How to Stay Healthy During the Bar Exam

Studying for the Bar Exam (and actually taking it) was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done.  I expected it to be mentally draining, but what I didn’t anticipate was how emotionally and physically draining it would be.  I should start out by telling you that I did very little of what I’m about to suggest… but that’s why I’m writing this post.

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I did not take care of myself at all while studying for the Bar Exam, and I came unglued.  I will never forget how, for the first time, I felt immensely sore just from sitting.  My hips, glutes, legs, etc. ached from sitting for so long.  I guess that’s what studying for 12+ hours per day, for 2.5 months, will do to you. 

I’m really writing this post because I wish that I had read it while I was studying for the Bar. I wish someone would have told me that a little bit of self care could go a long way at such a difficult time.  Since there are thousands of you studying for the Bar Exam in your respective states right now, I thought I would share a few tips that I wished I would have read when I was sitting (at Starbucks) where you are right now:

  1. MOVE – Don’t do what I did!  A little can go a long way.  I know, I know… I remember reading stuff like this and saying “But I don’t have time… I’m going to fail!”.   You can’t study 24/7, so all I’m suggesting is fitting in a 10-30 minute walk, once per day.  Get outside.  Get some fresh air and sun.  Don’t talk about the Bar Exam or bring your flashcards.  Leave those in your purse like I did so you can study any time you get a free second.
  2. EAT – My strategy was to eat through my emotions – within reason – because I felt like it was the only way to get some joy out of what was otherwise a horrible time.  I’m not suggesting you cook yourself 3 Bobby Flay style meals per day.  Just go for eating 3 meals per day, drinking a lot of water, staying away from alcohol, and nourishing your mind and body so that you’re capable of ingesting the insane amount of information that you are expected to remember over the next few months.
  3. BREATHE – Try to fit in whatever helps you best relax.  For me, it was taking baths (without notecards or talking about the Bar Exam), going to Phillies games, going out to eat so that I didn’t have to cook or clean up, and spending time with my family.  If I took the Bar Exam now, I would definitely incorporate meditation (use the app Headspace!), deep breathing, yoga, visualization, and nutrient dense foods.  I’d probably also cut back on the caffeine  ; )

You may think these are crazy suggestions because you should be spending all of your time preparing for the Bar Exam.  I’m here to tell you that all of my law school classmates spent our time preparing for the Bar differently and guess what — we PASSED!  Some people hit the gym everyday and some people, like me, opened and closed the library or Starbucks every.single.day. Without moving.  I put my body and my mind through a lot of unnecessary stress and I found it really hard to recover for several months after taking the Bar.

One other tip: remove the word “fail” from your vocabulary over the next few months.  I spent so much time in the beginning freaking out and talking to everyone about how I was going to fail.  First, it wasn’t helpful AT ALL.  Second, there really is something to the notion of mind over matter.  I had to remove that word from my vocabulary, put my head and study.

Just keep swimming  : )

How is studying going so far? What has been your biggest struggle so far? Do you have any tips or advice to share on how you stay healthy while studying for the Bar?  Good luck and feel free to contact me with any questions! 

-Sam

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