Words by Melissa Vance, Wellbeing Representative for The Dickson Poon School of Law.
I know, that should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Admittedly, your Law degree is probably going to be one of the most challenging, but significant, achievements of your life so far. You already know this: you gleam with pride at the mere mention of your degree subject (I mean, I know I do). But whilst you do Law, do you remember to do you?
I’m talking about remembering to be yourself in this cloud of reading cases and too-heavy-to-carry textbooks (although the knowledge within those we do so often love). You ask your friends, your fellow lawyers, your parents (please remember to phone home) but how often do you ask yourself “how are you”? It can be easy to get into the routine of university life, focusing on the academic and the absolutely essential, without remembering to look after you and your own interests. We become so focused on the best grades and competitive applications, we forget what we were ever interested in before KEATS and Westlaw.
Put those textbooks down for just a moment and take a look at my 7 tips for self-care:
- Allocate time for yourself – one of the best things that I learnt over the course of my first year was to schedule my time efficiently. I’m not just talking about scheduling classes and study time, but also the time in which I could do as I wished. By setting myself a time to stop working each night, and making sure I could stick to this, I found that I worked more effectively. Knowing that I could be back in my flat watching Netflix or catching up with my friends later, I always got the work done during my study slots within the time I had allocated myself. I got better at Law and at still having a social life!
- Get outside – this isn’t just me drawing on my own experience, fresh air and physical activity can have a proven positive impact on student wellbeing and productivity! It can be tempting to hide away in your flat, the library or the gym. Not only will spending more time outside allow you to get away from your work and your busy schedule, but it will also improve your mental-map and appreciation of London! From Waterloo or Strand campus, you can be at St. James’ Park, Buckingham Palace (visit near 11am for the Changing of the Guards!), the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park or Trafalgar Square, all within the hour (can you tell I turn my running into a sightseeing opportunity?). We are so lucky with our location at King’s, so we must take advantage of it! Go for a walk for no purpose at all, you never know where your feet will take you.
- Make things happen – this brings me onto the feeling of loneliness a lot of people might experience during first year. You meet so many wonderful people during Fresher’s week and swap social media details, but that’s often the last you see of them. Make the most of these contacts – it’s never too late to get back in touch. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can even incorporate it into your regular schedule. Instead of sitting alone in the library, invite someone to walk to the library and work with you (you don’t even have to be studying the same subject, the company is always nice); instead of doing your own thing at the gym, invite someone to a class with you. Simple changes and contact with friends can really positively affect your mood.
- Re-connect – the same as above goes for old friends. My best friend from High School lives an hour away, but we made sure to call each other and took the effort to visit each other regularly: it can be so lovely to have the chance to talk about home with someone and to take a break from university life. Don’t forget to check in with your family too; it can sometimes be so easy to send a simple text that we actually forget to send them at all. Speak often if that works for you and your family, and be inventive with how you communicate; my Grandma and I even send each other letters, as a way of purposefully keeping in touch!
- Find your space – when I first came to King’s, I assumed I would have far more focus working alone in my flat. In reality, I would spend hours on tutorial and seminar preparation, and would never feel an end to my work. When I started exploring new places to work, I found that I could separate study time completely from my leisure time. I tried many places and still use a variety based on what type of work I’m doing. Coffee shops can be great (and are often so full of students you feel like you have your own study group), in the most part though, personally, I prefer the libraries. Not only is the Maughan beautiful (and reminiscent of Hogwarts) but it is a great place to focus and separate yourself from that carpet that needs vacuuming, your singing flatmate, or the food shop that needs doing.
- Reach out – so simple, yet so often forgotten. On busy days, I could go from my flat, to the lecture theatre, to a library, to a tutorial, to a run, back to my flat without speaking more than some answers to the Professor and an “excuse me, sorry” whilst whizzing past a tourist along the Thames. Find someone you can connect with and ask them about their day, physically meet up with them and show them that you care (not just a quick Whatsapp message), more often than not they will ask the same about you. This might seem ridiculously simple, but it can always act as a sure-fire way to make me feel happier and more in control. Friends at university aren’t always free? Then by all means call your friend from school, your parents or Facetime your cat and talk to them; there’s a life outside of exciting London too.
- Remember to love – not just the people around you (although this is v. v. important). Love what you do with every single day of your life. You might not enjoy all the aspects of your course, but make sure to remember why you enjoy some aspects of it! Importantly, remember what you loved to do before you came to university, such as sports, a certain type of music (hello Spotify student discount), reading, shopping, photography (even if just for Instagram). Remembering to love everything that you do will leave you much more fulfilled and leave you a much more interesting person for your applications! (I used to watch tons of YouTube, but completely ignored this for the majority of my course, allocating time to yourself as in self-care tip 1, will allow you time for what you like doing).
Look to this list for inspiration on where you can improve your wellbeing across the next year. Not only will you feel better, but in you doing you, you’ll hopefully be more content, energised, and able to give more of yourself to what you’re working on. Yes, you do law, but if you are ever struggling to do you, stop and take some time for you. Self-love and happiness is the most important key to success.
*The title of this post was inspired by “You Do You” the third instalment of self-care trilogy by author Sarah Knight – I highly recommend checking out these books for more tips on how to live your life with happiness at the centre!