Reflections on Our First Exams Season

Yesterday was our first ever law school exam. I actually had a pretty great day. I came out of the exam feeling ok, then had lunch at the BU pub with some classmates before going home. Around 7pm, Rob came to visit me all the way down from New Hampshire. (He is seriously the best.) We had amazing Korean barbeque in Coolidge Corner. This morning I was woken up around 6:30am by a dream. In my dream, the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park were terrorizing Boston. A swarm of velociraptors got into the law tower – and here was the weird thing – none of the law students would let go of their exam prep materials to run away from the velociraptors. No, we all just attempted to run with our arms full of thousand-page books and tabbed outlines. The lesson of this dream was to keep exams in perspective. Given that dream, and some other things I’ve been thinking this week, I’d like to post a quick about dealing with stress – your own and others’.

Let’s start with dealing with other peoples’ stress. When other people are stressing about exams, it’s pretty easy to catch the panic. Here’s a little post that has been floating around a lot: http://wheninlawschool.tumblr.com/post/37004737447/when-everyone-else-is-freaking-out-about-finals. While drinking a margartia because other people are stressing you out might help temporarily, there are downsides to that game plan, plus there are better options. Here’s my analogy: when someone comes up and starts talking about something about exams that you find stressful, it’s like they are serving a tennis ball of panic into your court. You have choices: you could serve it back and make them feel awful, or let it hit you can deal with the injury later, or you could dodge the ball. Your response is your responsibility – blaming other people for stressing you out accomplishes nothing but making everyone feel awful. You have the ability to take responsibility for your own stress management. When you do take responsibility for your own stress management, you’ll probably feel relieved, empowered, and more ready to tackle the problems you are facing.

Once you’ve learned to avoid catching others’ stress, you need to deal with your own stress. The way I try to deal with this is to set myself up for success by setting myself reasonable goals. (If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know this is how I deal with a lot of adversity.) Let me give you an example. Scenario 1: I tell myself “today I will work on my torts outline and get as much done as I can before 9:00pm.” Scenario 2: I tell myself “I will finish my torts outline today or else.” In both scenarios, I do a lot of work during the day, but I don’t finish my outline. In both scenarios I’ve made a lot of progress. In scenario 1, I feel good about it because I did what I said I would do. In scenario 2, I feel bad about it because I didn’t accomplish my goal. Think about that – in scenario 2 I did good work and at the end of the day I feel bad about it. That stinks!

In the end, it’s better to do the best you can (so long as you really do the best you can,) and try not worry about things you can’t control. On every one of these exams, we are all going to do the best we can. The only thing we can control is how much work we put in, and how we treat other people while we are doing it. The rest is up to the professors and the grade curve. No matter what grade we each get – we are here, this is a great school and a great opportunity. What’s more we are fed, clothed and housed. So really, that’s pretty great.

(Good luck this week, everyone!)

2 Comments

emcintyr posted on December 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

Congrats on your first semester being (almost) over! Gets less stressful from here on out (or at least, it’s a better kind of stress), promise.

Bonnie posted on February 22, 2013 at 1:47 am

Hi,
I never considered catching stress from someone else, it does make perfect sense. I found your article enlightening and thought provoking.
I really liked your last paragraph referring about not worrying and your last last two lines says it all.
All the best for the future.
Bonnie :)

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