Once the reality of bar prep starts to set it – many people are thrown off by the surprising intensity of it all. Few realize just how stressful it is until they are in it. So if you do not have a ready-made bar exam stress management plan to deal with this stress once it sets in, you may find yourself in a bad situation with seemingly no way out.
So PLAN FOR THE STRESS OF THE BAR EXAM. This means preparing ahead of time for both the intensity of the bar prep period, all the way up to the exam itself. Take time before the study period begins to determine what works best for you.
I can hear some of you thinking, “Oh, here we go again.” Yes, here we go again. If you’ve been searching for bar prep advice, you may have already stumbled across articles about the importance of taking care of yourself. If you are anything like me – you shrug that advice off as being for people who are “weaker” than you – and can’t handle the rigors ahead.
But take it from someone who knows – taking care of yourself is truly critical. No matter how much you think you resemble Superman or Wonderwoman, your body and mind do have their limits. You must learn to acknowledge when your body is telling you to take a break or slow down. Taking care of yourself is as essential as studying enough.
If you don’t study enough – and properly – you will likely fail. And if you subject your body and mind to abuse by not caring for yourself, your mind will likely not be at its best during the most important 2-3 days of your academic life.
So plan ahead. What works for you? What kind of studier are you? Are you an “all or nothing” person who is likely to forge ahead at 100 miles per hour with no stops in between? Or are you more like the turtle in the race, who procrastinates, but thinks they’ll “pull it out” in the last second?
If you are the latter, you should probably stop reading this blog, and go to 5 Reasons You May Be at Risk of Failing the Bar Exam. You already know how to take care of yourself, in fact, you are a bit indulgent. And that could be your downfall.
However, if you are like most bar examinees, you will fall in the prior category – and you need to consider the following.
When you are creating your bar prep schedule – include breaks! Yes, write them right into your schedule so that you don’t forget. They are more important than you know. Your brain needs breaks, or it cannot function at peak capacity.
So after your morning study session, plan for a break. What you do is up to you. If you are the type that needs to go to the gym and work off the stress that is accumulating within your body and mind – go for it! Sweat out that stress so that you can resume your afternoon studies feeling refreshed and ready to absorb more. It’s like wringing out a sponge. Once you reach maximum capacity, nothing else can be absorbed until you allow it to dry out.
If working out isn’t your thing, maybe take a walk, float in your pool, meditate. Whatever it is that reenergizes you and gets you to ground zero again. You need to go into every study session energized and ready for more. Taking breaks is healthy, as long as you don’t overdo it!
It’s interesting how some people think that there is some sort of nobility in denying themselves the basic essentials of physical health. There is no prize here for who pushes themselves the hardest. All that there is – is exhaustion and lack of cognitive function. So pushing yourself so hard that you don’t sleep is not an admirable quality. This is a time that you need your brain, and your brain needs sleep.
I remember being in law school and being utterly convinced that I had no time to worry about what I ate. I grabbed what was available in the cafe at school, before running from class to trial team practice that lasted into the wee hours of the night. And somehow – I felt that this was a good trait. All that mattered was performance. However, what I never considered is that performance only falters when we don’t feed our bodies what they need to function optimally.
All bar examinees would do well to truly look at this time of “training” for the Bar Exam in the same way that Olympic athletes look at training. Feeding your body, spirit, and mind is all critical. They are not three separate entities. They all work together.
You need them to be working optimally both during your bar prep months, and throughout your testing days. Prepare as an athlete would! And when you complete the race and get that shiny gold medal – it will all have been worth it.
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