We at Bar Exam Toolbox are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation, and it’s on all our minds. In the span of a few short weeks, it has changed our everyday lives in unimaginable ways. Even those of us who considered ourselves germ-conscious before are now hyper-aware whenever we have to venture outside: “Did I just touch my face after hitting the elevator button?” “Did I sanitize my phone after putting it on the counter at the store?”
You’ve probably heard over and over again how unprecedented this situation is. And it’s true. Never in our lifetimes has anything popped up on the global stage in such a saturating way. COVID-19 has seeped into our consciousness, and it’s hard not to worry.
Whether you’re waiting for exam results, wondering about the bar exam that may or may not happen this summer, or trying to plan how to study from home, there is a feeling of uncertainty, and it’s anxiety-provoking.
So, how do you deal? Well, for starters, I’m not saying I have it all figured out. As I write this, my house is far from tidy. I’ve already read too much news for one day. And to be honest, I had cake for breakfast. Okay, fine, lunch too. And it was delicious. No regrets. But, we’re in this together. Let’s go through some options we can all learn from:
1. Don’t Dwell on Things You Can’t Control
Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was about how to stop worrying about things you have zero control over. We all do this, right? We ruminate. At times we obsess. “Will they administer the bar exam this summer?” “Will I lose my internship?”
If you’re feeling anxious, I suggest making a list of everything on your mind. Go on, get it all out—everything that’s keeping you up at night. Then, separate those items into two groups: (1) the things you have control over, and (2) the things you can’t change no matter how hard you try.
For all the worries you are capable of fixing, brainstorm concrete steps you can take toward that goal. Maybe you’re concerned about the virus. If so, you can do your part and stay home. You can wash your hands. What can’t you do? Enact government policies, control how the news is reported, supply hospitals with more ventilators. So, get these concerns off your mind.
If there’s nothing you can do, implement a way to help yourself banish these anxiety-inducing thoughts. I tell my bar students this during normal bar seasons, but it applies now even more. Come up with a mantra: “Nope, I’m not wasting my time on things I can’t change.” Devise something that works for you. It sounds silly, but it really works. You are the master of your own mental game. Don’t forget that.
2. Make Some Small Self-Care Changes
First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. I know it’s not easy, especially when you’re stuck at home. Most of us probably aren’t exercising as much, if at all. And let’s just say that those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos look extra good at the moment. Or, maybe that’s just me? I’m not expecting anyone to be particularly good at working out or eating healthy food right now. Times are tough. But I will say that when you do, you’ll probably feel at least a little better. Start small. Make some small changes that are good for your immune system and general health. Here are some things I could definitely get better at:
- Drink water. Hey, no excuses, the bathroom is right there! And it’s not like you’re going anywhere.
- Get the sleep you need. Really no excuses for this one either! Especially if you’re out of school or work at the moment. And, I’m guilty of this too, but laying in bed staring at your phone until dawn doesn’t count as rest.
- Especially if you’re cooped up inside, get that blood moving.
- Add a veggie or fruit. Now is not the time to overhaul your diet and thereby necessitate a lot of extra grocery store trips or pack your fridge with perishable items. Take a small step here and there when you can. Step away from the instant noodles.
- Make a schedule. You don’t need to break out a google calendar, but see if you can wake up during daylight hours, not skip meals, remember the last time you showered, you know, the basics.
Have you ever stopped mid-task and realized that your whole body is tense and you’re taking shallow breaths? Me too. Now may not be the time to jump into a full-on meditation practice (unless you’re into that), but you can start small and at least take some deep breaths.
A friend sent me this video last week, and it’s actually really calming. Basically, you breathe along with this oddly satisfying geometric shape as it builds and collapses. I think the visual aspect makes it easier to keep your thoughts at bay and just relax. See what you think.
4. Help Others
If you find that you’re bored, ask yourself if there’s something you could do with your time to improve someone else’s quality of life. Often, doing something nice for someone else is the best way to feel less focused on our own problems.
Here are some ideas:
- Practice physical distancing! This is good for all of us.
- If you can, sew masks and donate them to your local hospital
- Help an elderly neighbor who is more vulnerable. Get them groceries or walk their dog—you might have to get creative with how to pitch in while still keeping enough distance to keep them safe.
- Do a video call to help a relative or friend:
- Help a kid in unfamiliar home school territory learn about a new topic and take some pressure off their parents. I started doing “Auntie calls” with my niece where we discuss the book she’s reading, and I send her videos from the zoo and outer space. Try something similar with a kid in your life.
- Talk a less tech-savvy parent or relative through how to install audiobooks or other boredom-fighting apps on their phone. The other day, I showed grandma how to download the Ted Talks app and now she keeps quoting them to me. “You know, on the Teds, they say that….” It’s adorable.
- Schedule a daily or weekly standing call to check in with an elderly relative who is isolating at home alone.
5. Help Yourself
Is there something you’ve been putting off because you’ve been too busy? Something you can do without going out and getting supplies? Now is the time to finally organize the hall closet, read that book you got for your birthday five years ago, or teach yourself a new skill or hobby online. Try a free language learning app like Duolingo, or learn sign language on youtube. You’ll feel a lot better if you’re not spending the whole day watching TV or scrolling through your phone.
6. Find Uplifting Moments Where You Can
When is the last time you smiled or laughed? What activities keep you sane and happy? Try subscribing to channels on youtube that you find amusing. A lot of comedians are making new content from home now. Download a podcast. Read a column, comic, tweets or sub-reddits that bring a smile to your face. Watch a movie that gets you to chuckle every time. Solve a puzzle, build something, try a new recipe. Institute “formal Fridays” at home, host a virtual happy hour with your friends on Skype, enjoy a living room picnic, or build a fort. Find moments of levity in your day if you can.
These are uncertain times, and we’re all improvising. Hang in there. We will get through it!