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Law school is rough: Here's how to maintain your physical and mental health.

We all know that both studying law and working in the legal profession comes with stressful and intimidating responsibilities. There’s pressure to stay on top of constant deadlines while maintaining the confident and composed demeanour which is expected of legal practitioners. It’s easy to over-prioritise your job at the expense of physical and mental health.

Being a law student or legal practitioner is stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. The last two years have seen more people than ever studying and working from home and living with increased levels of isolation. Studying and working remotely makes it easier to hide when you’re struggling, and less physical interaction with peers and co-workers makes it harder for others to check in on you.

In coping with student or lawyer life, a build-up of micro-stressors and unhealthy coping mechanisms can wear down your physical and mental health, often without us noticing. The strategies we use to wind down and relax after a long day can unknowingly be doing us more harm than good. Coping mechanisms like binge drinking, excessive internet use and self-criticism can lead to the degradation of our mental and physical health.

A 2018 University of New South Wales study surveying members of the legal profession found that ‘having time off work’ and ‘sport and exercise classes’ were the most popular wellbeing strategies. In light of this study, we want to share other realistic strategies that are supported by research or have personally worked for us. It is important to note that these strategies do not cure mental illness, and what works for us may not work for you, as mental health affects us all differently. Nevertheless, we hope these will be useful additions to your mental wellbeing toolkit.

Strategy #1 - Maintaining a Physical Routine, by Ella

Getting into the habit of routine exercise is just as much a mental game as it is physical. I’ve personally struggled with motivation - believing that my lack of arm strength and inability to run for more than a couple minutes straight would never match up to the ‘#fitnessgurus’. I found social sport, particularly Muay Thai, to be a gamechanger. Not only did my general fitness level increase, but so did my mindset. Instead of constantly scrutinising the way I look and comparing myself to others, I began to view exercise more positively.

With lockdowns thankfully coming to an end soon, I’d strongly recommend using this time to find and sign up for a social sport (!) - especially if you can relate to the feelings I’ve expressed.

Monash Sport offers a wide variety of social sports! Read more here:

Strategy #2 - Managing Working and Studying From Home, by Rianna

More people than ever are working and studying from home in these unprecedented times. I have personally found that when working from home it is incredibly easy for study and work to take over your life, with the line between ‘productive’ hours and personal time becoming blurred. It is important to set boundaries and ensure you get enough quality downtime to prevent burnout and protect your mental and physical wellbeing.

Making a conscious effort to “switch off” and not check my work emails outside of my working hours has helped to keep my work life separate from my personal life. On a related note, as tempting as it is to work through your work breaks sometimes (especially when your workload is particularly high), please take your breaks! I recommend taking the opportunity to step outside, walk the dog, or just make a coffee. Regular breaks from screen time are super important, and you will find yourself coming back to your desk refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of your day.

If you are working or studying from home I highly recommend setting a schedule (and sticking to it!). I set myself a strict study schedule with my university studies and allocate myself breaks and full rest days so I can relax and look after my mental and physical wellbeing without fear of falling behind in my uni work. I also keep my work and study space as tidy, bright and organised as possible, which boosts my mood and productivity. I encourage you to think about your workspace and what steps you can take to make it work better for you!

We hope that this article inspires you to develop your own strategies - creating an environment at Monash where no one is ashamed to talk about their mental health struggles. We’d love to hear your thoughts on strategies you believe are important in the comments section! If there’s one message to take from this article, it would be to never, ever, neglect your health for external responsibilities. You will thank yourself in the long run.

Written by Rianna McKenzie and Ella Bindley

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