Stress and law – it's a duality of good and evil that's been around since the days when philosophers gathered to challenge one another using the Socratic Method. As a way to address this age-old conflict, Miami Law began implementing programs that combine mindfulness techniques into the law school track in order to improve student lifestyle and performance. As the Bar nears, many recent graduates may want to brush up on techniques taught by Lecturer in Law Scott Rogers, Director of Miami Law's Mindfulness in Law Program.
Studies show that when the human brain is placed under stress, a particular hormone is released from the brain and into the blood stream. This triggers a release of other stress hormones. Like a domino effect, the hormones are cycled back into the brain. It's this sort of action and reaction that some believe inhibits a student's ability to learn effectively.
A practicing lawyer for 19 years, Rogers knows firsthand what students go through. "Often students start thinking 'How am I going to get this done?'" One reactive thought can set off a series of stressful feelings that inhibit performance," he explains.
Rogers teaches one trick is to recognize the triggers causing the stress – be it exam week, taking the Bar, or having an in-depth assignment – and learn to pay attention to its physical and emotional effects. This sort of recognition – a way to remain in the moment – is at the essence of mindfulness.
Three tips and techniques from Roger's book Mindfulness for Law Students include:
1. Breathe: Breathing has a direct influence to your mood. Remembering to breathe helps to tone down stress, anxiety and also allows you to create a level of self-awareness about how you feel. Remember to breathe.
2. Schedule time to eat well, sleep (at least seven hours) and exercise: Don't underestimate the power of taking care of yourself during exam week. Good food can serve as brain food, while a poor diet can zap your energy. Exercise increases the flow of oxygen into your body, and blood flow to the brain. Sleeping will recharge your body and brain. The one-two-three combo during exam week will be very rewarding.
3. Tone down distractions: Are you master of texting and e-mails or their servant? The continual responding to new texts and e-mails while in the middle of studying may create a jolt of pleasure but leads to an increasingly distracted brain. Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do to help you focus is to turn on your cell phone and listen for e-mails at set times.