Do you feel stressed about law school?

stressed about law school

As students, we are always stressed about law school. With so many books and cases to read, reviews that need to be finished by deadlines, almost no time for yourself, family and friends, how can anyone not be stressed?

We think we have a few solutions, but first, we should fully understand what stress is and how it impacts our life.

I. General Facts and Trends

  • Associated Press and mtvU conducted a survey in 2008 on college student stress at many universities throughout the United States. The study discovered that four out of ten college students report they feel stressed often. One out of five says they feel stressed most of the time. One out of four students reports experiencing daily stress and one in ten report thoughts of suicide.
  • The American Freshman National Norms report from Fall 2010 was revealing regarding drifts in college student attitudes, health, and stressors. Viewing at the trends in the last two and a half decades, students’ perception of their mental health has continued on a steady decline. In 2010, males and females’ perception of their emotional health hit the lowest marks in twenty-five years, decreasing roughly 13% for both men and women from 2009 to 2010.
  • The 2010 American Freshman National Norms reveals that anxieties over finance and the economics may add to stress in students. This has transpired with increased pressure from financial difficulties, with more students relying on economic aid and scholarships in recent years. In 2010, more than 51% of incoming freshman had student loans, while more than 73% had grants or scholarships. Economic reasons also influenced school selection, with more than 40% of students reporting deciding to attend universities where costs were lower than their first-choice schools because they were closer to home or did not charge as much for tuition.

II. The Pros and Cons of Stress

Stress is anything that decays your natural balance. When pressure is present, your body and your mind must attend to it to recover you to balance. Your body responds to stress by delivering hormones that help you cope with the situation.  That, in turn, takes energy away from the other functions of your brain, like concentrating or taking action.

Stress is a part of daily life. There are many situations when stress can be helpful. For example, the pressure created by a deadline to finish a paper can motivate you to finish the assignment on time.

However, when experienced in excess, stress has the opposite effect. It can harm our emotional and physical health, and limit our ability to function at home, in school, and within our relationships. However, the good news is that, since we are responsible for bringing about much of our stress, we can also do much to handle stress by learning and practicing specific stress-reduction strategies.

According to Leonard academic, athletic, social, and personal provocations have been regarded as realms of “good stress” for high school aged youth. Nevertheless, there is growing awareness that many subgroups of youth encounter elevated levels of chronic stress, to the degree that it blocks their capabilities to succeed academically, compromises their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior. Moreover, this chronic stress appears to persist into the college years, and Leonard warns it may add to academic disengagement and mental health problems among emerging adults.

III. Source and Symptoms of Stress

A. There are four primary sources of stress

  1. The Environment – examples involve noise, pollution, traffic and crowding, and the weather.
  2. Physiological – examples include illness, injuries, hormonal fluctuations, and inadequate sleep or nutrition.
  3. Your Thoughts – the way you think influences how you respond. Negative self-talk, catastrophizing, and perfectionism all add to increased stress.
  4. Social Stressors – examples incorporate financial problems, work demands, social events, and losing a loved one.

B. Physical Symptoms

  • muscular tension
  • colds or other illnesses
  • high blood pressure
  • indigestion
  • ulcers
  • difficulty sleeping
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • backaches

C. Emotional Symptoms

  • depression
  • anger
  • fear or anxiety
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • mood swings

D. Cognitive Symptoms

  • forgetfulness
  • unwanted or repetitive thoughts
  • difficulty concentrating

IV. Law students and stress

Research studies measuring stress encountered in professional training by law students have frequently been published in the academic health professions research over the past twenty-five years.

The majority of studies on this topic have focused on law student stress related to professional and academic life.

In the stress research, several determinants have been linked to stress experienced as a reply to students’ attempts to meet academic performance requirements in law school. The two most frequently cited are grade competition and heavy workload.

A. What is stressful for undergraduates?

Students respond to college in a mixture of ways. For some students, college is stressful as it is an abrupt shift from high school. For others, separation from home is a source of stress. While some stress is necessary for personal growth to occur, the amount of pressure can defeat a student and affect the capability to cope.

After World War II, changes in American higher education include an extension in the volume and complexity of institutions and grown diversity among students. An outcome of that accelerated growth has been a lack of particular attention to students.

One measure of extreme stress, or distress, in college students, is the use of mental health assistance. Symptoms regularly reported by campus psychiatrists describe a general picture of school-related pressure, for example, the incapacity to do school work and the fear of academic failure.

The second measure of distress in college students is the dropout rate. Studies of college dropouts link dropping out with the aversive side of the “fight or flight” formula; sensing a mismatch between themselves and their college, students feel the need to restrain themselves from the origin of stress, the college environment.

Solutions suggested for reducing distress in college students incorporate “stress inoculation” — for example, notifying students in advance of what challenges they might face and encourage them to develop their strategies to accomplish personal goals. Other suggestions include developing campus mental health services and organizing peer counseling and self-help groups.

B. What is stressful for graduate students?

The accelerated increase in undergraduate programs has also been felt in bachelor schools, resulting in an oversupply of Ph.D.s. Consequently, graduate students, facing reduced employment possibilities when they complete their doctoral programs, feel stress connected with the uncertainty of their career decision and prospects.

Often, graduate students perceive that faculty exert enormous power over their lives and feel that they live in a state of substantial powerlessness.

Another root of stress is the difficulty of obtaining social intimacy. It is hard to find a mate or manage a relationship with a current one. Bachelor students tend to lack the time and the possibility to develop interpersonal skills.

Specific tasks that produce stress in graduate students are preliminary exams and the doctoral dissertation. Fear of academic failure related to these functions is a particular stressor.

Solutions for alleviating distress include improved orientation for new graduate students, more versatility in core requirements, and expanding the role of faculty advisors.

C. What is stressful for law students?

The Socratic approach, developed at Harvard in the 1870s, still defines law education today. Several dilemmas are associated with the method, however. It places the teacher in full command of the classroom, leaving students with limited power over how they associate with the subjects that they study.

Connected to the Socratic approach is the matter of feedback. Law students experience light feedback in class and limited feedback regarding their academic achievement until after first term exams.

Law students feel that grades are emphasized unreasonably and see the law school as a screening business for law firms, the best of which take into consideration only students who have made law review. Frequently, if students do not stand near the top of their class at the end of the first term, they give up trying because they feel that their best efforts were not compensated.

Suggestions to decrease distress among law students include taking earlier and more frequent exams, implementing positive feedback in class, deemphasizing grades and basing promotion to the law review on writing skills rather than on class rank.

V. Ways to beat stress

Stress reactions to several situations are also influenced by your overall level of wellness.

If you are always feeling overwhelmed, eat poorly and don’t get enough sleep (a description of many students), then you usually have a limited ability to cope with stressful events. You need to pay attention to your well-being. The clean balance of sleep, food, exercise, work, school and entertainment is vital.

If you are in a perpetual state of trying to catch up. You find yourself rushing and flying from one activity to another, always racing the clock and never getting on top of things. The reason for this problem, for many students, is not being well organized. Practical time management can help.

1. A varied and healthy diet

Healthy eating performs a crucial role in your capacity to face with periods of excess pressure. Carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all essential for energy, mental concentration, and emotional stability.

Stress may impair your immune system and raise your body’s need for specific nutrients. A well-balanced diet will help you stay focused, alert, energetic, and strong during times of stress. Nonetheless, if you live off of junk food or regularly skip meals, you are more likely to perform inadequately or get sick throughout stressful times.

A regular multivitamin/mineral supplement (recommended for most students) can be significant, but it will not take the role that whole foods play in supporting a healthy body.

Any study about eating and stress must include caffeine and sugar. Most students use high sugar foods to keep their energy up and caffeine to keep working when they need rest. Too much caffeine will add to poor quality sleep and add to the adverse effects of stress on the body. Sugar will satisfy you for a short period, but it leaves you with less energy and more hungry after an hour or two.

2. Exercise

Physical activity will boost your energy, increase your ability to concentrate and makes your body produce endorphins, which naturally relieve pain and induce feelings of well-being and relaxation.

Also by improving your physical condition, you will enhance your self-esteem and self-confidence.

With all that energy that you consumed, you will fall asleep in no time, and your overall sleep quality will improve.

Physical activity is known for making you more resistant to diseases, which means fewer illnesses, and more time to study! YaY!

By exercising, you will strengthen your heart which is regularly being called upon to “fight or flight” from the school, financial, relationship, and any other sort of stressor you face daily.


Then change the word to enjoyment. Find hobbies that you love to do, and that suit your personality. If you like to spend your time in nature, go hiking or biking.

Leave your car at home and use your personal muscle power for transportation. Use your bike to school or to the store, walk your way around the campus, etc.

Anything you chose to do, make sure that you vary your routine, this way there is less chance to get bored or injured if you change your habit.

3. Meditation

It might sound simple, but lying quietly for 10 minutes a day can actually help with stress levels. If you’ve never attempted meditation before, it’s worth a go.

To get started, you will need a quiet, relaxing place, where you can be alone for 10-20 minutes to do these exercises. The techniques run best if there are no distractions.

The process of meditation is focusing on a single word or object to clear your mind, and as a result, you will feel calm and refreshed.

For best results wear loose, comfortable clothing, sit or lie in a relaxing position, close your eyes and drift away in a calming thought, word or object.

You may find that other images pop into your mind. Don’t worry; this is normal. Try not to dwell on them. Just keep focusing on your thought or sound.

If you are haveing trouble, for some people, trying to repeat a word or sound over and over, will help you achieve that state of mind.

4. Take breaks regularly

Short breaks among study can help you switch off. However, longer breaks are necessary too.

Have you ever thought about taking the weekend off to relax? Plan your time for some fun and for yourself even if this means that you have to schedule time away from your work. You’ll surely come back to your job feeling fresh.

5. Sleep

Sleep is always the best medicine, and some people find that little 20-minute naps can help increase productivity.

Stress and sleep problems frequently occur together. When this happens, it can be hard to understand how to improve sleep when you’re stressed and how to reduce stress when you have trouble sleeping. There are some reasons why stress and sleep negatively impact each other.

As students, we are constantly busy and occupied during the day, that our mind frequently runs a million miles per hour just to keep up with all of our responsibilities.

Double that with a fast paced life and limited time to process the day’s activities and you will wear off your mind in no time.

Even when you are in bed and your head to hits the pillow, you feel like there is no way to turn off your brain. This frequently makes falling asleep and staying asleep difficult.

Caffeine, overscheduling and anxiety does not help to fall asleep and staying asleep. They will keep your stress hormones at a high level and rob you of time you can actually dedicate to sleep.

There are numerous strategies you can use help you become more relaxed before you go to sleep.

6. Quit smoking, alcohol, and any other drugs

Although some people say that they help you relax, researcher suggests that they suppress the hormone serotonin, which fights stress.

Tabacco, alcohol, and any other drugs can impact your sleep, ability to fight infection and overall health. These issues can create stressful situations.

To obtain a healthy lifestyle, it is crucial to learn strategies to deal with stressors and understand that quitting this bad habits takes time and practice.

7. Try to see the positive side and don’t forget to laugh

If you missed a deadline, try to understand what you learned from this mistake: now you know how to plan ahead. Things might seem bad, but if you try, there is usually something positive to be learned.

When you finally see the bride side of everything, maybe you will give a try to the best medicine in the world, laugh of course.

Laughing out loud increases oxygen and blood flow which automatically reduces stress.

Not taking life too seriously can help everyone live a better and easier life. No, I don’t mean you should take law school less thoughtfully, not at all!

Just make time for yourself, watch a comedy movie, take breaks, and accept that you can accomplish just as much in life without all the stress!

How do you manage stress? Share your tips in the comments section below.

About the author

    Dan Cristian

    Law student with a passion for design, business, tech, and online. I am sick and tired of the old fashion learning methods; that is why I use my free time to help build a community of law students that can share their tips and tricks.