This week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to discuss some obvious signs that you need to take a breather and slow down your pace in law school.
There’s no way around it. Law school is stressful and busy. You are expected to read more than you have ever read before. You are expected to analyze cases you’ve never heard of. You must plan to answer questions on said cases in front of your peers. You need to prepare for summer clerkships or internships. You should be thinking about the bar exam. Participate in extracurricular activities. Write for law review. Eat healthy. Get enough sleep. Volunteer. Exercise. Read for fun. Apply for jobs. Re-read your notes. Prepare for exams.
The list of things you are advised to do as a law student is truly expansive. But, sometimes? Sometimes you’re just sick and tired of law school and everything associated with it. That’s ok. We all need to slow down occasionally, even if it’s for a short sabbatical before we tackle our never-ending to-do list again.
Here are three signs you’re ready for a break.
You Get Sick
This summer, I took the Uniform Bar Exam, the MPRE, and the New York Law Exam. I fulfilled the Bar Association’s requirement of working fifty pro bono hours. I completed my application for the New York Bar. I launched a virtual law firm serving clients in Virginia. And, I had the brilliant idea to train for a marathon after the bar exam. All while raising a toddler, holding down a full time job, and maintaining some normalcy in my marriage.
I thought everything was under control. I was feeling stronger than ever. I was running faster than I’ve ever run. And, then one afternoon at work I started to not feel well. By the time I got home at the end of the day, I had a full blown fever, body aches, chills, nausea, the works.
I was sidelined for two straight days where I didn’t even have the energy or mental fortitude to simply read a novel. I spent 48 hours lying on the couch napping in between home decorating shows on tv. I was utterly and completely exhausted.
The fact of the matter is, our bodies will tell us when enough is enough. Work too hard, too fast, or too intensely, and our bodies will force us to stop sooner or later. The idea is that extended exposure to stress can actually suppress your immune system leading you to get sick.
So, learn from my example. Take time to relax every now and then before you end up coughing up a copay…and other gross stuff.
You Are Irritable
Ever wake up feeling cranky? The world and everything in it stinks? One small issue like the outfit you wanted to wear turns out to be in the laundry when you thought it was clean, and your whole day must already be ruined. Ever say to yourself after something like that, “this just isn’t my day?”
It’s possible you aren’t just having a bad day but are feeling burned out instead. I don’t have to tell you that there is a lot of pressure in law school. Pressure can make us behave in ways we might not otherwise. And, when that pressure starts to become too much, you might start getting a little steamed.
If you find that you aren’t feeling quite like yourself, that you can’t quite see the positive things in your day, take a little time off. It might be just a lunch break where you shut your text books and go for a walk around town. Or, maybe you schedule a night of watching Hallmark movies while eating ice cream. Whatever it is you need to do, take some time to forget about work. I promise, it will still be there after your break. But, you can come back to it with a renewed sense of positivity.
Also, your friends and family will thank you.
You Aren’t As Passionate About Your Work
If you’re like a lot of law students, you have dreamed about going to law school most of your life. Even if this is a relatively new venture for you, you still had to work hard to get into law school. You had to maintain good grades. You had to succeed on the LSAT. You had to submit stellar applications to schools to earn an acceptance letter from at least one of them. There are so many things you did to earn your place as a law student.
So, why do you suddenly feel like the last thing you want to do is anything with law? If you find your stomach turning at the thought of reading cases or writing a brief or doing anything law school related it’s time for a break.
Your brain is letting you know that you are mentally fatigued. Mental fatigue can wreak havoc on your goals. You may question whether you even want to be a lawyer or be in law school. It’s hard to tell sometimes if these are legitimate questions, fear, or just simply lethargy from the stress.
When you take a break, you give yourself the opportunity to recover from that stress. If you are still questioning things or not finding joy in legal work, then you might need to do some more soul-searching. Chances are, you just need a little time away in order to fall back in love with the vocation you worked so hard to pursue.
Breaks Are Necessary
I know. I started this post with a long, stressful list about all of things you’re expected to do in law school. And, here I am telling you to do one more. But, here’s the thing, if you don’t take time out every once in a while to rest, you won’t be able to do your best. You won’t be the best version of yourself. And, your body may force you to stop whether you want to or not.
Take time to take care of yourself so you can achieve all of your goals.