We all know the feeling—you start to look at your calendar, or at your to-do list, and you realize how difficult it is going to be to fit everything in and get everything done. Maybe the panic builds in your chest a bit. Maybe your breathing becomes more rapid as you try to figure out how you’re going to fit it all in. You start to think about the nights of little sleep ahead, followed by days with a foggy brain and extra caffeine (which isn’t what you need right now!).
This is acute stress, and it is part of daily life for many in the legal field, whether you’re a lawyer or you’re still in law school. Deadlines approach, work piles up, and you have to slog through it. So what can you do to keep yourself together in times of extreme stress?
1. Stay Positive
This is probably both the most difficult thing and most important thing to do when a stressful situation first occurs—it’s so easy to slide down the slippery slope toward negativity. The thing to remember is that you’ll never get everything done if you’re telling yourself you won’t get it done. The key is to believe that you can do it—once you start to believe that yourself, your brain will clear up and you’ll be much more productive.
Procrastination is a coping method for some people when they fear they can’t get something done either on time or up to a certain standard, which is fueled by being constantly connected to everything around you. Turn off the wireless on your computer while you work, and set your phone on Do Not Disturb. Without the constant interruptions caused by constant connectivity, your productivity will shoot through the roof.
3. Make Time for Sleep
When you’re stressed, sleeping can seem like a waste of time. That thinking is counterintuitive—sleep allows you to recharge your brain and lowers the amount of stress hormones in your body. So why wouldn’t you want to get a good night’s sleep? You’ll wake up refreshed and ready to tackle everything that lies ahead of you.
4. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Contrary to what is preached on Gilmore Girls, coffee isn’t the answer to every situation. In fact, in stressful situations, caffeine is the last thing you need—it releases adrenaline, the fight-or-flight instinct that has helped humans survive for so long. However, if what you need to do is think clearly, the extra adrenaline coursing through your system isn’t going to be very helpful, and you might end up making rash decisions. Sometimes, it’s better to put the coffee down.
Meditation and mindfulness are both extremely helpful in stressful situations, but I wouldn’t recommend waiting for something stressful to happen before you start! If you know how to control your breathing, you can use that to keep your heartrate lower when you are feeling stress, which will help you think clearer and be more productive.
6. Use Your Support System (and Delegate, if Possible)
It sometimes feels easier to tackle big, scary things alone—that’s human nature. However, stressful situations are the perfect example of times when you should lean on your support system. If there is a way for those around you to help you through your stress, let them help, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. If you have to do everything yourself (which is often the case as a law school student), reach out to those who love and support you. It’s nice to know that people are cheering you on as you go through something tough.
7. Focus on One Thing at a Time
While multitasking is sometimes necessary, productivity is always at its peak when you are able to focus on a single thing at a time. This allows your brain to get completely immersed in the topic, and it will help you finish your task faster. Compartmentalization is often the best way to get through stressful situations, and this is one way to help with that.
8. Take Care of Your Body
In addition to getting enough sleep and cutting back on caffeine, it’s important to take care of yourself in other ways, as well. This includes fitting in some time to exercise (which can reduce cortisol, the stress hormone) and eating a balanced diet (which will keep you feeling better longer). Stressful times are not when you should let your self-care slip—it’s when you need self-care the most.
Stress is never fun for anyone, but keeping a level head will improve your chances of getting through unscathed. Don’t freak out—just follow these tips, and you’ll be just fine.
___ _ ___
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Train Like an Athlete for the Bar Exam
- Steps to Making Your Own Bar Exam Schedule
- What You Can Do Now to Prepare for the Bar Exam
- Can Studying Early Help You Pass the Bar Exam?
Photo credit: Shutterstock