You’ve written 100 practice essays and answered thousands of multiple choice questions; the elements of common law murder appear in your dreams at night; you’ve crafted numerous memos and letters to clients for MPTs. It’s the last week before the bar and you really, truly, think you have a shot at passing. The end is in sight. Why, then, can’t you relax, even just a little???
The stress of studying for the bar impacts you in ways you don’t even realize. Spending weeks cramming an insane amount of information into your head (after three years of law school that are not exactly a walk in the park), while also worrying about pass rates and how much more time your gunner classmate is spending studying than you are, has real psychological and physiological impacts.
Don’t get me wrong. A little stress is good. It pushes you to power through those last few practice tests. It motivates you to try harder when you’re struggling. It might drive you to ask for help when you need it. But, as we know, too much stress is BAD. So, without further ado: here are 5 suggestions for alleviating stress during that last crazy week before the exam.
When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, natural mood boosters that will help you feel calmer and happier and promote motivation and enjoyment. Even better, by improving circulation throughout the body, including the brain, exercise actually boosts your mental acuity and cognition. Studies have shown improvements in executive function, memory, the amount of time it takes to complete tasks, and the ability to pay attention—all from exercising.
If you’re worried about finding time for exercise when you still need to finish your studying, bring along flashcards or a short outline and review at the gym while you ride, step or walk. And remember, you don’t have to spend an hour exercising. Even just walking around the block will improve your circulation and give you many of the benefits I mention.
Caveat: do something you like! If you hate running, don’t hit the treadmill as a “break” from studying for the bar.
2. Plan a Post-Bar Trip (or Fantasize about the Trip you’ve Already Planned)
Take some time during this last week and research something other than the law. I promise it will relax you – even just briefly – to daydream about where you will go. It doesn’t have to be a European tour or a cycling trip through Vietnam, though these types of great adventures are certainly worth considering before you buckle down (again) for work as a lawyer. But maybe you don’t have much time off (or much money left after school and bar prep courses and the like), or you’ve taken the bar before, and you did a big trip the first time around. Don’t let this deter you. Your trip can be something simple. Go with friends (or enjoy some solo time). Lie on a beach or hike through the mountains or visit all the museums you haven’t seen over the last 3 years. Whatever will make you feel relaxed and recharged.
If you’ve already planned a post-bar trip, there are still plenty of things you can do! Take some time to read more about where you’re going. Throw a few items in your suitcase. Book a spa treatment at your hotel. Make some dinner reservations. Anything to help your mind focus on something pleasurable and relaxing to look forward to post exam.
3. Do Some Yoga
If you don’t have time (or money) to go to a class, pull up a video on YouTube and do a series of poses and some guided breathing at home.
4. Talk to a Friend
Bonus points if said friend is not studying for the bar (or related in any way to the field of law). Pick up the phone or, if you can spare the time, meet briefly in person. Talk about things other than the bar (I know it’s hard, this is why it’s helpful NOT to meet up with law school pals). If you feel like you have literally nothing to say that is not related to the bar (since you’ve been living it every minute of every day for weeks now), ask your friend to tell you how he or she is doing or to tell you a funny story.
Cook something tasty (assuming cooking is something you enjoy) or go out for a quick bite at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, or one that you’ve been too countless times because it’s always delicious. Eating a meal you enjoy is an escape and a break from studying, which your brain and body needs to continue to de-stress and relax a little bit. Additionally, too many students throw nutrition out the window when they’re stressed. This is exactly the wrong choice. I’m not saying you need to embrace the latest health fad or eliminate whole categories of food from your diet here (in my final weeks of studying for the bar, all that got me through the day somedays was the thought of the Subway Spicy Italian sandwich waiting for me at dinnertime). But you can’t forget to eat, and you’ll feel better ultimately if you reach for a healthier option. For tips on food as fuel for the exam itself, click here and here.
Remember, you’re in the home stretch! If you’ve followed your study schedule, you’ve worked really hard! You deserve a little more downtime this week. It’s time for a little bit more attention to self-care and making choices that will get you in the right mindset to conquer the exam. You’ve got this!
Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles on managing stress during bar prep: