Nov. 17, 2014 | Volume XXII, Issue 14

Resource counselor helps law students manage stress and anxiety

Published: October 13th, 2008

Category: News, Students

Why do I need to consider stress anyway?
Stress can have negative impacts on law students. For example, it can lead to a decrease in emotional and psychological health, can increase the possible development of substance abuse problems and can impair the ability to learn, which in turn narrows focus and leads to increased stress.

It is important to know how to recognize stress
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed a list of signs to help recognize stress. These are unique based on individuals. If you experience any number of these symptoms to a degree that is distressing to you or causing an impairment of functioning, you should seek out a physician or a mental health professional.

  • Behavioral signs
    • Increase or decrease in energy and activity levels
    • Increase in irritability with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing
    • Increase in alcohol or tobacco use
    • Trouble relaxing or sleeping
    • Wanting to be alone most of the time (isolating)
    • Blaming others for everything
    • Having difficulty communicating or listening
    • Having difficulty giving or accepting help
    • Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
  • Somatic symptoms
    • Stomachaches or diarrhea
    • Headaches or other pain
    • Losing appetite or an increase in appetite
    • Sweating or having chills
    • Tremors or muscle twitches
    • Easily startled
  • Emotions
    • Thoughts or thought patterns associated with stress
    • Anxiety or fearfulness
    • Trouble remembering things
    • Depression
    • Feeling confused
    • Guilt
    • Trouble thinking clearly
    • Apathy
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Overwhelmed
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Out of control
    • Worrying excessively

So now, what can I do to manage my stress levels?
Create a schedule for when you will do your homework for each class, based on when you have your classes.

  • Finding a quiet study space can be very beneficial. It may be at home, at the law school library or at a local library. Be sure that you have a place where you can work undisturbed and be comfortable.
  • Give yourself enough time to complete each homework assignment. Particularly in the beginning of law school, assignments almost always take longer than you think. Allocate as much time as you reasonably can to complete each assignment. Things always seem to take longer than you estimate, so include this in your planning.
  • Schedule regular times when you will work on writing projects for any writing classes you have. That way you won’t be struggling to complete writing projects at the last minute which require intensive preparation and work.
  • Set aside time to spend with those who are important in your life, i.e., your family, and friends. Take time for yourself to do some exercise. It’s very easy to neglect yourself and your loved ones while you’re in law school. Avoid this by setting a workable schedule for yourself from the outset of law school.
  • Seek help when you need it. Join a study group, seek help from academic support or your professors or seek help with stress whenever you need it. Law school is a different learning experience than any other, and there is no shame in admitting you need help with the substantive material or with time management.
  • Think Ahead. What do you need to do in the future? For example, shop for holiday gifts before the semester gets too busy or schedule your vacation time into your study schedule.

Here are a few helpful and EASY stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

  • Deep Breathing – Practice breathing from your diaphragm. Place your hand over your abdomen and take a deep breath in. You should feel your diaphragm expand when you inhale. When you exhale, breath through your mouth as if you were blowing through a straw. Practice this technique to deepen your breaths – this will aid in relaxation.
  • Exercise – incorporating any level of physical activity into your day is beneficial. If you have time and enjoy strenuous activity, make sure you are leaving time in your schedule to do it. If it is not “your thing,” try to incorporate smaller activities such as walking more or parking your car further away from things and walking or taking the stairs.
  • Imagery – using images to take you to a place where you know you relax. Picturing the beach or a river or any calm spot can help trigger your body to remember what relaxation feels like. GatorWell has created some podcasts that provide you with imagery, relaxing music, and a technique called progressive muscle relaxation. These podcasts are free to download to your computer or iPod or mp3 player. There are a few options ranging from 6 to 10 minutes. This is a great way to take a short amount of time and relax!
  • Sleep – It is truly important to get a good night’s sleep! Try getting 8 straight hours. If you must nap, take shorter naps (up to 45 minutes) because any longer and your body enters into a full sleep cycle so when you get up, you are more tired. Try going to bed around the same time every night and waking up around the same time in the morning. A regular cycle can be very beneficial! If you have trouble falling asleep, try removing your TV (if you have one in your bedroom) and any office furniture. Making your bedroom your sanctuary for sleep is truly important. You may try making the room darker or cooler or a sound machine or adding some aromatherapy (lavender aids sleep).
  • Massage – Touch has been shown to be very therapeutic and can aid in relaxation. There are a few hidden places on campus that provide these services to students for reduced cost or free. There are massage chairs located in the GatorWell offices in both the Springs and Jennings Residential Complexes. The Springs complex is next door to the law school. Time in the chair is FREE. There is no sign up and you are welcome to go anytime that they are open. There is a massage therapist associated with the Student Health Care Center. It costs $50 for a 50-minute massage (standard). There are also 15 and 30-minute options. You must call the SHCC for an appointment, but you do not need a physician’s prescription or recommendation. You can also arrange to see the therapist in Corry Village, which is very close to the law school.

For further inquiries or concerns contact Keely Hope in the Office of Student Affairs at kjhope@law.ufl.edu or 352-273-0633. Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

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