Mental Health Awareness Week - Balancing work and full-time study

Photo of writer Emma Cartlidge

Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.

By thinking about how we can all address the causes of stress, we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

The Mental Health Foundation provides that younger people have higher stress related to the pressure to succeed. 60% of 18-24 year olds and 41% of 25-34 year old cited this, compared to 17% of 45-54’s and 6% of over 55’s.

Generally speaking most 18-24 year olds are studying or starting out their careers and many are doing both at once.

I started working at Consilia Legal full time as a Paralegal in 2015 upon completion of my undergraduate degree. In September 2016 I went part time and returned to university to study the Legal Practice Course (LPC) full time in order to commence my training contract in September 2017. I attended university on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and worked Tuesdays and Fridays. The course required many additional hours of independant study which meant sacrificing evenings and weekends.

As if I wasn’t stretching myself enough, I also opted for the additional Masters in Legal Practice too which overlapped with the start of my training contract.

I’m sure that the majority of students are familiar with stressful late night library sessions and worrying that there aren’t enough hours in the day.

In my experience, the following tips helped me to reduce stress levels and make things more manageable:-

CREATE A PLAN – whether it’s a timetable pinned up on your fridge or a calendar on your phone, find a plan that works for you. Make sure that you are making a list of priorities and consider when you are most alert to deal with these, if like me you are juggling work and study then you might want to tick those urgent 'to do’s' off your list before the working day rather than leaving them until after. When you’re busy, organisation is key.   

USE YOUR FREE TIME PRODUCTIVELY – when study time is limited, you have to be efficient. Taking time to research and plan is crucial for time management, it avoids rereading and repeating research which will take time later down the line, which you don't have.

WORK SMART – before diving into something headfirst, allow yourself some time to think about what it is that you need to achieve so that you can be sure that you accomplish everything accurately and on time, particularly in relation to exam preparation. It’s easy to get carried away with a subject which you are confident with/enjoy leaving little time for catching up on others.

TEAM UP – support your peers and they will do the same for you. I found that working in groups and having open discussions where possible was extremely productive. Also don’t be afraid to speak to your employer if you are struggling, remember that they will most likely have been in your position.

LOOK AFTER YOURSELF – eat well, exercise and try to get a reasonable amount of sleep. Exam period is a particularly anxious time and it is important to take care of your mental and physical health. It might seem like there isn’t enough time to even consider these things but they certainly lower stress levels and make you more efficient and positive.

 :) 

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