If you are like so many others studying for the bar exam, you may be feeling stressed and anxious as the exam nears. Today we have a guest post from Kim Nicol who understands the pressure you are feeling and has some great suggestions for handling bar exam stress. Kim is a licensed attorney in California, and teaches people how to use stress relief, self-care and meditation to get through challenging times. Kim shares with you some tips on how to manage stress during bar exam crunch time. Welcome, Kim!
The excitement of graduating from law school has faded, and now you’re deep into preparing for the bar exam. This is the best time to develop a strategy for unwinding stress so you can perform your at best. Because guess what? After you pass the bar and become an attorney, you will belong to a profession that is famous for being stressed out . . . and not always skillful at handling it (witness the MCLE on Substance Abuse Awareness). The tools you develop for dealing with stress today will continue to serve you throughout your life and career. And – bonus! – you’ll have a lot more fun when you have a sustainable stress-management strategy.
I call this Strategic Self-Care. It’s when you recognize that taking care of yourself is a critical part of your long term success and happiness. It’s a mindset primed for courage and resilience, because it’s grounded in the belief that, “Yeah, this is tough. And I have the resources to figure this out and handle it.”
Here’s how to begin creating your own Strategic Self-Care plan.
First, remember that you are a human.
Next, remember that all humans have four bodies, or selves: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Each needs to be healthy. (For an excellent perspective on this, read this post by James Altucher about his Daily Practice.) This creates the framework for your Strategic Self-Care plan.
1. Physical – Your physical body needs to rest, move, and eat. What are some of the ways you take care of your physical self? What is one thing you can do right now? Can you stand up and stretch? Or take a walk outside? Can you take a nap, or plan a healthy meal?
2. Emotional – Your emotional body needs to feel safe and loved. Who are the people who are rooting for your success? Can you think of one person who loves you, and remember what it’s like when they smile at you? What emotions are present right now? Can you simply name and acknowledge them, as if you were taking attendance?
3. Mental – Your mental body needs rest and stimulation. When you’re focused on studies and feeling mentally overstimulated, one of the best ways to ease the feeling of pressure is to play! What kinds of things feel like play to you? Or if you need to rest so your brain can digest all the information it’s taking in, go outside and take a walk in nature. Take a break from looking at screens and books. Stop reading for a while.
4. Spiritual – Your spiritual body needs to feel connected to a Bigger Picture. You are part of a complex social ecosystem, and you are only on the planet for a relatively short period of time. What communities are you a part of? What deep values matter most to you?
Once you tune in to these different bodies, you will begin to think strategically about how to support them. Feeling sluggish and uninspired? Go for a walk in nature (physical, mental, and spiritual health). Feeling overwhelmed and anxious? Make dinner with someone you love (physical, emotional, and mental health).
The practice of noticing what you’re feeling and then taking action that supports your health and well-being reinforces your innate strength, courage, and resilience. It is an empowering approach to unwinding tension when you feel buried and choked by stress.
Remember that stress is a part of life and your career as an attorney. The way you relate to that stress is up to you. This is the perfect time to practice.
Do you have a strategy for handling stress? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Kim Nicol has been a member of the California State Bar since 2005. After enjoying a successful career in legal publishing, she now helps others to create a life that feels good to live in. She is a teacher trainer for the willPower Method and has taught in the U.S. and Sweden. In 2013 she launched her popular Savor Meditation class at Calvin Klein Performance in San Francisco. She has since led meditations at the Academy of Art University and Berkeley School of Law. You can follow Kim on Facebook or learn more about her at kimnicol.com.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- Getting Mentally Ready: Let Go, Relax, and Get Out of Your Own Way
- Optimal Nutrition for Bar Exam Success
- Bar Study Tips: Sleep, Sleep, and More Sleep
- Bar Study Tips: How to Cope with Stress
Images by Kim Nicol and Sarah Deragon.