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Tips to help law students deal with study stress

As exam season approaches for university students, senior psychologist Linda Williams and a spokesperson from the Law Society of NSW offer timely advice to law students who may feel overwhelmed by the stress of looming exams and assessments.

user iconGrace Robbie 27 May 2024 Big Law
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During exam time, law students frequently encounter substantial challenges. They spend long hours studying in university libraries, sacrificing sleep and relying on energy drinks to stay alert, and grappling with the abundance of information they must memorise.

Consequently, numerous law students contend with study-related stress, which can profoundly affect their overall wellbeing and lifestyle.

ReachOut, an online service focusing on youth mental health and wellbeing, conducted a national survey revealing insights into stress among university students in 2023.


They discovered that:

  • “70 per cent of university students surveyed said study stress had a moderate to major impact on their emotional or mental wellbeing in the last 12 months.
  • 57 per cent said study stress was impacting their sleep
  • 48 per cent reported staying up into the night frequently to study or complete assignments.
  • The most common ways uni students reported study stress affecting their lives were lack of motivation, changes to mood and trouble sleeping.”
To aid law students in managing the stress associated with exams and the general demands of being a law student, senior psychologist Linda Williams and a spokesperson from the Law Society of NSW have provided practical tips that students can integrate into their lives.

Williams expressed the importance of engaging in “health behaviours such as eating well, building good sleeping habits and getting in some exercise of physical activity” as they “can be beneficial to managing stress”.

She also encourages students to concentrate on their controllable actions, such as devising and adhering to a study plan, as it not only marks a modest accomplishment but also serves as a stepping stone towards broader aspirations.

“To combat stress, students should try to focus on what they can control right now. Developing a study plan and sticking to it is a small achievement that will help you on your way towards bigger goals, like finding a job in the future,” she said.

Law students must tackle the impact of feeling isolated during exam season, in which Williams emphasised how vital it is to prioritise connections with others as it can alleviate stress and foster rejuvenation.

“Find ways to stay connected with those around you. Research from our online communities shows that exam stress is contributing to feelings of disconnection. Taking a quick break to go on a walk and catch up with a friend might help you feel more rejuvenated and motivated to keep studying,” she said.

In months of overwhelming exam stress affecting various aspects of life, Williams outlined how crucial it is to recognise the need for assistance from trusted people around you as they can offer invaluable support and aid in navigating challenging times.

“Remember to ask for help if you need it. If it’s feeling like your exam stress is at an unhealthy level and impacting other parts of your life, reach out to someone to seek support. This may be a trusted friend, family member or a health professional,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Law Society of NSW also offered valuable tips for promoting lawyers’ wellbeing at any stage of their career.

  • “Do not disturb – turn your devices to do not disturb and create a focused place for studying.
  • Being organised – scheduling your study in a diary or calendar means that you are more likely to stick to it. But remember to also make sure to balance this by scheduling your free time and activities.
  • Speak up – if you have a question, don’t let it escalate. Speak to your lecturer or classmates.
  • Get support – if you’re struggling, don’t suffer in silence. Get support through your university services or other organisations, such as the Law Society of NSW, which offers a range of wellbeing initiatives and support accessible for free to student members.”
The spokesperson also revealed how “universities will often have internal support and counselling services” and how “it’s important to ensure students are aware of the support that’s available, both internally and externally, and how to access it and create an open and safe environment for students to seek support or ask questions”.

It’s crucial for law students to tackle the stress brought on by exams, given the prevalence of mental health issues for law students.

A study conducted by researchers from Ulster University and Atlantic Technology University in the end of 2022 unveiled that among the surveyed students, law students exhibited the highest rates of alcohol misuse. Additionally, they demonstrated a greater prevalence of depression (17.4 percent), panic disorder (10.6 per cent), social anxiety (31.7 per cent), and ADHD (32.1 per cent).

Of more significant concern were the trends observed among law students regarding suicide ideation, planning, and attempts. Over a 12-month period, more than one in four law students surveyed reported having suicide ideation.