Living Through Law School #1: Sanity Days & The Importance of Giving Yourself a Break

I love law school, even when it’s tough, and I really truly love the work I do – but even the most engaging work gets tiring.  Every day this week I’ve had 6+ hours of school work in addition to being at work and class from 8am-4pm.  I’ve had meetings and appointments filling up every tiny bit of free space in my schedule, and it’s been a bad week for family members demanding limitlessly of my time.

This morning I woke up feeling kind of sick, I was running late for work, and I felt so edgy that I thought I might punch a hole in the wall the next time someone or something required any of my time.  I need a sanity day.

What is a sanity day??  Well let me tell you.  I learned the art of a sanity day all the way back in high school, and the concept stuck with me — and has probably saved my academic career more than once.

I should’ve known all along that I was destined for law school – I was just as crazy in high school as I am now!  I took more classes than there were periods in the school day, was super active in several afterschool things, and I was also a dorm prefect.  It worked okay, except that after months of being cheerful and perky, someone would step on my toe or do something else tiny and silly and I would FREAK OUT.  Freak out, you guys. Seeing this cycle happen a few times, my mentor and still-friend, who was a teacher and RA in the dorm, posed the idea of a sanity day.  We arranged it so I could let him know the night before, and instead of having a huge meltdown, I could essentially blow off school for a day.  It was incredibly kind of him, because it was no small feat to blow off school in my small college-preparatory boarding school.

My first time taking a sanity day, I turned off every electronic device I had, and sat in the sun in my dorm room reading a book.  My door, which on every other day was perpetually open for other students, was locked, and a sign that said “GO AWAY” was written in red on my whiteboard.  Inevitably, the day after my first sanity day, I felt rested and ready to start over.  These events are limited to twice per term.  That’s been the rule since high school and I’ve never broken it.

Work isn’t something I can just blow off, but I have Fridays off so here’s the plan: On Friday I have canceled my physical therapy appointment, I have no other engagements, and I plan to sleep in.  Then I will make a vanilla black tea latte.  Then I will turn off every electronic device – cellphone, tv, all computers, xbox, ipod… everything that makes any noise at all (including little brother), and I will sit in the sun and read a book.  All day.  I will do yoga.  I will take a bath.  I will not change out of my pajamas, I will not leave the house, I will not listen to any requests or demands from anyone.  For one day, I will focus on restoring myself and myself only.

If I could give my fellow law students any advice it’s this: Make time for a sanity day.  We law students are all neurotic type-A nervous wrecks who mainline stress and caffeine 99% of the time.  We also do an amazing amount of work to please other people.  This is good, it’s fantastic – but for one or two days every four months, it’s totally okay to be selfish and say no.  Actually, it’s better than okay; it’s invigorating and restorative and absolutely necessary to staying healthy in a type-A life.

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One Comment on “Living Through Law School #1: Sanity Days & The Importance of Giving Yourself a Break”

  1. Amanda says:

    Love it 🙂 I was like that in high school too, my mom would let me have “mental health days”. I still think they’re pretty much the greatest tool for sanity ever.


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