Reading time: three minutes
The Bar course is no joke – from the heavy (and I really do mean large) amount of work to the books weighing three kilograms each (yes, I weighed them), there’s little to no time for anything else. This course can be draining for those who embark on it, even those who think they’re prepared. In all honesty, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into and then very quickly realised that I was woefully underprepared.
To put things into context, it took all of two days during induction week to realise that I’d underestimated the workload. How did I come to this conclusion? I spent those two days glued to a massive book on civil procedure and wasn’t even halfway done with the reading.
Most of you will be like me and think “surely it can’t be that bad”. Mark my words – it’s a serious commitment. Taking care of your mental health on this course is so important to prevent burnout. Here are some things that I found incredibly useful for my mental health.
Learn more about what the legal profession is doing to aid mental health in this Feature.
1. Stay active
Working out may not be for everyone so I’m not suggesting you start lifting weights or running five kilometres every other day! However, it’s important to make sure you get some form of physical activity each day – even if it’s a 20-minute walk to the shops or an at-home Pilates workout. Whatever floats your boat but keep those muscles active.
2. Get some fresh air
It’s safe to say that this course has heavy reading, so it can be easy to go days just glued to your desk. This is especially true during study leave or on days you don’t have a class. Trust me on this – go outside for some fresh air, even if it’s freezing cold (which, let’s be honest, it usually is).
3. Plan, plan and plan
I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay on top of your workload. Take it from someone who’s currently a lot more behind on the work than she’d care to admit – catching up is near impossible. You must plan your days out and complete the class prep. This organisational skill is even more important in January when you have classes, exams and pupillage applications. Use whatever method works for you. Personally, I use a physical bullet journal with a corresponding online planner to keep my tasks organised and accessible, which makes the workload less overwhelming.
4. Get enough sleep
I know the student life is more nocturnal than not. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’d go to sleep at 6:00am before stumbling into my 9:00am lectures with a coffee in hand only to go back to sleep (often mid-lecture!). This disrupted sleep pattern was the first thing I fixed when starting the Bar course and, honestly, I’m so glad I did (even though I have the schedule of a grandmother now). Now that I get enough sleep, I don’t have to pull all-nighters because my work gets completed at a reasonable hour – it’s a strange feeling being an adult.
Make sure to read this LCN Blog post about study-life balance as a law student.
5. Reach out for help when you need it
Most universities offer some form of support for students who struggle with their mental health, and you can even get reasonable adjustments for your exams (such as extended time or scheduled breaks). I recommend you take whichever reasonable adjustments you feel you’d benefit from – it just gives you a chance to perform well in the exams. On top of that, the information is confidential and wouldn’t be disclosed to chambers so it can’t negatively impact your pupillage applications.
For those who need more assistance with mental health, talk to your GP who can then refer you to services that’ll be able to assist. If you need someone to talk to, you can always contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any hour of the day.