Studying for the Bar exam should be treated like a full-time job. But while there are some who advocate that you should forego essentially all social activities, work, etc. and dedicate every waking moment to test prep, we’re not so sure about that.
Not only does it sound miserable, it may also negatively impact your overall test performance. As the pandemic has taught us, social isolation isn’t good for anyone and can lead to depression, substance use issues, poor sleeping habits and an overall decline in health—all of which are terrible for test prep.
While you may not have the time or energy to go out for drinks with friends three times a week, you certainly should make time to get out of the house, socialize and participate in hobbies you enjoy. Here are some dos and don’ts for staying social as a study strategy when prepping for the bar exam.
Do schedule social activities. Locking yourself in the house for 2-3 months straight is a recipe for mental health disaster. Having social interaction is important for keeping your brain healthy, engaged and stimulated beyond legal subject matter. In fact, evidence shows that social activities can help guard against cognitive decline, so getting out once in a while can help keep you sharp and focused.
Do participate in activities that bring you joy. Giving up too much of your social life and and too many of your hobbies will only make you feel burned out and resentful. Plan for and take advantage of opportunities that help you find joy in the journey. Make time for activities that help you to feel rejuvenated and energized, whether that’s regularly attending religious services or a yoga class, hiking, painting, photography, or even just reading for pleasure. Making this a priority is critical for self-care, which is essential for optimum test performance.
Don’t go overboard. Of course, you’ll want to keep the social calendar reasonable, so make plans but stick to a schedule. Don’t overdo it. Commit to coming home at a reasonable time to adhere to your bedtime routine and study schedule. Don’t let an evening out with a few too many cocktails turn into a day after of zero energy, motivation and productivity. Tell your friends that you have to leave by a certain time and ask them to help you stick to it. Consider sticking to programmed social activities like an hour-long yoga class or a two-hour paint-and-sip so the temptation to stay longer isn’t there.
Don’t socialize with fellow test preppers. While it might seem smart to get together and swap stories, talk about your anxieties and chat about topics you’re focused on, it can also be very stressful. If you talk to others who are at different stages of their studying process, it may make you feel behind, inadequate or unprepared, and it may just be that you’ve tackled studying differently. Planning focused study sessions is a good idea, but getting together to commiserate? Maybe not.
Don’t hang out with people who stress you out. You’re already dealing with one of the most stressful times of your life. The last thing you need is more anxiety and turmoil, so choose who you socialize with carefully. That friend who always seems to have some crisis, seeks attention, stresses you out or makes you feel bad? It’s probably wise to take a break from the drama.
Taking good care of yourself while you prep is extremely important to ensure you’re feeling your best throughout the prep stage and come test time. And taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Maintaining a reasonable social life can be extremely beneficial for helping you to stay energized, motivated and focused, which can help enhance your exam performance.