LEAP Mentor and Reed Smith Associate Lavinia Osilesi has learned to manage stress well during her time as a lawyer. Below, read her top recommendations that anyone can implement to better manage the stress of law school and legal work.
Deciding to go to law school or become an attorney is a large undertaking. As you embark on this path to become a lawyer, you will be met with stressful situations. Persisting through those taxing moments, you will overcome and thrive in most of them. Right now, you may be wondering “How?!” You will thrive and overcome by strategically putting in place systems that you can rely on when things get tough. As you apply to law schools, take the LSAT, and prepare to enter law school you should develop at least three systems of support: (1) your people; (2) your center; and (3) wellness practices.
Find Your People
The path to becoming a lawyer is not easy. If you are a LEAP Fellow, you already recognize this because you have developed your law school application materials, taken the LSAT, and argued in front of a judge. At a minimum you need grit, perseverance, and dedication to become a lawyer. But what you also need is a safe place—a group of people or a person who can support you when things get tough. Who can you call? Who can you rely on? Who is there for you if you do not feel strong enough? Identify those people or that person and tell them what they mean to you. Thank them for their influence and impact in your life.
If you are reading this and you are saddened because you cannot think of someone there to support you—be comforted because that person or group of people may be right around the corner. You can make relationships and friendships anywhere. Keep your eyes, mind, and heart open and you will find your people. If you are a LEAP Fellow, you already have a community around you. Not only do you have the other students in your cohort—you also have your mentors! Your mentors have been where you are and have done what you are doing now. If you ever need a shoulder to lean on, know that you already have two that you can use as you find rest.
Find Your Center
Is there a place you go, an activity you do, or something in your life brings calm to your heart, mind, and soul? If the answer is yes, then that is your center! For me, I meditate and practice yoga. No matter how stressful or out of control my life is, practicing yoga and meditating allows me to remain calm, gives me the emotional space to tend to my basic needs, and provides the perspective to respond to my stresses appropriately. What is that thing, activity, or place for you?
Do not be concerned or disappointed if you are unsure what this is. I did not find the things that centered me until I was a practicing attorney! I encourage you to explore what that is before you begin law school because it will allow you to move through this stage levelheaded and focused.
As you know, America is a capitalist country. Interestingly, the capitalist influence seeps into all facets of our lives. At times, we can devalue our own sleep and rest in order to increase productivity. Prioritize your personal wellness over societal and systemic pressures. Generally, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Make sure that you are well rested. If you have access to clean drinking water, drink at least 8 cups or 64 ounces of water a day. If you have access to healthy foods, eat meals packed with nutrients. If you are able and have access to an area to exercise, incorporate movement into your routine.
Rest, hydration, healthy foods, and exercise are a few components that will promote your wellness. Each of these will allow you to be at your best because your body will be functioning at its best. As you continue to grow, you will uncover the items that you need to ensure that you are taking care of yourself. As you learn more, do more for yourself. Your health is priceless.
Your Systems of Support
We have discussed three key systems that you can rely on for support when you need it. Inherent in these systems is the notion that you do not and you should not be relying only on yourself for support. You have your people and external places or activities that you can go to when you are in distress. However, at the very same time, you should practice wellness which will prepare you and give your body the resources it needs to “weather a storm” whenever it comes.