The bar exam is the culmination of one of the most long-term stressful times of a person’s life.
First, getting into law school; then going through three years of heavy reading, intimidating professors, competitive classmates, and stressful exams; then sequestering yourself to prepare for the long, involved exam, followed by the excruciating task of waiting. It makes sense to take the time after finally getting through the exam for some much-needed self-care activities.
You’ve been indoors, hunched over a desk, reading and strategizing and pacing and participating in study groups—you need to feel the sun on your skin. Take a walk, have a picnic with your significant other, go play with your dog, or just stand outside with your mouth hanging open in amazement while squinting up at the sun. You simply need to reacquaint yourself with the relaxing and healing properties of nature. Just enjoying sunlight, a comfortable breeze, and a little greenery will do wonders for bringing your stress level down after feeling tense for so many months.
Reconnect with Family and Friends
For three years, you’ve been extremely busy and probably not often available to hang out. For several months, you’ve been power-studying. When’s the last time you closed a place down with your besties? Can you even remember the last intimate, relaxing dinner you had with your significant other? The maintenance of familial, social, and romantic relationships tend to fall by the wayside while you’re trying to become a lawyer.
Now, you might need to reintroduce yourself to the people who have only spoken to you briefly as you’ve rushed away to your next study group or as you’ve staggered into your apartment just to be asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Remember: You have plenty of time now, so there’s no need to rush your activities or hang-out sessions with friends and loved ones. Drink them in, listen to all the stuff you’ve been missing, and really take time to connect.
“Do … nothing?” you ask? Yup, you have earned the right to do absolutely nothing, at least for a while. Sleep in, sit around in sweats and binge-watch the shows you weren’t able to keep up with, or go meditate in the park. Having unscheduled, no-pressure, do-nothing time is good for your mind and body, not to mention well-deserved after all the effort you’ve put into getting this far.
Take Care of Your Body
Regular exercise is one of the most common things to suffer when you’re dealing with an intense, tight schedule. While you’re patiently waiting to hear if you passed the bar, ease back into your workout routine. The word “ease” is key here; if you haven’t exercised in a while, you want to avoid injuring yourself by doing too much, too soon. If you used to run five miles most days of the week, start with a shorter route and give yourself a few days in between runs to build yourself back up to your former fitness level. If you used to lift weights every other day for an hour at a time, start with half-hour sessions with two days between each workout. It might feel weird to start at a lower level than where you left off, but your body will thank you for going easy on yourself.
Another way to take care of your body is by participating in self-care activities. Schedule a full-body massage, book a day at a spa, start a meditation practice—whatever relieves stress and relaxes your body and mind is what you should do for yourself. Eating healthy, delicious food is another way you can be kind to your body. It’s not unusual for law students to get too used to convenient, fast food and to have few opportunities to eat well. If you have a limited budget, don’t hesitate to spend some of it on vegetables, fruits, and other things you can eat at home, as well as treating yourself to a favorite restaurant just because the food is yummy.
Get Back to Your Hobbies
Hobbies are what we do when we have extra time, so it makes sense that the average law student wouldn’t have time to keep up with the hobbies they formerly enjoyed. Hobbies are also a great way to relax and just enjoy being ourselves. So the books that have sat unread, the sweaters that have remained unknitted, the pick-up games that have gone unplayed, the bar trivia competitions that have been lost—all because you’ve been too busy—can get back to their rightful place in your life.
Prepare for Your Next Step
Your time between taking the bar and receiving your exam results can’t be all fun and relaxation, unfortunately. You’ll need to plan your next move, whether it’s job searching, going for a promotion, or being welcomed as a full, practicing attorney at your current firm. Update your resume, set appointments with recruiters, line up interviews with firms—whatever you need to do to get on your way in the next phase of your professional life. If you’re able, feel free to space these activities out so you aren’t too overwhelmed or are unable to participate in the self-care activities that you so deserve.