Think fast! Rate your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10.
According to the American Psychological Association’s annual stress report, a healthy stress level would be rated a 3.7 on this scale, whereas the national average is 4.9. How do your results measure up? Perhaps not so surprisingly, many upcoming bar examinees find themselves even more stressed than is considered healthy or average, which in turn can negatively impact studying and performance on the bar exam.
There are two commonly-known types of stress, acute stress and chronic stress, and both impact your body in distinctly negative ways. Imagine that the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) decided to add another subject to the bar exam one week before testing day. Chances are, your immediate reaction to the news would either be to panic, get angry and call the NCBE to protest, or give up on taking the bar exam altogether. This fight-or-flight response to a sudden threat illustrates your body’s unconscious reaction to handling acute stress, which typically only lasts for a matter of minutes.
Most often, however, bar examinees must learn to cope with another type of stress, chronic stress, while preparing for the bar exam. Chronic stress, also known as long-term stress, is most often caused by an overwhelming hardship, job, or task that lasts for an extended period of time. Common examples include work, school, paying bills, health concerns, and, of course, the bar exam. It is important to note that side effects of chronic stress are also much more serious than acute stress. See the chart below for more information about how each type of stress can affect your health.
It is obvious that managing stress is critical to overall well-being and success. That’s why we put together a list of 5 scientifically and psychologically-proven tips to help reduce your stress while preparing for the upcoming bar exam. Use these tips to take control of your studying and boost your chances of passing!
- Don’t Catch the Virus
What virus? The stress virus! Recent science has revealed that stress is contagious, and surrounding yourself with people who are under stress greatly increases your chances of feeling stressed as well. The same can even apply to TV, as watching characters encounter stressful situations can increase the body’s production of the stress hormone, cortisol. The good news, however, is that studies have also discovered that happiness is also contagious! This means that in order to avoid excess stress, be sure to choose your study environment and free time activities wisely. Instead of studying with another bar examinee or watching the new episode of Law & Order to unwind, consider studying alone in a peaceful setting and opting for more lighthearted and comedic entertainment. This will not only help relieve some of your stress, but ensure that you are not affected by the stress of others around you.
- Snack Smart
About 40% of Americans overeat or eat more junk food than usual when stressed, which can lead to a number of harmful effects on the body, from weight gain to high cholesterol. What you choose to eat throughout the day, however, can also significantly affect your mood. One study indicated that a diet containing high amounts of calories and saturated fat leads to feelings of depression, whereas another study revealed that eating more fruits and vegetables can boost mood, energy, and happiness. This means that, if you’re looking to reduce stress and get the most out of your studying, consistently eating fruits and veggies as well as other stress-relieving superfoods – oatmeal, yogurt, salmon, blueberries, and even dark chocolate – is essential.
- Know Your Support
Having emotional support is critical to bar exam success, and there are statistics to prove it! In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, it was calculated that the average stress level of adults who received emotional support from another person was 4.8, on a scale of 1 to 10, in comparison to 6.2 for those who did not. The study participants with emotional support were also found to be 14% less depressed throughout the month. So, whether it comes from a friend of family member, be sure to identify at least one person in your life that you can depend on for emotional support. Simply knowing that this support is present in your life will help reduce overall stress while studying for the bar exam.
- Organize Your Study Space
Simply put, mess makes you stress. More than that, a study conducted by Princeton University revealed that the more clutter that surrounds you, the more difficult it is to remain focused on a single task. This is because all the visual stimuli in your line of sight are simultaneously competing for your attention. Therefore, in order to reduce feelings of anxiety while studying, the key is to maintain an uncluttered, organized study space. Also be sure to put your phone, tablet, and any other electronic devices away to reduce distractions while studying, unless you are using them to practice MBE questions in AdaptiBar. Ultimately, the more active you are in ensuring that you keep focused on your bar prep, the less likely you are to stress about it.
- Think Like a Yoga Instructor
Regardless of if you’ve ever taken a yoga class before, you can still think like a yogi! Two practices of yoga that parallel to central components of stress relief are deep breathing and stretching. Deep breathing, particularly from the abdomen, elicits the relaxation response, which naturally allows your body to relax by decreasing heart rate, metabolism, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Stretching also alleviates areas in the body, such as your shoulders, that may have become tense without you even realizing it. So, whether you’re looking over your outlines or watching video lectures, remember the following at any moment when you feel particularly stressed: when in doubt, stretch and breathe it out.