Today we welcome Lauren Fire, the creator of Mind Over Bar, which is a program that teaches only the mental tools that you need to get the best out of yourself, get out of your own way, and pass. She is sharing with us some tips to overcome fear when studying for the bar exam. Welcome, Lauren!
Does studying for the bar exam feel like walking the plank on a pirate ship? Do you notice worry, fear or dread creep in when you look at your outlines or review your flash cards? Fear is an immensely powerful emotion. Too much fear triggers your body’s stress response, causing a flood of stress hormones and temporarily shutting down non-essential brain processes. When you feel strong fear, you can’t think straight. This makes biological sense. After all, you don’t really need to recall the elements of battery while fleeing from a lion, right? But you are not fleeing from a lion. You do need to recall those elements and many many more.
So how can you calm that fear while studying or taking the bar exam?
Fear is a Tricky Emotion
Remember FDR’s famous quote: “The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Fear is beyond reason. The harder you try to get rid of it, the more powerful it can feel. Fear can paralyze your efforts to move forward to the best of your ability and succeed on the bar exam. Fear can drive you to work less hard. I’ve seen this over and over with the bar exam students I coach. They slack off, procrastinate, and repeatedly fail to meet study deadlines, sabotaging themselves. Why? Because it’s much scarier to fail when you tried your best than it is to fail when you didn’t.
Everyone has fear. The trick is not to get rid of it. The most powerful people are simply the ones who learned how to succeed in spite of fear.
You have the power to calm down your body and mind. The bar exam is not in control. YOU are. Here’s a simple method you can start using immediately to take back the power over your fear.
Take Back Your Thoughts
First, you must learn to work with your thoughts. Thoughts are tremendously powerful. One thought can generate an emotional roller coaster of dread or a flood of confidence and power.
Right now, think to yourself: “I can’t do this.”
Notice the emotions that creep in. Do you notice guilt, shame, dread, fear, anger, or worry?
Now think to yourself “I’m a bar exam machine! I will rock this test!”
Notice anything different? Yes, I know it feels stupid. It feels fake. It feels like a delusion.
But guess what, so was the first statement. ALL of this is in your head. It’s all a delusion. So why not make the delusion a good one that empowers you instead of drains you?
Create a power mantra for yourself. Try: “I can do this” or “I got this.” Find a short statement that empowers you.
Picture Your Success
Next, create powerful pictures of success. The pictures in your mind also hold amazing power.
Picture yourself walking into the test confident, powerful, and capable. Imagine sitting in that chair and rocking that exam. Imagine panicking and then bringing yourself back to calm and focused.
Imagine sitting at the computer and getting passing results. Taste the champagne, feel the breeze on your celebratory vacation.
Breathe Your Way to Calm
Finally, incorporate your body into the mix. Your breath plays a huge role in your emotional process. If you tense up and breathe shallowly into your chest, you are telling your body to be afraid. Breathing deeply and slowly into your belly tells your body to calm down. So take a few slow deep breaths into your belly and relax your body. Let go for a few seconds.
Repeat & Re-Wire Your Brain
Now every time you look at bar exam materials, say your mantra, bring up the positive pictures and take a few slow breaths into your belly. Do this every morning when you wake up, as you fall asleep, in the shower, and while brushing your teeth. Put your mantra on a post-it note on your fridge or rear-view mirror to remind you to practice.
Repetition is the key to re-wiring your brain. The more often you say your mantra and picture the positive, the more powerful you will feel around bar exam study. The more powerful you feel, the better your brain will work.
Ignore the voice in your head that says this is stupid or tells you that the past means anything about the future. Remember that all of this, positive or negative, is in your head. So choose your delusions wisely!
You CAN do this.
Lauren Fire is the founder of Mind Over Bar, an innovative online course that teaches students practical tools to combat fear, test anxiety, and procrastination on the bar exam.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Can Taking a Break Save Your MBE Score?
- Can Meditation Help You Prepare for the Bar Exam?
- State Dependent Learning and the Bar Exam
- Help! I Can’t Afford a Therapist! 4 Things to Try
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