How do you deal with a multitude of life events and circumstances?

I’ve debated posting about this for a while now. So many emotions revolve around taking the Bar, even more-so when you’re taking it for the second time. I wish I could tell you that everything is alright and that I’m doing fine – it’s what I tell myself on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m making progress in the Barbri program, and keeping up with my own supplemental studies (like adaptibar and crushendo) – but I have, almost every night for the past few weeks, experienced night terrors.

Stress manifests itself in ways you might not expect. Here I was, thinking my compartmentalization method was effective; only later being woken up in a fit of tears and strangled breaths because of a horrible dream. Someone always dies in them, sometimes it’s me. Now, I’m sure you can imagine that these nightmares are anything but pleasant, and they make getting a full night’s sleep quite impossible. No sleep means crappy study sessions, which leads to the cycle of diminishing returns. So, I endeavored to make changes in my own lifestyle, employing better habits for myself and my own boundaries. I’ve used these 5 things every day for the past week and have realized more peaceful, restful nights, as well as added benefits.

1. Work Out for 30-45 minutes daily.

There’s so many added benefits to working out. One major bonus is that I topple into bed every evening and am actually able to sleep. The other bonus to running, for me, is that I have time to address my worries and think about them while I run. This links directly to #5 – expressing my feelings, even just to myself, makes a huge difference in my quality of life.

2. Plan Every Meal.

I know, yes – this takes time. But make the damn time. Carve out a few hours on Sunday and Wednesday to meal prep. Or, if you have the family support, pitch in for groceries and ask someone else to meal prep for you. I typically cook in our household, but my wonderful husband stepped up to the challenge and has prepared wonderful meals for us while I soak up the extra study time.

Make Time. Thank Me Later.

3. Build in ‘down time.’

I use my calendar like a weapon. If you don’t ask me for time, you simply don’t make it into the book. If you’re not in the plans, then I refuse to make time for you. It sounds mean, but I’m preparing for one of the hardest exams in my life, so this thought process basically comes down to: prioritize me and I will do the same for you. Otherwise, I have no time to give you. I will not apologize for this either.

Another option is to build in time for fun stuff, whether it’s reading for fun or watching a movie with your family at home. There needs to be time spent away from the outlines and study. Every study session needs to be effective, and you simply cannot stay focused if you’re trying to pour from an empty cup. Make time to relax and replenish your reserves.

4. Breathe Deeply & Re-Focus.

Whenever you find your mind wandering, especially in the middle of reading outlines or working on a multiple choice problem, remind yourself to focus and then close your eyes and take a deep breath.

It’s unsettling to sit in one spot for a significant period of time reviewing, studying, and practicing. When I tell friends how many hours I typically study a day – they balk. So I know first-hand how crazy those 10-12 hours days are for you. That said, keeping your focus is a skill you should hone. Trust me, it will make such a difference on exam day.

5. Express Your Emotions.

This entire process is hellacious. The time-suck of studying, after already putting in a literal 3 years of effort to earn the degree, is mind numbing. I already failed once, so there’s this sense of impending doom at not making it through this time. The more I study, the easier it is to drown out the nagging little voice telling me I may not be good enough.

I use my time at the gym to think about how my studies are progressing, to consider what is going on with my family, and contemplate how I may be able to help once I get licensed. Since I can’t just pull these thoughts and leave them in a pensieve, I find it best to deal with them head on.

I hope these tips help you and wish you nothing but the best as you prepare for the Bar exam!