Law Student Guides
1Ls: Self-Care and Your Health During A Pandemic
Thursday, October 29, 2020
We’ve tirelessly put together this guide to remind 1Ls to be mindful of their safety and health during the pandemic.
In our previous article, we told you that 1L grades are the most important thing in your 1L career. We’re sticking to that. They are the most important thing for your academic success. However, 1L is more than just grades. It’s true that they will form the foundation and trajectory for the rest of your legal career, and that may seem daunting. At the end of the day however, you’re still a human. It’s not going to do you much good (nor will it do well for your grades) if you don’t take care of yourself and your needs as well.
This article is not meant to undermine the importance of grades in your 1L year. Rather, it qualifies our previous article about grades with an important adage. Make sure to take care of your mental, physical, and emotional health during 1L, or your grades (and you) will suffer. We here at Lawwly urge you to take care of yourselves physically, emotionally, and socially. You’re in the real world now, and no one else is going to do it for you.
Your Physical Health
Before starting law school, you’ll want to get a health tune-up, ideally during summer. Proactively using preventative care is a very wise step, especially if you’re one of the majority of law students moving to a new city. Additionally, unless you’re driving, an airplane ride will likely require quarantine when you arrive at the home state of your law school. If that’s the case, you’ll want to hold off on your health tune-up until after your quarantine so that you’ll be able to get tested as well in one fell swoop. Additionally, you’ll be able to establish a relationship with your new health providers and ensure that they are in fact a good fit for you before you get sick during school. You should get, at a minimum, a physical with your primary care physician, an eye examination to prepare you for all of the readings you’ll do in school, a dental check-up, and a gynecologist, if applicable.
Without a doubt, law school is going to be incredibly stressful, especially because of how important your performance and grades will be for 1L year. If you elect to move in with roommates, you’ll want to make sure there are quarantine plans in place and minimize contact with the public. You definitely don’t want a roommate that’s working in the coronavirus intensive care unit at the local city hospital, for example. You’ll also definitely want roommates that respect the need for minimizing socialization and physical contact. Law school is already a very insular environment, and you’ll be even more insulated during quarantine. Additionally, if you elect to go onto campus, you’ll be with other professors, staff, faculty, and potentially be exposed to the risk of spreading germs and other illness in addition to Covid-19. Query the risk-benefit of attending campus in person, as an illness, especially during exam week, can seriously damage your performance in law school. If your grades are important, and again, they are, staying healthy is absolutely critical.
Sleep, Diet, and Stress Reduction
An essential key to success for 1L is to have a good and balanced schedule. You’ll want to mix in sleep, hygiene, a healthy diet, and methods of stress reduction as well. Take on a hobby, and give yourself time to practice good hygiene and self-care. You’ll want to get around 7 to 9 hours per night of sleep to lower the risk of becoming ill. Staying up and pulling all-nighters will do a lot more damage than help to your health, and are ill advised unless absolutely necessary. People just do not study effectively without sleep. That’s just the truth of our humanity, so make sure to give yourself enough sleep. Scientific research suggests that our brains are not sitting idle when we sleep. Our brains actually absorb and consolidate information during this time, such as the material you learned during the day. Getting a good night’s sleep improves memory and information retention, so making sleep a priority is a must.
In terms of diet, you’ll want to avoid copious amounts of caffeine despite what your colleagues may be doing. Eat a decently healthy and varied diet. The free catered food by student organizations should be a treat, and you should not actually have a diet of just pizza, tacos, and Indian food. Fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources are wonderful choices to have in variation. Don’t gain the “freshman 15” or the “1L 15” in law school. Consider taking a multivitamin and fish oil to help improve memory. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated, brush your teeth, and try to eat at home as often as you can (not that you really have a choice). Avoid ordering delivery, and definitely try to avoid going to restaurants to eat as much as possible during the pandemic.
Finally, we have stress management. Law school is absolutely stressful, and finding healthy ways to reduce stress will make you less likely to become ill and maintain your mental health. The most helpful methods are meditation and exercise. Give yourself time in your schedule to go to the gym or meditate. If you have time to browse Lawwly, then you have time for exercise. Prioritize exercise and meditation. Exercise can also be in the form of recreational sports. Sex with a committed partner also reduces stress, although you’ll probably want to avoid casual sex with strangers as this can come with its own form of anxieties and health risks. Definitely do not start smoking cigarettes or turn to drugs or other unhealthy avenues of stress relief. It may seem really obvious, but they are a recipe for disaster. Meditation is an amazing form of stress reduction that you can do relatively easily. Emptying your mind of thoughts, especially when law school forces you to think non-stop, is a great way to give your mind a break. For some, religion and prayer can be helpful as well. Ultimately, try things out and find out what works for you, preferably before school begins.
If You Become Ill
Should you get sick, with Covid-19 or anything else, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll need to be proactive and take steps to protect yourselves and those around you.
Contact a doctor immediately. Many doctors have telemedicine capabilities so you won’t have to risk exposing others to your sickness to visit the doctor. Do not wait to see a doctor. If you won’t do it because it wastes time or you need to study, take this into account.
Scientific research has proven that sick people experience significant if not debilitating dips in study effectiveness.
Obviously something as serious as coronavirus putting a damper on your ability to breathe, much less study, is extremely serious, but even something as mundane as a cold or flu can also put you out of commission mentally enough that no amount of studying will do you any good.
Paradoxically, the lesson is that if you’re trying to get ahead too hard, you’ll fall behind, and falling behind is unhelpful, so you’ll fall behind if you try to get ahead.
We here at Lawwly know what it’s like to start law school, and we hope you found this article useful. Good luck to you in the first year of law school, and don’t forget to take care of yourself!
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