It's that dreaded time of year when the weather gets colder, leaves start falling, and signs for flu shot clinics appear in every pharmacy. Yes, friends - it's cold and flu season. As a student at a giant university who is consistently surrounded by twenty-somethings who aren't very good at keeping their germs to themselves, I am constantly in fear of catching a virus or whatever sickness is plaguing the college community at the time. I walk around my apartment twice a week with Lysol wipes in hand, disinfecting every surface I can think of. A bottle of hand-sanitizer is constantly clipped to my backpack, I constantly take my vitamins and stay hydrated, and I avoid hanging out with people the second I hear them cough. Despite all these precautions, somehow I have caught a bug and now I have to deal with feeling sick in law school.
You've probably heard a lot of the same statistics I have about the average adult getting about 4 colds a year. Despite the commonality, I still feel shocked every single time I come down with the slightest illness. I'm sure many of you feel the same, but I advise you to embrace the inevitability and prepare for how you will handle yourself when you do eventually get sick. As I am trying to stay on top of things and be the kickass law student I know I can be, while battling the plague of the common cold, here is my advice on how to handle sick days in law school:
Know Your Class Attendance Policies
If you're sick, chances are, you might be missing classes. Before you decide to stay home instead of going to Contracts class, make sure you've checked your class attendance policy and know whether or not that absence will hurt you. For example, I have one class where if I miss more than two classes, I will automatically fail. Others require 80% attendance, meaning I can miss up to five classes. Others have provisions of two or three absences before my grade is impacted; some require a doctors note or other documentation for any absences. As you can see, attendance policies vary greatly - so make sure you know the policy for whatever class you are considering skipping before you do it. It's better to be miserable in class than to fail for spending the afternoon in bed.
Don't Let Yourself Fall Behind In School
This goes for while you are sick - and before. Can you imagine if you catch the flu - but you're so behind in your classes already and one sick day puts you even more behind and you fall into a downward spiral of being inevitably behind in all your classes? Scary, right? So don't let that happen to you. I try to stay a day or two ahead in all of my readings and assignments so that if something does come up, whether it be an illness or an emergency, I don't fall even farther behind. As cold and flu season rolls in, make sure you are staying on top of your assignments, just in case.
While you are sick, don't let your illness be an excuse for you to fall behind either. As much as you can, do your readings and assignments. While I've been sick these last few days, although I've been exhausted, I've still tried to put in at least a half-day of work. Today I worked on my readings from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and went to my hour class in the afternoon. This way, I'm not falling behind too much but I'm also not doing my normal long days at school that would exhaust me.
Hydrate, Hydrate. Hydrate!
Okay, so this is just general good advice for being a healthy person - but drink a ton of water. Your body needs fluids to heal. When I'm sick, I'm very likely to ignore eating or drinking anything - but that is a bad habit that I need to break. One of the best things you can do to help yourself get better is to drink enough water, so as Nike would say, just do it!
Get Enough Sleep
As a law student, I don't get nearly enough sleep as it is. I often stay up later than I should trying to get things done for school, cleaning my apartment, talking to my friends from back home, or laying awake stressed out about literally everything in the world. Being sick just adds more unnecessary stress to my life - which makes it even harder to sleep at night. But thanks to NyQuil, I've been forcing myself to get a good night's sleep because I know that rest is essential to healing. Between that and a nap here and there, I am sleeping my way to recovery and I highly recommend you do the same.
Take Care of Your MENTAL Health As Well
While this post is primarily about taking care of your physical health, I assure you that caring for yourself mentally is no joke. The stress from law school can take a huge toll on your physical and mental health. However, when you have a head cold or a touch of the flu, it's much easier to grab some medicine, hydrate, and get yourself back on track. Taking care of yourself mentally isn't so simple. This is something to keep in mind throughout the entire year, but especially during those times where you might feel a little bit ill. Being sick can add some extra undue stress that can have a bigger impact on your mental health than you might realize. So make sure if you start to feel a little down when you are sick, that you recognize the burden you are putting on your mental health and do something about it. If you aren't a fan of seeking out therapy, try to at least use some of your favorite stress relief methods, care for yourself, and remember that it's totally and completely normal to feel upset every now and then. But despite the bad days, you can get through this. Take care of your body, take care of your mind.
Stay Away From Booze, Drugs, Etc.
Many law students like to relax using some of these things, but while you are sick is not the time to indulge. Most of these things have negative effects on your health - even in moderate amounts - and you don't want to sabotage your body while it is trying to be healthy again. I know you don't want to give up a night out with your friends, or you just want to relax - but seriously, you can let yourself go a few days without it and when you are back to your full, healthy safe, you will thank yourself.
and last but not least,
Take A Deep Breath and Chill
Relax. Getting sick isn't the end of the world, although it may feel like it at the time. You will feel better soon, you will get back on track, and you will be okay. Just focus on getting better and getting back to being the amazing law student that you are!
Good luck everyone, and stay healthy this cold and flu season!