A big part of bar-study—and, quite frankly, law practice—is about managing stress and staying balanced. It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself in the face of the million hours of contracts you’re supposed to be re-learning, but your wellness is actually a key component to passing the bar. Regular sleep and a little exercise can go a long way towards keeping that energy and focus that you need right now. Here are some tips on how to stay on top of your health and well-being while studying for the bar:
Sleep | First and foremost, make sure that you have an adequate and consistent sleep schedule. Lack of sleep will directly impact your ability to focus and retain information, and the harder and longer you push yourself studying each day will affect your sleep patterns – creating a vicious cycle of too little sleep at night and too much work the next day.
To keep yourself on schedule, set a hard stop time in the evening at which you’ll put down the study materials. Setting aside even a small amount of time to engage in something other than bar study will allow you to get a restful night’s sleep and wake up energized.
Take a break | Believe it or not, you can, in fact, afford to take 30 minutes or an hour in the middle of the day to eat lunch and not study simultaneously. It will also benefit you to schedule a couple of 15-minute breaks throughout the day to give your brain a short relief. Much like the issues that stem from a lack of sleep, ignoring study breaks during bar prep will quickly overload your brain and make it harder to retain the information you’ve been trying to cram in it.
Spend your breaks doing anything that doesn’t have to do with the bar. You can take a quick power nap (be sure to set an alarm!), grab a snack, watch a short TV show, catch up with friends, or try to get in a quick run or meditation session (which we’ll get into next).
Exercise | Exercise may be a great way to release the built-up stress from bar studying. There have been countless scientific studies between the correlation of exercise and increased serotonin activity in the brain. If you’ve tried working out during times of stress, you know how much better and more confident it can make you feel. Not only does it affect your mood, but recent studies show that serotonin plays a direct role in how quickly the brain learns information and retains it.
If you aren’t one for weight lifting or sweat-dripping cardio, you can also go for a walk or do some yoga and meditation. The same concept applies to reading “for fun.” Pick up your favorite book or find some articles about one of your passions or hobbies. The mental stimulation you get from this type of reading has a similar type of serotonin response as physical exercise.
Eat right & plan your diet | Eating healthy will make the bar study period much more bearable. Loading up on fruits, veggies, and healthy proteins will not only keep you energized and focused on the task at hand, but will also make you feel better. At least until the exam is over, be sure that you’re getting all the recommended levels of vitamins, carbs, and proteins.
Along with being conscious of your food intake while studying, bar-takers should plan their “day-of” breakfasts. In the rush to make sure you have all of your test-taking materials, get to the testing site on time, and find parking (if necessary), it can be easy to forget or be forced to skip breakfast. Planning what, or where, you’ll eat ahead of time can alleviate some of your stress and get your mind at a functional level faster than if you are frantically shoveling cereal while trying to get dressed and pack your bag, or eating in the car while you drive. If you decide to eat out, pick a place that is within walking-distance of the testing site so that you don’t have to worry about further traffic or parking.
We know it can feel like the tips above will detract too much time from your study schedule, but you will be in a better position to pass the bar if you actively take care of your physical and mental well-being.
You got this.