4 Rules to Handling Stress While Preparing for the LSAT
Getting ready to take the LSAT test is a stressful time; there’s a lot riding on this test, and the combination of unfamiliar question types, strict time constraints, and high pressure can be tough to take. But law school is tough, too; most law students and lawyers would agree that law school is much harder than the LSAT. Don’t let that discourage you, though! Instead, look at the stress you’re facing now as a chance to prepare yourself for the challenges that lie ahead; develop the kinds of good stress-management habits that will make you a better law student, and eventually even a better lawyer.
1. Set boundaries!
You need to maintain a sense of yourself aside from the LSAT. Don’t let preparing for the test become all-consuming; instead, decide what portion of your time you’re willing to dedicate to studying, and stick to that. When you’re studying, really immerse yourself in the material—no Facebooking in one browser window while doing practice questions in another! But when study time is over, make sure that it’s really over. Put your laptop aside, stow your books and notes on a shelf out of the way, and stop obsessing, at least until the next time you’re scheduled to study. Giving yourself permission to be more than an LSAT student will let you keep the sense of self that is crucial for your peace of mind.
2. Maintain your life outside of the test.
It’s not enough just to limit your study time, though; if the rest of your free time is spent alone on the couch, watching reruns and trying not to think about the LSAT, you’re not really doing yourself any favors. Even as you work toward your law school goals, make sure you keep track of your non-law friends. Go see a movie or play some kickball, and make sure you ask your friends about what’s going on in their lives, instead of just making them listen to you freak out about logic games and conditional statements. Remaining grounded and involved in the world outside of the LSAT will not only help with your stress level; it will also keep your loved ones from throttling you, because believe me, no one who isn’t taking the test finds it nearly as absorbing as you do. (Except maybe those of us who make our livings worrying about standardized tests!)
3. Take care of your body.
These things might seem self-evident, but just in case they aren’t: sleep, eat real food, and exercise. Sleeping is not an optional activity, nor is it the things that should get eliminated or cut back when you’re short on time. Most people need 7-9 hours per night, and getting the sleep that you need will make it so much easier for you to process and retain information. The same general idea holds true for what you eat. Food is the fuel for your body and mind, and if you want your brain to work hard for you, be nice to it; feed it something that doesn’t come out of a machine or a drive-through window. Would you put oily sludge in the tank of a fine sports car and expect it to run its best? No? Well, then why would you eat junk and wash it down with soda, and then expect your brain to function at maximum capacity?
And finally, take some time to work your body. Study after study has proven that exercise improves cognitive performance and minimizes stress. If someone offered you a pill that could do that, you’d probably snap it up. So do yourself a favor: slip on some running shoes and hit the pavement or the gym.
4. Have a study plan.
One great way to minimize your stress level and make the entire LSAT prep experience less daunting is to have a study plan and stick to it. If you’re not good with structure, taking a class or working with a tutor might be a good approach; if you’re more disciplined, you can work alone and get great results, too. But make a point of developing a roadmap of where you want to be and how you want to get there. Seek guidance from books or experts; there are a lot of great LSAT resources out there, including online study like Grockit! Don’t just grab a prep test and start blindly doing questions—make the most of your study time by going into it with a plan of attack.
By incorporating these ideas into your LSAT preparation, you stand a better chance of emerging from the test prep experience mentally and emotionally intact, and ready to tackle the challenges of law school!