Health & Wellness
Some students will love every minute of law school. Some won’t. Most will experience ups and downs as rigorous academic demands intersect with family and work obligations, daily life, and countless personal and professional events beyond KU Law.
As with any major undertaking, you will get more out of law school if you take care of yourself mentally, physically, socially and emotionally.
At KU Law, we are committed to the success and well-being of our students. The law school and the greater university offer many resources dedicated to helping students personally and academically.
If you’re not sure where to start, contact the law school’s Office of Student Affairs or drop by for an appointment. Leah Terranova, assistant dean for academic and student affairs, is available for academic advising and personal counseling.
Wellness Programs at KU Law
CAPS Listening Sessions
Law school can be stressful. So can life. Sometimes balancing the two gets to be a lot.
The key to managing both is knowing how to take care of yourself and building strong habits early on. Practicing self-care and stress management now will help you to prioritize your goals and balance the demands of your personal and professional life while in law school and throughout your career.
Self-care means tending to the many aspects of your life: proper nutrition, regular exercise, adequate sleep, healthy relationships, connecting with your values and maintaining good mental hygiene. Below are some tips and resources to help you reduce stress and cultivate habits that will nurture you throughout law school and your career.
Self-Care Tips & Resources
We all have to manage our mental health – think of this as mental hygiene. Just like you would adjust your diet or sleep to address changing needs, so too must you address your mental health supports as stressful circumstances evolve.
Coping with stress during a pandemic can be even more challenging. Fear and anxiety about possible sickness and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. Social distancing can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. For tips and tools to help manage COVID-19 related stress, the CDC offers guidance.
Students can connect with therapists at KU’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) for confidential counseling. Student appointments with a counselor are only $15 per session. This low rate makes care accessible and affordable. However, if this would create an undue financial burden, you may seek financial assistance from Dean Terranova.
While you might not always think about it, eating right is a part of your academic and personal success. Poor diet can impair your concentration and aggravate stress. The keys to a healthy diet are relatively simple: eat more plants, including whole grains and legumes; limit processed foods, sugars, animal fat and alcohol.
The Watkins Health Center offers cooking and nutrition classes. Gather your friends and take a Cook Well Live Well class together to build your culinary skills and share some time outside of Green Hall.
The law school maintains a food pantry in the Wellness Space (212A). Students may come and help themselves as needed. Additionally, grocery store gift cards are available to students who may be experiencing food insecurity, no questions asked. Please contact Dean Terranova if you are in need of a gift card.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol use, you can take an online assessment. The National Institutes of Health offers more information, including tips and support for cutting back or quitting. For confidential advice or support, contact the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program.
Now is the time to get moving on a regular exercise routine. Even moderate exercise, like gentle walking or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, relieves stress and improves mood. Establish daily habits now and they will serve you well throughout your life.
Studies suggest that walking or hiking in nature can reduce stress and improve memory, attention, and vitality. Nearby Clinton Lake offers hiking trails, a marina and sand beach, all of which are a quick reprieve from studying. The Lawrence Loop offers 22 miles of walking, hiking and biking trails to explore.
The Ambler Student Recreation Center has plenty of great options. Whether you like sand volleyball, swimming, cycling, lifting, group fitness classes or rock climbing, more movement is good for your mental and physical health. Up for a little friendly competition? Try some intramural sports!
Free online yoga classes are available to all students, staff and faculty throughout the week and at various times. Classes are taught by KU Law graduate and owner of Vast Yoga Studio, Katie Harpstrite, L'07. You’ll find this is a great way to unplug, distress and relax. The class schedule and Zoom links will be provided via Dean Mai’s weekly newsletter.
Sleep has a profound impact on our mood, emotional resilience and ability to focus and learn. Sleep needs vary, but the average adult needs 6-8 hours a day to feel refreshed and alert.
Sleep problems can contribute to depression and anxiety, weight irregularity and other challenges. To make matters worse, alcohol and nighttime computer use can both interfere with sleep. In short, sleep problems add to your stress and make you less able to cope.
If you’re experiencing sleep problems, it’s important that you learn to manage your stress and develop routines that support better sleep. Watkins Health Services offers workshops to help you learn more about healthy habits and your sleep needs.
Remember all the things you used to love to do before law school? Remember the people who brought joy and fun into your life? They’re still there – you just need to make time for them.
You already know the importance of your social support network. Remember to make time for the friends and family you had before law school. And, while your time here is short, the friends you make in Green Hall will be friends for life. Plan a dinner party. Start a hiking group. Make a point of talking to people not in your small section (gasp!). Chances are, you’ll need to lean on these folks at some point and you’ll be thankful you made the time to build and cultivate these relationships.
Remembering to make time for play will save you from burnout and help you relax and focus when it’s time to work. So, set aside some time for a game night with your friends, a hike at Clinton Lake, a movie night with family or a visit to the Spencer Museum of Art.
Whatever you decide to do, use the time as a mental vacation. You’ll enjoy it more and feel revitalized afterwards if you focus on the experience and leave law school behind for the moment.
Find Meaning and Purpose
No two people come to law school with the same life experiences or goals.
For some people, law school fits neatly with their sense of purpose and personal meaning. For others, it doesn’t. Identifying and understanding your core values will help you enormously when making choices in law school and throughout your career.
We suggest you spend some time reflecting on your intrinsic values and the goals that brought you here. Mindfulness practices may be a good way to connect with what drives you. Recent studies show that practicing gratitude can lead to benefits across many aspects of life, including mental and physical health as well as relationships and self-esteem.
Whether or not these ideas resonate with you, now is a good time to think about what your legal education will mean for you in terms of finding meaningful work and cultivating a meaningful life.
For advice on finding meaning and balance within and beyond law school we recommend the following books and articles, some of which are available to borrow from Dean Terranova:
- The Path to Law Student Well-Being ABA podcast series
- The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress: Avoiding the Mistakes That Create Unhappy and Unprofessional Lawyers, Lawrence Krieger (FREE copies in Dean Terranova’s office)
- How to be (sort of) Happy in Law School, Kathryn Young
- The Kansas Task Force for Lawyer Well-Being
- The ABA’s health and wellness advice to young lawyers
The Mindfulness in Law Society promotes meditation and mindfulness practice within the legal community. MILS conducts weekly meditation at the law school or online.