This advice column is written by students for students, with a particular focus on useful information for students in their first year of law school (1Ls). Recharge to Take Charge is brought to you by current student Jellisa Grant, expected to graduate May 2018.
Is there ever a real day off of law school? Not really – there is always something that you should or could do. During the semester, there are always readings to complete, cases to brief, outlines to draft, assignments and papers to write… You know the drill by now. However, as hectic and time-consuming as school can be, your success depends on your ability to carve out a day, half day, or even a few hours to really decompress, relax, reenergize – especially in your first year.
The first thing is sleep. Sleep in and then go to sleep early. Being in law school can be extremely stressful mentally and physically. To complicate this, there is never enough time; not enough time to eat, sleep, or engage in much self-care. A day off is the perfect time for that. During midterms and finals periods, most people will admit to getting significantly less hours of sleep. So, whenever I have a day off where I am not snoozing my alarm in resentment or rushing to catch a train, it gives me a good chance to wake up a little later and catch up on sleep. On your day off, go ahead, turn off the alarm and catch those extra Z’s – it will help you feel revived and refreshed. Also, try going to bed early on the night before you return to school. This will work to your advantage as you prepare to get back into the swing of things.
Second, plan ahead. Before checking out completely on your day off, it’s important to know what will come after the day off. Planning ahead makes the day off worth much more. I find planning important because it is pointless for me to spend the day trying to relax, knowing that I have even more deadlines coming up or assignments for which I am unprepared. This will cause increased anxiety and defeats the purpose of using the day to relax. I typically use the earlier part of my day to catch up and/or get ahead- I work on upcoming assignments, review materials, outline, or read ahead.
Third, do something relaxing. Whatever it is that you do to relax from time to time, you should do it. Whether it’s watching TV or a movie, yoga, walking, running, working out, cooking, or even staying in and doing nothing. If you don’t have anything that you do in particular to relax, try and find something. I liked to use the time to catch up on my favorite TV shows. Just be wary of the TV Binge Trap… it feels so good until you realize you are still in your pajamas, didn’t leave the house all day, and missed your chance to do laundry and run errands for the week. Figure out what really makes you relax mentally and physically and make a plan do it – and a plan means you have a start and end time in mind (yes, I just advocated for scheduling your relaxation).
Fourth, do something you love or consider fun to do. Doing something you like is key because it takes your mind off the busyness of being in school. On the evening before my day off, if I am not totally swamped, I like to either go for dinner, watch a movie, or hang out with friends. Doing this before the actual day off gives you more time to relax and helps enforce that “scheduling fun” approach, so that you can accomplish everything you need to get done.
Fifth, unplug. This may include taking a break from computer, TV, and cell phone screens… yes, I said it – all screens. I’ve realized that something as simple as going through my social media feed causes me to go through varying emotions. As a result, I make sure that I take the time to turn off and tune out. For example, turn off email push notifications and commit to looking through them only once or twice – with an eye for immediate responses only – on your day off. This helps me stem the flow of anxiety that can come with opening my inbox, while letting me mentally prepare tackling said inbox when it is back to business. Surprisingly, I find that it helps with stress management.
So, it’s your day off – stop reading this and get to it! However you end up spending your day, my best advice would be to stay in the here and now. Don’t think too much about what occurred the days before or what’s going to happen in upcoming days. As long as you do the requisite planning, you should take some time to totally bask in the moment and enjoy the day however you like.