How To Handle Burnout When Studying for the UBE
Studying for the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) is an incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing endeavor. So much is put into passing one exam, which is a major hurdle standing between you and your admittance to the bar. Many students struggle with how to strike a balance when it comes to bar prep and tend to focus 100% of their time and energy on studying. As a result, burnout is fairly common amongst bar examinees. The good news though is that there are a number of ways to prevent and reduce burnout! In this post, we discuss the top ways to avoid burnout when studying for the UBE, as well as how to make time for burnout-reducing activities and what to do if you end up experiencing burnout.
How To Handle Burnout When Studying for the UBE
Top Ways to Avoid Burnout
Although many students are tempted to cram in as much studying as possible, at a certain point, you will eventually reach a point where you will no longer be studying efficiently and effectively. It is impossible to study for 14 hours a day straight. And, if all you do is study, you neglect your physical and mental wellness, which in turn negatively impacts your ability to stay focused and retain information. Don’t become trapped in a counterproductive study routine. The top ways to avoid burnout are to ensure that you take sufficient breaks, stay healthy, and take care of yourself. Proper self-care during bar prep helps you study more efficiently and efficiently, which in turn increases your overall chances of success on the bar exam!
Take days off
Bar prep takes place over just a couple of months’ time. Because there is a lot of material to cover, some students wonder if they can afford to take any days off. The answer is a resounding YES! You absolutely can and should take days off to avoid burnout when studying for the UBE. You do not need to study 24/7, nor should you try.
With that said, you don’t want to take too much time off. But find a good balance that works for you. Some people take one full day off per week (usually a weekend day), or two half-days (studying only during the mornings on weekends). If you know you have a family function during bar prep that you must attend, plan to take the day off and schedule your studying around it. If you want to do a weekly dinner with your friends, make time for it. Schedule days off so that will make you relaxed and refreshed so that you can avoid burnout when studying for the UBE!
Taking enough breaks during the study day.
In addition to taking days off, you definitely need to take enough breaks during the study day to avoid burnout when studying for the UBE. Schedule short breaks (around 15 minutes long every couple of hours) throughout the day. There are numerous benefits to taking studying breaks throughout the day including:
- Staying focused and energized throughout the day
- Looking at the study material in a new way with fresh eyes
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Allowing your brain to sort and organize information
Making healthy food choices.
Although it may not seem that important, a well-balanced bar exam diet is actually another way to avoid burnout when studying for the UBE. Why? The close connection between diet and mental performance is backed by science. So, the better you eat, the better you can focus and perform mentally!
Yet, diet is one important aspect of physical health that often gets overlooked during bar prep. Stress can make you crave junk food. And when studying takes up so much of your time, it can be tempting to give in to those cravings and just grab fast food as quick meal.
However, you can help yourself stay at your best mentally by making healthy food choices. Make sure you regularly eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein to keep you fueled throughout the morning. Pack healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, or yogurt to munch on while studying. These foods will keep your energy up and help you avoid the temptation of hitting the vending machine. Take a break and enjoy your lunch. Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Eat a well-balanced meal for dinner. Avoid greasy foods and alcohol.
The healthier you eat, the better you will feel. And the better you feel, the less likely you are to burn out from studying!
Getting enough sleep.
Chances are there have been times in your life when you’ve been running low on sleep. Think about how you felt—probably sluggish, struggling to focus, unable to properly concentrate, less productive, fantasizing about taking a nap. You want to avoid these feelings while studying.
Sleeping less to study more is incredibly counterproductive. You may study longer but your study time will be ineffective. Additionally, lack of sleep increases your susceptibility to illness, which will mean time taking off from studying to heal. And, lack of sleep negatively impacts your mood, which can make studying feel that much worse.
To quote Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands, they just don’t!” A similar idea applies to bar prep. The endorphins you get from exercise will boost your mood and increase positive thoughts when studying for the UBE. Not only will this help you avoid a bad case of the “blues,” but the stimulation from exercise also can help you more easily focus on your studying by consistently de-stressing and relaxing.
You don’t have to train for a marathon or take up a team sport or start bodybuilding. You should, however, exercise regularly doing whatever it is that makes you feel good—whether it’s going for walk or run, taking a yoga or spin class, lifting weights at the gym, going for a swim, pressing play on a workout at home, or so on. Even as little as 15-30 minutes out of your day will help. The possibilities of a manageable exercise routine are endless, and as long as you are exercising consistently, you will reap the benefits.
For more inspiration, check out this post with 4 ideas to stay fit and focused when studying for the UBE!
Establish (and keep) a positive mindset.
The above tips will all help you to stay positive. However, it is worth making this its own tip as well. If you have a negative mindset walking into each day, your study experience probably will be negative. Avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy! The bar exam pretty much sucks, but focusing on the negative will only lead to burnout when studying for the UBE.
On the other hand, if you go into each day, telling yourself that you will have a good day, reminding yourself how far you have already made it, and focusing on how close you are to accomplishing your goals of becoming an attorney, you will avoid burnout and studying will be (at least a little bit!) more enjoyable.
Making Time for Burnout-Reducing Activities.
You now know what you need to do in order to burnout. The key though is to actually do all those things—and do them consistently. As you can probably imagine, it is very easy to say, “I’m going to exercise daily,” but then decide as the day goes on that you are too tired or need more time to study. So, how can you avoid this? By making time for burnout-reducing activities in your bar exam schedule! If you schedule exercise at 12PM daily, you are more likely to stick to the plan than if you just wing it each day. You likely already have a daily bar exam study schedule, and if you do not, we absolutely recommend that you make one! In your daily bar exam study schedule, you should build in time for burnout-preventing activities, including days off, study breaks, exercise, and sleep.
For example, an approximate 8-hour study day schedule might look something like this:
- 7:00AM: Eat a healthy breakfast
- 8:00AM: Learn the law (lecture, private tutor, or reviewing outlines)
- 9:30AM: Break time!
- 9:45AM: Memorize your outlines
- 11:30AM: Lunch break!
- 12:15PM: Practice multiple-choice questions
- 1:30PM: Break time!
- 1:45PM: Practice essay questions
- 3:00PM: Break time!
- 3:15PM: Review your outlines again (or whatever else you need to work on)
- 6:00PM: Exercise, followed by a healthy, well-balanced dinner
- 9:00PM: Bedtime
This is just an idea of how you might block off time in your study day. You can absolutely take more breaks as needed or schedule breaks closer together. You can (and should) stop at naturally stopping points, rather than stopping mid-thought just because it is 11:30AM and the schedule says lunchtime. Be flexible, adjust your schedule as needed, and do what works for you each day! Having a plan just helps keep you on track, but you are by no means locked in to your bar exam study schedule.
Ready to make a schedule? Check out this post on how to make a UBE study schedule!
What to Do if You Feel Burnt Out
Burnout when studying for the UBE does happen. If you do end up burnt out, give yourself permission to take a few days off to recharge. Don’t touch your study materials. Take a complete break to help ensure that you fully recover and don’t end up experiencing more burnout. You may also want to talk to a classmate (they understand best how you feel during this time!), friend, family member, or professional about how you are feeling.
When you are ready, consider what you need to do differently moving forward. It is important to make immediate changes to get back on track and avoid falling into the same situation again. Ask yourself:
- Am I taking enough breaks throughout the day?
- Have I taken enough days off from bar prep?
- Am I putting too much pressure and emotional stress on myself?
- Am I trying to study to cram in too many hours of studying each day?
- Have I been making healthy food choices?
- Am I exercising enough?
- Am I consistently getting a good night’s sleep?
- Am I making important things that need to get done a priority (i.e., memorizing outlines) over optional or unnecessary things (i.e., re-watching lecture videos)?
- Am I allowing myself to get too distracted during my study time (leading to longer days than necessary)?
- Is there something going on in my personal life that is adding undue pressure that I need to address?
Chances are one or more of the above questions will be contributing to any burnout you’ve been experiencing. Consider what changes you can make to improve your experience and prevent further burnout when studying for the UBE. Don’t view your burnout as a setback, but rather as an opportunity to become even more productive and effective moving forward! Burnout happens to so many students, which is why we recommend following all of our tips to prevent it. But, even the best-laid plans don’t always work out. So, just remember to consistently check in with yourself and take whatever steps are necessary to stay mentally and physically healthy, on track, and motivated during bar prep—which in turn will help you succeed on the bar exam!
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