They say those who can’t do, teach. So, I am here in an attempt to impart wisdom – or something – on the best ways to keep your mind free when you are trying to relax. We don’t need every moment of our time spent visioning flash cards, do we?
After the initial frustration of graduating only to be thrown into another stressful situation has subsided, the anxiety of the bar exam kicks in. There is no rest for the wicked. There is so much pressure surrounding the bar exam. Passing means the opportunity to actually practice law and not hear about theories from professors. So, it is natural that it would produce a lot of anxiety and take 100% of your attention. But what I have heard, and witnessed when studying myself, is that those who are 100% consumed with bar exam topics sometimes overwork themselves and end up doing the opposite of how they want to perform. You have to take some sort of break, and there are a million ideas about how to do this. But once on a break, how do we take back control of our thoughts? Well, here are approximately 5, in no particular order.
Rule 1: Choose your Entertainment Consciously
When I say choose your entertainment consciously, I’m talking about making an active effort to choose something you love doing enough that you won’t “accidentally” think about bar prep the whole time. If you enjoy something enough, the ability for Fiduciary Duties to sneak into your brain is more limited. Whenever you are doing something just for the sake of “taking a break” you run the risk of not actually taking a break and wasting time. For example, I love cooking. So instead of watching tv which is a trap for thinking about other things, I would look up a recipe and cook. It not only is something I enjoy, but it literally makes me think about something else. The elements of homicide definitely don’t slip into my mind when mincing garlic.
Rule 2: Try to Avoid “Entertainment” that may Trigger Law Topics, Law School, the Bar Exam or an Attorney Lifestyle
I love a good Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Amazon Prime etc., etc., etc., binge as much as the next person. And lately, a lot of good shows have emerged involving either law students, attorneys, or legal issues (crime shows) in general. And what all of those shows have in common is triggering thoughts about law in your brain. The show Suits? T r a i n w r e c k if you are trying to feel good and free about the time you’re spending. To be honest, I can’t even go home and turn it on because I just think about how I should still be working on a client’s case. Shows involving attorneys or any depiction of the law may only bring up feelings of guilt or remind you about all the things you are trying to learn during bar exam preparation. You want to free your mind, and hearing about a judge say a rule of evidence wrong in Hollywood will do the exact opposite.
Rule 3: Acknowledge a Passing thought, don’t let it Consume You
[insert some corny “no one is perfect” bit here]. There is no way on this earth, or in the sea, that you will be able to keep thoughts of the bar exam off your mind at all times. So the best thing to do to beat it when those thoughts do intrude, is to wave and walk the other way. Acknowledge that you may be a little anxious about a specific subject you were recently studying and then tell yourself you will make a point to address that subject when you start back up. Not only does acknowledging it and letting it go open up your mind to the now, but your brain and possible anxiety now have a “plan of action” to deal with the subject even if it isn’t right in the moment.
Rule 4: Ignore others’ Study Schedules
Imagine there is a red block button above every single person you know taking the bar exam. And click it. One of the most damaging things you can do when trying to relax is get on social media (before and after the exam) and look at everyone’s stories (Instagram, Snapchat or otherwise). Seeing other people study is the best way to ruin a perfectly good break. Why? Because you will reach the catastrophic opinion, with no real evidence, that that person is studying more than you. Even if just based on a picture. But do you know what’s not in that picture? All the time they took setting it up, taking it, getting distracted by other individual’s stories or the fact that it’s 1:00pm and maybe they just started studying themselves. Staying away from comparing your study schedule and when you are taking a break is the best thing to do when, well, taking a break.
Rule 5: Remember, Breaks only help in the Long Run
Whenever a negative thought about being “lazy” during bar prep would creep in during my breaks, I would remind myself that I am doing myself a favor. Taking a break can actually save your score come bar exam time. Although telling yourself this once may not commit it to memory, telling yourself every time such thoughts, or other subjects start to interrupt your You™ time, then tell yourself that future you will thank current you.