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: keep exams in perspective. So 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. So, while drinking a margartia because other people are stressing you out might help temporarily, there are other options. (Read: depending on alcohol to deal with your feelings is not a great way to live your life.) Here’s my analogy: when someone comes up and starts talking about something about exams that stresses you out, 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 cringe and let it hit you and then freak out, or you could dodge the thing and think to yourself “I will not play this ball game!” And then, you stare at that awkward little panic ball that’s sitting at your feet and think “you’re a jerk, and I’m going to touch you, exams panic.” It also helps to remind yourself that 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 feelings, and if you do, I promise you it will make you feel powerful and help you through.
So once you’ve learned to avoid catching others’ stress by not engaging, 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 and try not worry about things you can’t control. (And since law students love ‘tests’ to figure out rules, here’s the test: if you are standing in a hula-hoop, the only things you can control/that are your responsibility are the things inside the hula-hoop with you.) 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 (it stinks, but we all have to live it). And no matter what grade we each get – we are here, this is a great school and a great opportunity, and we are fed, clothed and housed. So really, that’s pretty great.
(Good luck this week, everyone!)