Tips for Living Your Best Winter Break Life

Tips for Living Your Best Winter Break LifePlease welcome back guest writer Kala Mueller,  Director of Public Interest Programs at the University of Nebraska College of Law, to discuss how to make the best use of your winter break during law school.

Now that you’ve (hopefully) emerged from your post-exam stupor, let’s talk about what to do with yourself during the glorious respite known as winter break. I’ve provided some guidance below and, personally, would strive to strike a balance between fun/relaxation and productivity. However, a different and equally good approach is to think about what you need from your time off to feel as good as possible going into the next semester, and then do it.

Let. It. Go. (And Do Some Things That Make You Happy)

In the wake of George H.W. Bush’s passing a few weeks back, I saw someone share this quote from Barbara Bush: “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” I think this is generally wise life advice, but I’m not going to tell you that law school doesn’t require sacrifices or that those sacrifices aren’t worthwhile. However, I am going to tell you that if you’re still replaying how you answered the second essay question on your Contracts exam, you need to stop doing that.

Don’t let obsessive thoughts of how you performed or what you could have done differently or plotting out what you need to do next semester dominate all of your waking moments and keep you from enjoying your time off. It’s not healthy, and I’m confident you’ll regret doing so (and might even pay a price for it in the spring). You’ve just been through an incredibly rigorous experience; your brain needs a break.

Think about some of the things you’ve sacrificed in the last few months and make a point of doing them over the next couple of weeks. Whether it’s sleep, spending time with friends and family, going to the movies, watching a good television show, catching up on the news, or working out, be sure to carve out a sizable chunk of time for activities that bring you joy. You won’t regret making the most of this down time when things pick up again in January.

Reflect and Plan

Now that you’ve got at least one full semester of classes and exam taking under your belt, think about what worked and what didn’t work. How did you prepare for class? How did you approach outlining and exam preparation? Were your methods efficient and effective? If not, now is the time to think critically about how you could improve your study habits and develop an implementation plan.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It was the most oft-repeated piece of wisdom I received from students I surveyed on what advice they would offer to new 1Ls. If you’re having a difficult time or feel you could benefit from some extra assistance, seek out someone in the academic support program at your law school, an upperclassman, a mentor, or a private tutor. If you are dealing with mental health issues, you are most certainly not alone. Please find someone you trust, whether it’s a friend, a law school administrator, or a mental health professional, to confide in about your concerns. Most universities offer counseling services for enrolled students.

Did you create a schedule for yourself last semester? If not, give it a try and be sure to set aside time for self-care. Even if you tell yourself you’ll do better this time around, without a plan, it can be easy to fall into old habits. Are you hoping to add more exercise, yoga, meditation, etc. into the mix? Don’t wait! Start building it into your daily schedule now (at a time that will work with your spring schedule) so that it’s becoming a normal and prioritized part of your routine by the time classes begin again.

Get a Job

Ok, so “get a job” may be a bit too strong. There probably aren’t a lot of 1Ls who will emerge from winter break with something all lined up for next summer, but you can certainly start taking steps toward that goal. I recently wrote about getting a jump start on the summer job search, so you’ll find a number of useful tips there. Although perhaps not the most exciting way to spend part of your break, it’s not mentally taxing like studying for class, you can do a lot of it – even networking – from the comfort of your couch, and I think you’ll be happy to have gotten some of these things out of the way before classes are back in session.

I love a good checklist, so I would recommend that you let all of this ruminate in your head for a little while and then write down the things you’d like to do before break is over. For now, you can get back to The Haunting of Hill House; please just don’t tell me how it ends.


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About Kala Mueller

Kala Mueller is the Director of Public Interest Programs at the University of Nebraska College of Law. She received her B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School, where she served as a senior editor for the Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society. Before joining the law college, Kala worked as a prosecutor and with a civil litigation firm where she practiced primarily in the area of personal injury defense. She lives in Lincoln, NE with her husband and three sons.

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