Law School, Self Isolation & Mental Health

Notre Dame Alumni, Thilini Meemanage, recently provided the following insight into law school, mental health and self isolation for students during this uncertain time.

Self-isolation can be very isolating but then again, being a law student can be very isolating.

The consumption of research, material and lectures can be generally overwhelming when undertaking a law degree. As an individual, you may find yourself in a state of anxiety due to your relationship with the content, the expectations, your peers and your uni – however this is a period that we are going through individually, as a community but also globally. If you’re feeling alone, please know that you are not. Together, we will share pain, fears and triumph.

It is time to come together as peers and act in a way that will make you proud of your behavior and response during this period of hardship. Be accountable; to yourself, to your education and to your peers as this is an occasion where our anxieties can manifest in a detrimental manner and disrupt our futures going forth.

Undertaking a law degree allows you to pursue many different pathways however a cornerstone on these journeys should be based upon your ambitions to succeed and help others. Covid-19 is a reminder to us all ‘that it’s not about you’ and possessing this mindset going forth with your degree and careers will allow you to find and keep balance. It is inevitable that we may succumb to the fears of a law degree at certain points along the way, however in allowing ourselves to feel the fear we can also be motivated to address and overcome it.

Encourage yourselves to utilise the moment to reaffirm your values, ambitions and make necessary changes which may deter the sustainability of your futures. It is understandably a hard position that many are in and it is very easy to be consumed by our fears, our anger or our lack of security however using the time to revaluate what is important to you and what you want to achieve out of this degree can allow you to build upon your resilience. Embrace the reality of the situation and allow it to empower you to overcome it – in spite of everything going against you, find what is true to you and use this time to build upon in.

Law school is not where you will face your hardest times, sure at times it sucks and may prompt you to question what the point is, or draw you towards easy criticisms that alleviate the struggle that you are feeling – however Covid-19 is a reminder that we cannot control the way life can throw a curve ball at you. This is a meteor sized curve ball that has hit us globally, reminding us that our securities in relationships, technology, dreaming for the future – can each be rendered weak and useless.

However, each and every one of you has the power to control how you deal with the situation. Ask yourself, should your degree be causing you this amount of stress and pressure during this time? Covid-19 just happens to affect us all, however our relationship with hardship will never end. Life can derail you at any point. Whether it be a death in the family, a loss of a job, your favourite band breaking up – how these moments affect our identity and the foundations we have built them upon can be profound and long lasting.

We do not have much control of the moment, however what we do now in the face of this adversity controls how we can overcome the moment and use it to become better. I encourage you all to take a moment to bathe in your feelings – allow yourself to identify your vulnerabilities in order to empower yourself to overcome them. University learning has a uniform framework, however as individuals and more importantly as learners, the way we consume and process what we are taught is so diverse. How you respond in this moment should be uniquely tailored for what works for you.

Share your resources, share your fears, share your accomplishments – come together during this time to overcome this temporary hurdle. Look after those around you, but this comes from looking after yourself. Give yourself time and space to mentally prepare for the shift in your education and prepare yourselves to seize the opportunity to grow. Do not feel pressured to respond without reacting, bottling it up or filling voids superficially has greater potential to stunt your motivation than allowing yourself to come to terms with our new, warped reality. Catch up on sleep, let your mind and body rest, and find a source of peace, even if it begins with something small such as ‘something you are grateful for today’. This will alleviate your stress and anxiety in a sustainable way, these are moments which reveal deep and personal feelings amongst many of us, however this is an opportunity to build upon the foundations we utilise to get us through hard times. Many of us may choose sarcasm, finger pointing or making a dumb joke as our way to respond however this form of deflection or convenient cynicism does little towards our abilities to respond, remain motivated and grow in these moments.

Self-isolation can be very isolating, but so can a law degree. Use this isolation to build upon your sense of self, your resilience and your motivations which push you towards achieving your desires. I hope that you do not come to a crossroad where you have to face a greater hardship for a long time to come, but I hope that this global crisis inspire you all to do your part to come out on top.

There is always pain and suffering – but the human soul is powerful, we as individuals possess great strengths and modes of persevering in the face of adversity, identify your strengths, work on them and work hard to overcome gaps in your resilience, discipline, focus and positivity in order to allow yourselves to grow and come out of this proud of how you treated yourself and others.

Thilini Meemanage is an advocate for building one resilience, being exposed to different walks of life, setting goals and being true to oneself so that mental health and professional careers can bloom in a sustainable way.

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