on you, it makes things a lot easier (in comparison at least) to bring some of your problems to their attention.
I feel extremely uncomfortable speaking about this kind of things to a counsellor myself, but I know people who do benefit from more professional help, again, this will depend on how you operate as an individual.
3. Self-improvement techniques
There are a lot of articles on self-improvement out there, so that’s an option too. But make sure you’re not drowning yourself in information, give yourself some time to absorb everything, and try to adapt one or two things into your every-day life, and see if it is making a positive change.
4. Stop the blaming
A lot of the time, we are aware that we are acting irrationally because of the stress and pressure, but that realisation may make us feel even more frustrated and guilty, and we start blaming ourselves for the most minute things, like going out to that one dinner when we should have stayed home studying, not sleeping early enough the night before, and just being a crappy person to those around you because of the stress and pressure. There’s really no point in blaming yourself though, since that won’t get you anywhere.
For me, I like to think of things I can do right now to improve the situation I am in. And the most recent things I have done is start journalling, and trying out a new study technique called pomodoro.
As always, I don’t have all the answers for you unfortunately, do email me if you have any questions or just want to chat though. Let’s leave things with a quote from one of my all-time-favourite authors, and go from there.
Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?