Studying for the bar exam can be one of the most stressful periods of your life, so strategizing and prioritizing self-care is important. If you find yourself stressed about not getting stressed, don’t be! Just implement these extremely do-able strategies to stay healthy during bar exam prep and beyond.
1. Put it on the Calendar!
What self-care looks like for every person will be different, but it’s helpful to schedule time for it every day. While it may feel strange to calendar yourself time for exercise, meal prep, or even a little bit of binge-watching, having a reminder pop up on your phone will help nudge you into taking the breaks that you need to stay healthy and recharge for the next day of studying.
2. Move Your Body, Every Day
Make it a point to do something active every day. Not only will it feel good and help you stay healthy, it can actually help you learn and pass the bar! While what exercise you do isn’t nearly as important as finding something you can do consistently, some studies have found even short sessions of yoga can benefit cognitive function and memory performance. If you can’t work a yoga class into your schedule, you can find quick routines online; just roll out your mat and get to sweating! If yoga isn’t for you, try taking a daily walk (bonus – it’s free!). If you’re more of a basketball player, pick up a ball and find a game. Just find a way to move your body, even if it’s only for 20 minutes.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and you need to pay attention to both in order to be at your best for the bar exam. Combatting the stress and anxiety of bar prep will require a lot of you, but practicing mindfulness can help!
Of course, like most things, calming your racing bar prep brain can be easier said than done. Focus on finding ways that work for you. Try guided meditation apps if you’re new to the mindfulness game. Get outside and take some deep breaths. Take real breaks; when you’ve scheduled yourself lunch, really have a nice lunch! Make sure you taste your food, instead of just munching mindlessly while you read your outline.
4. Feed Your Body and Mind
Speaking of tasting your food, eating healthy, nourishing meals is key for your physical and mental health. It can be easy to fall into the trap of eating on the go, grabbing fast food or even just a bar or smoothie, but it’s hard to stay healthy if this becomes your everyday routine. Preparing your meals during bar exam season can actually be easy and enjoyable.
If cooking is your thing, batch cook during your downtime, so you have your favorite healthy meals on hand all week. If you tend to graze, find ways to do so healthily. During bar prep, I would sometimes buy party trays of chopped veggies and fruit, healthy dips like hummus, and cheese and sliced deli meats, so I could easily snack on a variety of healthy food without tons of prep time.
5. Take a Shower
You might think I’m joking, but I’m not! Get up every day, take a shower (or a bath!), and get dressed in real clothes. Yes, you can wear comfortable clothes, but you’re unlikely to feel motivated or happy if you stay in your pajamas all day. Especially if you’re using an online study program, it can be easy to do the bare minimum, but you will feel better if you take some time for yourself every day to feel human.
6. Hug Your People
Studying for the bar can be isolating. Stay in touch with your loved ones and friends, especially your non-law-school friends. Try to spend some time every week with people who aren’t studying for the bar. Schedule dates with your partner, your friends, heck, even your dog (go to the dog park and knock out some exercise at the same time!).
While you will be busy during bar prep, staying connected to your people is crucial for your mental health and your relationships. (And if your partner or parents are stressed out by your stress, shoot them a link to this list of ways to support a bar exam taker.)
7. Treat yourself!
If you have something that makes you happy, within reason, schedule time to do it! Maybe you like to binge watch Netflix. Pick a show and set aside a few hours to enjoy it. Maybe you’re into roller derby. Go to a rink and lace up your skates. Maybe you can’t live without at least one weekly World of Warcraft session. Plan a raid! Me? I spent my precious free time walking in the woods, baking endless pies, and watching a whole lot of West Wing. (And I still passed!) Taking the bar doesn’t change who you are as a person, and maintaining your hobbies and joys will remind you of that.
It’s okay to be stressed because studying for and taking the bar exam is stressful. But focusing on staying both physically and mentally healthy during this season of life will help you manage the stress and come out successfully on the other side. Not only will you likely be better able to perform on the bar exam itself, you’ll have learned important strategies that will help you manage your life as a lawyer. Good luck, and stay healthy!