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This webinar summary is written by Ankur Mukherjee, Brainware University.

Dated: 05/05/2020

The Guest Speaker: Shahen Pradhan is the Partner at Argus Partners. He is alumnus at University of Derby where he pursued his Masters of Law.

The Host: Sammanika Rawat is the Head of Placements and Career Coach at LawSikho. She is an internationally accredited Mediator and has worked in Banking and Infrastructure Projects as a corporate lawyer. She is also an Environmental activist at the grassroots level.

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What is stress?

In medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems. 

Catecholamine hormones, such as adrenaline or noradrenaline, facilitate immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action. These include the following: Acceleration of heart and lung action, paling or flushing, or alternating between both, inhibition of stomach and upper-intestinal action to the point where digestion slows down or stops, the general effect on the sphincters of the body, constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body, liberation of nutrients (particularly fat and glucose) for muscular action, dilation of blood vessels for muscles, inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation, dilation of pupil (mydriasis), relaxation of bladder, inhibition of erection, auditory exclusion (loss of hearing), tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision), disinhibition of spinal reflexes, and Shaking 

Stress can cause or influence the course of many medical conditions including psychological conditions such as depression and anxiety. Medical problems can include poor healing, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes and many other conditions. Stress management is recognized as an effective treatment modality to include pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic components.

How to stress less in a day?

We all face stress in our lives to varying degrees; some of it can be foreseen and minimized, some takes us by surprise and is unavoidable, and some of the stress we face is chronic and predictable, but still not completely avoidable. The best we can do is to manage the stress that comes our way and find different ways to relieve it. A “layered” approach to stress management is best—one that involves strategies that minimize stress where possible, other techniques that help us think about things in a less stressful way when we can’t avoid them, and additional strategies that build resilience so we can more effectively face whatever comes our way. However, most of us, understandably, want a ‘magic bullet’ of stress relief—one thing that we can do every day to relieve the stress of the daily grind. And having one daily stress relief habit will make a significant difference in the level of stress we feel. The catch? That one thing may be different for everyone. While daily stress relievers aren’t one-size-fits-all.

Research on positive affect – being in a good mood – shows that when people do small things that lift their mood, it creates an ‘upward spiral’ of positive feelings that lead, put simply, to an increased resilience toward stress. (The more complicated explanation is that they broaden your awareness of your opportunities, your improved mood leads to a greater motivation to take advantage of these opportunities, and this tendency to build resources leads to more positive moods; it’s a self-perpetuating cycle.) So doing one small thing each day can create something much larger that helps you to overcome stress and keep a smile on your face at the same time.

How does stress change the nature of our life?

Nature helps us cope with pain because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.

This is nicely demonstrated in a now classic study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery; half had a view of trees and half had a view of a wall. According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a hospital. More recent studies have shown similar results with scenes from nature and plants in hospital rooms. Surviving through a law school is not an easy task. You have to deal with the expectation of your parents, professors and friends. You will be in the constant hunt for internships. You will be endlessly preparing for your next competitions and at the same time trying to finish your readings for next day’s classes. So this list goes on and there are good chances that this kind of chaos will be waiting for you when you enter the professional domain. As per a recent report by Washington Post, the lawyers rank highest on ‘loneliness scale’.  Also, because of all of this chaos, you might lose human touch, and remember that your friends might also be going through the same situation and therefore it is important to have empathy towards people around you. Don’t forget that you are a human being before a top aspiring lawyer. Help others and actively seek help whenever in need.

How to Handle Stress at Workplace?

To have the best output at work we need to provide people with a healthy environment to work. A healthy workplace can be described as one where people actively contribute to the working environment by promoting and protecting the health, safety and well-being of all others. Mental health interventions should be delivered as part of an integrated health and well-being strategy that covers prevention, early identification and support. Mental health of every person is very important for being productive, as not having a good mental health would lead to inability of the person to concentrate on his work. 

The mental illnesses must be treated like any other physical illness. Simply saying it’s just in your head won’t help because for those who suffer, it is very real. The victims of mental disorders need coping advices and not judgmental comments. There seems to be no specific reason to when a mental disorder strikes, how deep it strikes or how long it lasts. 

How to Come Up With Creative Ideas?

The first thing to do is to stop lying to yourself. More often than not, what stands between you and your honesty is your ego. This is not your fault. There is a sense of ingrained in millenniums of human conditioning. Our civilization, culture and history have made us so it makes us blind to the immediate realities. At times it turns us into rabbits in headlights. At other times, it makes us look at the world with rose tinted glasses and think that everything is alright.  

All you need is to go deep and broad inside your conscious mind and think. When you are in depression, or on the verge of it, you are likely to want to cut off from the world, especially the people who love you and care about you. That is what happens mostly and that is a mistake that makes bad situations even worse. One may also feel too weak to support those who depend on him/her and disappear. 

Prima facie, being there for those who count on us seems like an easy task. After all, why would one even think of turning their back on the people they care for? However for someone suffering from depression, anxiety or having to contend with excessive workload, reaching out in itself can be a difficult task, let alone the urge to stand beside your close ones in the hour of need. Having someone to depend on you when you yourself are gasping for breath can indeed seem to be a tall order. Identify the people who genuinely care for you.

Why do people cannot themselves properly?

Just to get the scary one out of the way first, it is difficult to explain how much reading a law degree involves other than to say that there are a lot of law books! Law students get a reputation for clocking up the library hours because each week you need to learn what the law actually is and academics’ opinions of it from scratch, and neither of these will be particularly short. There is definitely an art to managing the reading lists and you will get all the advice you need from older students when you first arrive, but it does take a while to get used to the pace of learning.
That said, by the end of your first term you won’t believe how quickly you can pick up the key themes of an article or find the important passages from a case. 

Just be ready for the inevitable long nights when you need to stay up getting through an endless reading list. They do happen but they are (almost) only as common as you want them to be; you are never set more work than it is feasible to do if you manage your time well. Self-imposing a schedule for getting reading done, plus whatever other assignments you have been set, is a habit to get into very quickly.

How to change your stress into total positivity?

The lockdown amid coronavirus outbreak has created a significant shift in our lifestyles. While we are learning to adapt newer ways of living, many of us are also struggling to fight with uncertainty, anxiety and loneliness. The current situation may prove even harsher for students who were gearing up to begin their college life after their board exams and students who are already pursuing higher education programs but missing on their campus life due to the lockdown.
Institutions are putting their best foot forward to ensure that education of their students continue in the best possible manner and they have all the support they need. From online classes to personalized mentoring sessions and even virtual live concerts institutions are trying to keep students engaged and productive. However, students also have an important role to play when it comes to taking care of their mental health and overcome issues related to anxiety and stress. Here are the few things that students should strive for while coping up with the lockdown.

How is stress going to help you?

While stress has become an alarming health epidemic with 86% of people claiming to suffer some sort of stress all over the world, the rate of students suffering in law colleges is comparatively higher. I would believe that the degree of stress is also a lot more.

There are various reasons why I as a student may feel stressed out in law school. A lot of things come on flying into one’s face as soon as one joins college – the pressure to do great in exams, internships, moot court competitions and what not. The exams never seem to end, moot courts looks too demanding and often students have no idea how to apply for good internships. Moreover, there is excessive competition among classmates, parental pressure to be at the top of everything you do, peer pressure, the pressure to be cool

And then there are your own personal problems. As you are growing up, you form new relationships, while older ones wear out. Relationships require an effort to maintain, and a lot of times just end up stressing us even more. The stress that students from NLUs go through is even higher, due to the highly competitive environment in most of them. Year-losses too have been cited to be a major reason affecting the mental health of law students, in a report by NLSIU Students Bar Association.

A lot of students find themselves lost and misguided because there is no one to mentor them. No one tells them what they should spend most of their time doing, is it worth spending so much time on a particular competition, paper, or internship, what are good internships, etc. Students fall victim to myths and false beliefs. Someone, perhaps a senior, would come along the way and tell them this is right, and they would religiously start doing it, until some other day some other senior would come and say something opposite.  Students often end up doing too much, to get only too little results. 

It is important for students to realize that everything their seniors say is not worthy of being written in gold, since they themselves are figuring out things and their advice should be taken with a pinch of salt especially if the said seniors have not yet really achieved anything great out of their own methods. They are, like you, at some stage of development in their lives, and have not fully matured.

The same often applies to teachers too. While some of them have good advice to offer, many of them are doling out outdated insights, which are often delinked from any reality. If they do not make time to meet industry people and learn from them, they are unlikely to be able to guide you on the right path.

Questions by audience

How high expectations destroy us and creates stress?

Parental pressure is the most damaging. When a child cannot live up to his parents’ high expectations, he gets stressed. When he cannot handle the pressure, there is a chance that he might take the extreme step of suicide. It is the parent’s expectations that kill the child. Trying to get admission on merit failing which you have to pay for a seat is the largest cause of stress and, thus, suicide. The solution is the abolition of the management quota. Education has become market oriented. This is dangerous and causes the most damage.

Why our expectations our bigger problem?

The years you spend in college are very important. This is not just a few years of your life. This is the time when you shape your self-image. Who are you in the world? Are you a winner or a loser? Are you a loner or a team player? Do you take initiative or do you want others to tell you what to do? Such characteristics get formed in the college years. This is also a time when you realize that you are alone in the world. It is a part of growing up. As a younger kid, you are usually under the protective umbrella of your family, and your interaction with the outside world is limited. College is the time when most people begin to deal with the world on their own and step out of that protective influence of parents. This is also the time when you want to belong and become part of something that is more than just you and your family. And it is not easy to find that. Most colleges fail to create environments where you can feel that you belong to something.

Can competitions create more stress?

Over the past few decades, law, like engineering and medicine, has become come to be an aspirational career. It therefore sees youth from various socio-economic backgrounds come to these institutes of higher education for a financially stable and fulfilling career. This may also give rise to students succumbing to high-competition environments and even discriminatory practices, which becomes a greater road-block for individuals battling mental health issues.

There are certain common problems faced by students once they reach university. For new students, they may have been the top fliers in their school, but then they get to university and realise they are among other top fliers. They suddenly feel deskilled and suffer a loss of confidence.

Moreover, law schools in India are allotted rankings by various portals perpetuating an unwarranted disparity. This compels students not belonging to the crème de la crème of law schools to do everything over and above, to overcompensate for any academic limitations so as to not impede future opportunities.

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