You sit at your window. Maybe there’s some festive snow on the ground below. Or, if you’re in California, probably just some not-so-festive rain. Everyone else is getting ready to light some candles, burn a Yule log, or roast some chestnuts on an open fire — at least in the movies. And here you are stuck at home with nothing to keep you warm but the ever-engulfing flames of hatred you feel for multiple choice questions. Maybe I’m being dramatic, but let’s face it — that’s a sad substitute.
Studying for the bar is hard, but — as we at the Bar Exam Toolbox have discussed before — if you’re gearing up for the February exam, having to study through the holidays can make things even more challenging. If the bar exam is making you uncharacteristically Scrooge-like this year, consider the following tips:
Pay Respects, but Keep Your Valuable Time for Yourself
Do you really need to go to Aunt Edna’s ugly sweater party or wait in line to see Santa with your nephew who is only old enough to be terrified but not to remember a thing? Your priorities during the holiday season obviously depend on who you are and what you value, but as with everything else in your life right now: prioritize and triage! Pick and choose the events that mean the most to you. Any festivities you can’t wait to get out of? You’ve got a great excuse. “Sorry Sis, I really wish I could help you wrap 20 million presents for your kids, but I have to study for the bar exam.”
Make Your Unavailability Known
Whether it’s sitting everyone down or sending out a mass e-mail, consider how much time you might be able to save if you tell your loved ones now that you will be more uninvolved this year. If you’re already getting tons of group texts about the family ski trip that you know you have to bail on, or getting hounded for gift ideas, it’s only going to get worse as the holidays get closer. Ask for a free pass on this one and give up any guilt you may feel about not doing your fair share. There will plenty of time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family once the bar is over.
Indulge at Least a Little
Experts agree, there’s no reason to punish yourself. If you’re feeling left out while everyone else gets to join in all the reindeer games, at least give yourself a few subtle pick-me-ups. If there’s anything in particular you love about the holiday season, try to incorporate it into your study routine. Do a PT early one weekend day and review it in enough time to have your evening free to watch a classic movie—maybe even go deck the halls. Put a candy cane in your hot chocolate, fry up some latkes, or listen to some merry music—whatever brings you holiday cheer.
I had a roommate in school who spent time before and during finals every year to decorate our entire apartment for the holidays. She also cooked delicious homemade treats and used scented candles to make the whole place smell like an apple cider factory in the middle of a rustic pine forest. I used to think she was going totally overboard, and I teased her every chance I got, but looking back, it was actually pretty great. It’s amazing how seemingly insignificant sensory perceptions can make such a big difference in our feelings about our surroundings and the work we’re doing.
Don’t Overdo it on the Presents
Depending on your holidays and how you celebrate, shopping for gifts can take up a lot of time and energy. Ask yourself if you actually need to be trekking to the mall to check off your list. As noted above, your time right now is incredibly valuable, and more importantly, limited. If you have to buy gifts, consider online shopping (on designated study breaks, of course—not in the middle of a practice essay when your mind starts to wander). Whatever you can do to save time right now is a good idea.
Remember, It’s Not the End of the World
So you miss a dinner party, fail miserably at gift-giving, or don’t even show up for the main event. So what? In the broad scheme of things, it’s ok to let this exam take some priority. In fact, you should! You’re working incredibly hard, and you have to give it your all! The people who care about you will understand that and give you a break.
Reflect on the Reason for the Season—Whatever That Means for You
As the holidays approach, ask yourself why you feel so obligated to do the things you’re either (a) forcing yourself into, or (b) feeling guilty about not doing. Chances are, it all boils down to some basic principles of reverence, sharing, togetherness, and support of one-another. Missing one holiday is not the end of the world. Neither is taking the bar exam.
Reflect on how many people out there are having a much tougher time than you this season. Think about it: you’ve been afforded the wonderful opportunity of going to law school. You are about to embark on a successful and lucrative career as a respected professional. You’re warm and fed, and chances are your biggest worry right now has something to do with having to read some books and cram information into your very capable and educated brain. When you put it like that, it doesn’t actually sound so bleak. If you start feeling sorry for yourself, remember how lucky you really are. Try not to over-think things and get caught up in the frenzy. I know it feels difficult now, but things will be a lot brighter in just a couple short months!
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Enjoying the Holidays (Even When Studying for the Bar Exam)
- Studying Over the Holidays — Yay or Nay?
- The Bar Exam Toolbox Holiday Gift Guide
- When Should You Start Studying for the Next Bar Exam?
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