Exam Season can bring anxiety for all law students. There is a lot of pressure and everyone wants to do well. There are a few upkeep actions one can partake in to help ease the nerves surrounding exams.
Sleep is your friend. It can be tempting to wake up super early and stay up late studying and digesting as much information as possible every day. However, this is more harmful than helpful. This can overload your mind and make it hard to retain information. You may find that no matter the ample hours that you are putting into studying, you are not prepared for the exam. Getting the right amount of sleep will make studying more effective and allow you to perform to your best ability on the exams.
Take breaks. Studying all day without breaks will also impact your ability to retain information. Mental fatigue will often be the result. Your mind/body will often tell you when you need a break, but during finals we ignore the signs. However, know the signs of mental exhaustion so that you can respond appropriately. Pushing yourself too hard will only cause burn out.
Set a study schedule and stick to it. Setting a schedule can also help you block out time to study, but to also take a break, eat, do something that you enjoy and more. Sticking to a schedule allows you to accomplish the amount of studying that you want, but also still have a life. A nice balance between the two will be extremely beneficial.
Although taking care of your mental health is key, we must also ensure that we are ready for finals substantively. To prepare for such information-intensive exams, here are a few tips:
Find your study group. There are many different studying techniques. Some of us share the same techniques for studying and use the same sources such as Quimbee, law library study aids and more. So, it is often a good idea to team up with others and form study groups. Aside from sharing resources and techniques, insight from your fellow classmates can help you see information from a different perspective.
Make an attack outline that works for you. It is a good idea to work with your classmates to create a detailed outline of your course to use during the exam. However, it is also extremely helpful to make a more concise “attack outline” that you are more familiar with and comfortable with using during a timed exam. This brevity and familiarity will work to your advantage since it will be so much easier for you to quickly reference during the exam.
Go to office hours. Once you reach the point in your studies where you have created your outline, take note on the areas you are still a little fuzzy on and go to that professor’s office hours to see if they can help clear things up for you. The professors are always so willing to help and want you to succeed. So, schedule time with them when needed. Do not choose to suffer in silence or settle for not understanding a topic fully.
Exams are often referred to as the most stressful part of each semester. So, it is important to have the tools to get through the season and feel good about your performance. All of these tips will help to build your confidence for taking the exams.
Today’s topic is about an important subject: stress and stress management. Stress is one of those things that doesn’t need a definition or a Wikipedia entry – everyone knows what it is and knows how they feel when they are stressed, especially law school students at the tail end of the semester before finals.
Hobbies can be a wonderful form of escapism if one puts in a little time. Not only that, but undertaking hobbies can activate areas of the brain that may not be stimulated by a casebook or hypos. My two main hobbies are guitar and photography. Some things I like about guitar is it pulls me into a mindset where the only things that matter are the melody, the sound, and the transition to the next note or song. Photography I enjoy as well because of my focus on landscape photography, which is also a great excuse to get outside away from the books and screens and get some sun. There’s always the old faithfuls like movies and video games too. If not into any of those, YouTube and the internet can teach you just about anything you want to know these days. Origami? Crochet? Cooking? The internet’s got you. Cooking is my own personal favorite “hobby du jour”…I’ve finally reached a place where I prefer my own cooking to eating out sometimes, and it’s cheaper! Below is a picture of the Atlanta skyline I took this week with some quick and dirty edits, didn’t have much time to shoot or edit but even 30 mins felt wonderful:
Maybe not the most popular or most fun of the stress-managers, exercise definitely should have a place in everyone’s daily routine…or at least weekly routine. It can be physically exhausting but a little sweat and endorphins can be great for one’s mental state. My first “run” at grad school I took up running, which ended up being fantastic. Got me outside and thinking about things that weren’t school….plus it doesn’t cost any money to just go outside and run. Atlanta has lots to offer here if one is so inclined (please excuse the running pun, you’ll learn how “inclined” (or hilly) the city is if you ever start running).. Sure there are gyms and yoga studios all over the place, but there’s so much more around here as well. There’s the Beltline, where one can get out and walk or bike…same with the Silver Comet Trail. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is another great place to get outside and walk, run, bike, kayak, float, etc (parking passes are also only $40/year, one of the best deals around). Cochran Shoals and the bamboo grove off the East Palisades trail are two of my favorite spots. Sope Creek is another great spot. There are plenty of sports leagues around too for adults (some more serious than others) if you’re feeling the itch for team sports. If one feels so inclined to get out of the city a little, there’s also the North Georgia Mountains (and the start of the Appalachian Trail) if one wants to get out and hike and camp.
Food and Drink
Everyone loves food and drink, right? Atlanta is a great food town with great restaurants across the metro area.
Can’t make up your mind? The food court is making a comeback and coming back fast. Krog Street Market, Ponce City Market, Sweet Auburn Market, Chattahoochee Food Works, Ph’East (at the Battery), Politan Row at Colony Square – all of these food courts (er, um, markets) provide a little something for everyone with tastier food and more variety than the mall food courts we all grew up with.
Atlanta is also having its “live-work-play” moment, and one can even combine food and drink with other activities like sports, retail, movie theaters (remember those?) and the like. The Battery, Avalon, Halcyon, Atlantic Station, Streets of Buckhead, Ponce City Market – all of these locations have a little something for everyone.
There’s also no shortage of watering holes around town either. From Decatur to Kirkwood, Dunwoody to Marietta, and southwest Atl as well, there are plenty of bars and breweries one can go to relax as well. Many of these spots offer things like trivia nights as well, which are a great excuse to go and socialize.
Friends and Family
Saving the best for last…last but not least, don’t forget to make time for your friends and family. Yes, making time for friends and family will leave less time to finish that brief that’s due in three days, but the gain in emotional capital often makes the sacrifice of time worth it. Please do lean on your friends and family to help support you when you feel stressed. At the very least, remember that when you apply to take the bar exam, you’ll have to add references to your Character and Fitness application. So if you need an excuse to hang out with your friends one night you think you should be doing work, keeping your friends in your life will make this portion or the bar exam application easy…and it’s good for your mental health.
So there it is. A little bit about stress in a nutshell. For context, we must also keep in mind that law school is certainly a marathon and not a sprint. Stress and stress management are behemoths of topics. Identifying when stress gets in the way of you being you and helping to manage it though will have a tremendous payout, and it’s never too early (or too late) to get working on this if you haven’t already developed your own stress management strategies.
Finally, to minimize stress, try to avoid major life changes during law school…if one can. I get it. We’re all here because we’re overachievers on some level, but a lot of life changes and decisions actually can wait until after school is done. No, no one is getting younger as time goes on and life never really ever gets “simpler” as time goes on, but waiting until school is done to undertake major life decisions is not a bad idea (if it can be managed).
Best of luck to all of you as you undertake your studies. Things will get stressful, but, as always…you got this.
GSU Counseling Services – don’t be ashamed to reach out for help if dealing with stress gets too much, the school has a counseling center to help out.
If you’re experiencing an acute emergency resulting from stress, the suicide and crisis management hotline can also be found by dialing 988.
You may have been thinking about it all semester, but after Halloween, the feeling that something spooky lurks in the future lingers…law school exams. This time coincides with the holiday season, which for many means disrupted routines and extra tasks or responsibilities, not to mention economic stress. This year, we have the added bonus of uncertainty associated with the global pandemic.
In light of all that, perhaps you would like to extend your knowledge about mental health resources available on campus?
The College of Law Mindfulness Program may be one resource of interest. A six-week program, the sessions provide basics about mindfulness meditation and opportunities to practice. The program is set to be accessed on your own schedule.
Another obvious place to start is with the resources available through the Counseling & Testing Center. The Center is open, and wellness programs are virtual.
But don’t fear! The Law Library has resources to support you too. It may be that you can minimize your exam stress by consulting tools like those found in our online study aids collection.
We have online access to some other titles. For example, Stress at Work Management and Prevention is easily available and offers an overview of stress and how it functions as well as coping strategies. There are a bunch of online books about mindfulness, and you can review the results of this library search to pick the book of your choice. If you’d prefer to change the focus and search for lawyer and anxiety or depression, there are also some books you might find of interest.
If you haven’t heard it before, you can remember that you heard it here: taking care of your mental health will only help you as you work your way through law school and your future career path.
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