How To Handle Post-Bar Exam Anxiety
The bar exam is a stressful experience that lasts for months. From studying to taking the exam to waiting for results, the process can be excruciating. You probably studied for 300-400 hours and had a lot of anxiety building up to the day of the test. Text day itself can result in a range of emotions, from excitement to panic. And after the bar exam is over, there is a long waiting period of 6-10 weeks before you receive results. Furthermore, you might not feel a sense of relief when the exam is over but might be fearful you did not pass. This is a lot to deal with and takes a mental and physical toll on law students. In this post, we’ll cover ways you can handle post-bar exam anxiety.
How To Handle Post-Bar Exam Anxiety
How Will I Know When I Get My Results?
The best way to know when your bar exam results come out is to check with your state’s Board of Bar Examiners (or equivalent). Some jurisdictions let bar exam takers know on test day when to expect results. Other states publish their projected release dates online. Some states don’t formally announce a date, but they release results around at about the same time after each administration. Unfortunately, not all states give takers a warning before releasing results or release them at different time periods. You may need to check frequently if your jurisdiction utilizes these practices!
Healthy Ways To Handle Stress
How is a student supposed to deal with the stress of waiting for results in a healthy and productive way? Depending on your needs and personality, de-stressing can look different. As a future attorney, you likely have a very driven personality and set goals for yourself and see them through. Waiting for bar exam results for almost two months is tedious. If you find that you best spend your time when you set goals, then you can set short-term goals for yourself during this time that will help you feel proud and accomplished instead of idle. Alternatively, you might be the type of person who just needs a break. You’re finally done with law school and the bar. You might need to rest your brain and body. If you can afford a relaxing vacation, many students take a “post-bar trip.” If that’s not in the budget, you can engage in other forms of self-care.
Remember, it will be months, not days or weeks, before you get your bar exam results. Generally, bar exam results take between 1-3 months. The smaller the jurisdiction, the more likely the results come out quickly (although this is not a hard and fast rule).
Whatever your personality style, the suggestions below may help pass the time in a productive and healthy way.
Try Some New Hobbies That Are Proven To Lower Stress
Engaging in hobbies can have a range of positive effects, like improving mood and social interaction, and refocusing attention away from negative thoughts.
Take the time you have to finally catch up on some of the books you didn’t get to read in law school or while you were preparing for the bar exam. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%! So, not only does reading some books for pleasure help your body and calm your mind, it can also give you that feeling of accomplishment.
Whether you take the February or July bar exam, there are plants that can thrive in any season. Did you know that you can plant seeds in the summer that will grow into vegetables in the fall? Or if there is no longer frost, you can plant some flowers in March which will bloom in the warm weather. Also, gardening and being outside can trigger more positive thoughts. If you don’t have access to an outdoor spot then try some indoor gardening or potted plants as a healthy and fun hobby to distract you from waiting for the bar exam results.
Painting, drawing, and doodling are great ways to practice mindfulness and get more in tune with yourself and your emotions. Getting caught up in an intricate art project or even just a coloring book allows you to adjust your focus to the task at hand. So why not flex your creative muscles and do or try something artistic?
Don’t forget, art projects go beyond paint and canvas. If putting pencil to paper is not your cup of tea, try something else! Crocheting, knitting, sewing, playing an instrument, or even cooking can all provide you with a healthy outlet while you wait for results! Need some tips to get started on any of these endeavors? There are loads of blogs and Youtube videos that can help!
Set Some Short Term Professional Goals
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, chasing goals can:
- Give you a sense of purpose
- Reduce the effects of depression and anxiety
- Provide a sense of control in your life
- Improve your motivation
Therefore, setting short-term professional goals while you’re waiting for your bar exam results can only help pass this time in a way that can still make you feel accomplished.
Freshen Up Your LinkedIn Profile
You might be wondering if lawyers use LinkedIn – and the answer is yes! In fact, LinkedIn is not only a good tool for finding a job, but also for finding potential new clients. If you are going into private practice, it can always pay to bring in business. It’s important to remember that using LinkedIn is different from Facebook and the emphasis should always be on business opportunities and professionalism. Be sure to list your law school accolades, your internships, and your goals. Then, start networking with your peers and mentors. Then, when you pass the bar, you can post that too!
Write An Article
It is always a benefit for an attorney to have something published, even as frequently as once or twice a year. This does not have to be a scholarly article or a Law Review note. So, why not use this time to research some areas of the law that you might want to write an article about? You can publish your article yourself on your LinkedIn profile, or once you are admitted to the bar, submit your articles to the local Law Journal, and see if they will publish it. Either way, this can be a good time to look into areas of the law that you want to work in and become more acquainted with the cases and statutes for when you go into practice.
Talk To A Professional
There is absolutely no shame in talking to a mental health or substance abuse professional at this time in your life, or at any time in your career as an attorney. In fact, lawyers have a very stressful workload and career. Starting healthy habits and relationships now is a wonderful idea. Lawyer Assistance Programs provide confidential services and support to judges, lawyers, and law students who are facing substance use disorders or mental health issues. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact your state or local LAP.
Remember, the results are just around the corner. Developing healthy habits now can only improve your career as an attorney and help you work past post-bar-exam anxiety.
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