By Mayoori Malankov, First Year English Common Law student and Peer Mentorship Coordinating Chair
Dr. Gautam and WLMP participants at the Norton Rose Canada class room, Fauteux 302 for the WLMP’s first Resiliency Training Workshop on February 9th, 2013.
Life as a first year, female law student is demanding. My peers in upper years assure me that first year is the most grueling of all three, which is helpful to keep in mind. But no matter how I slice it, feelings of stress and anxiety apparently can’t be wished away.
As Dr. Mamta Gautam stated at the beginning of the WLMP resiliency training workshop last Saturday, the fact of the matter is, “stress is ubiquitous”, the only thing we can do successfully is gain the skills to manage it.
If you’re thinking, “that’s easier said than done”, you’re right. However, part of the reason that’s true is because we often react to stressful events rather than prepare ourselves ahead of time.
How do you prepare? Dr. Gautam encouraged us to begin by identifying our stressors. Participants cited everything from time management, to anxiety about the recruitment process for jobs, to frustration about how we are expected to be “super women” and excel while fulfilling our many different roles.
It was uplifting to hear my peers share their experiences. I appreciated this part of the workshop because as we traded stories, it was a reminder to all of us that we were not alone.
Preparation also involves seeking help and guidance when you need it. This is where the role of mentors becomes crucial. Dr. Gautam emphasized that the number one thing that is going to help us become the kind of professionals we want to be, is having someone with relevant experience and insight advise us.
These are people who can give you concrete examples of how they handled an irate boss, a racist co-worker and/or sexist slights. Your mentor will be someone who has persevered through difficult situations and can expand your understanding of what it means to be resilient by sharing how they handle stressful situations.
In fact, the process of sharing stories and strategies of resilience at this workshop highlighted that we are all both mentors and mentees. As one participant put it, it is our responsibility, especially to fellow female law students and lawyers to pass on skills to someone who may be struggling.
There is so much more to say about this workshop, but I’ll close with these three gems:
- When you share you get support at the time you need it – Dr. Gautam pointed out that the “s words” go together. Keeping something a secret is a shame, whereas sharing allows us to exchange support when we need it.
- What are you big rocks? – It’s easy to get overwhelmed by a never-ending to do list. Prioritize, by asking yourself what is essential to your everyday well-being. i.e.: working out, mediating, eating healthy meals. Those are your big rocks; make room for them first.
- Practice till the day you need to perform – practice daily whatever it is you think you need to handle a difficult situation. Whether it’s to be more patient, positive or assertive, work on it daily so you’re ready to exercise those skills on those inevitably stressful days.
Ultimately, the secret to resilience is a devotion to self-care and realizing that it shouldn’t be a secret in the first place. Share what you know to be true for you and let us be resilient together.