Court can be stressful: How to keep your cool


Going to court can be a very intense experience. The process is long, expensive, and it usually means you’ll have to cover difficult subject matter that can trigger strong emotional responses.

Here are a few tips you can try to keep your composure under pressure:

Prepare for the big day

Preparation is both physical and mental. On the physical side, try your best to get a good sleep the night before your court appearance, eat a healthy breakfast, and stay hydrated. This will ensure you’re energised and that your brain is working at its best during the day.

When it comes to the mental side, talk to your lawyer about what you should expect on the day. What do normal proceedings look like? What are some challenges that may arise? Knowing this in advance will help you anticipate changes and cope with proceedings as they unfold.

Create space for yourself

Courts are busy places. There are lots of other people, many of whom will be feeling just as tense as you are. On top of that, there will be lots of lawyers and court staff. There may also be police, children, service animals, witnesses, and even the media. It can be overwhelming.

It may be helpful to find a quiet spot to sit and wait until your matter is called. You can download a podcast or video onto your phone and listen to it with headphones to pass the time. You could also bring a book to read or some puzzles to keep your mind occupied. Don’t feel pressured to talk to anyone. It’s also wise to avoid crossing paths with the other party where possible.

Give yourself time to process

It’s completely normal to feel nervous, stressed, or emotional during court proceedings. If you can feel strong feelings building up, the best thing you can do is take some deep breaths and try to calm down. It’s okay to show emotion but it’s important to avoid losing your temper.

If you don’t understand a question or you suddenly feel your mind go blank, don’t panic or start rambling. You can always ask a judge or lawyer to repeat what they’ve just said. You’re also allowed to pause, take a sip of water, and consider your answer before you respond. 

Bring a support person

Sometimes a support person can make all the difference. You can bring a trusted person, such as a close friend or family member, to court with you. They can’t talk to you while court is in session, but they can encourage you during breaks and debrief with you afterward. 

It’s also helpful to maintain communication with your lawyer throughout the day. Checking in regularly will ensure you understand what’s happening and how it’s going. If they know you are struggling to maintain your composure, they will be able to help you through the process.

Remember the stakes

Courts are serious places. Judges and juries can make very important decisions about your life. Staying calm and present well will give you the best possible chance of having a good outcome.