The Mind-Body Connection in (re)taking the bar - Updated

Source:  The Mind-Body Connection in (re)taking the bar - Updated    Tag:  virginia bar exam application
One thing I've noticed about successful bar exam re-takers (and first time bar exam passers) is that they did not ignore the connection between their mental readiness and their physical body and well being. The old saw is that the bar exam is a "marathon, not a sprint". The successful bar re-takers I have read about/seen take extra steps - beyond bar review - to care for their bodies and minds. It also appears that this has to be done just as consistently as MBE and Essay practice should be done.

I had heard successful bar exam takers say that they maintained whatever exercise schedule they had before they started taking the bar. For example, people kept going to the gym every morning if that is what they were used to. However, I didn't have a gym membership nor did I exercise at all outside of walking at every opportunity. So I believed that trying to start a new program of exercise during bar study would be an unnecessary distraction. This was an error.

Dr. Gallagher of Barwrite recommends daily exercise for one hour a day during the bar preparation period, whether or not you are used to it. When I took the Barwrite course I (roughly) followed that prescription, and that (along with other strategies) led to my first bar exam pass. So please, follow Dr. Gallagher's advice. Even if you are a sedentary person, get that one hour of exercise in every day while studying for the bar examination.

Nutrition, Supplements and Herbs *
Nutrition is the other prong in caring for your body (and through it, your mind). The best thing to do, I think, is to eat as nutritious a diet as you can muster, one that focuses on nutrition of the brain. Fish (salmon in particular), eggs, almonds and other nuts are considered "brain healthy" foods. Don't skip any meals during bar prep. Don't skip meals on the day of the exam. To ensure I get all the vitamins my diet might miss, I took a daily multivitamin.

Perhaps it is a placebo effect, but taking supplements and herbs eased my mind. The supplements I took during my bar preparation period seemed to help my thinking and my stress levels. It took research and a lot of trial and error to find a combination of supplements I liked. Finally, I settled on taking fish oil pills and a combination of rosemary, ginkgo, eleuthero and gotu kola herbs every day.

Another retaker with a website (since deleted) posted the following. This dedicated candidate passed on her second try with a very intensive study schedule.:
Re: Nutrition: first and second week. I took along with me the following vitamins and supplements: Viactiv (calcium chews), Vitamin B complex, Vitamin E, Cognitol (celastrus oil -- aids your concentration), Bacopa Vitality (Bacopa monniera - works in a synergistic fashion with celastrus oil), and a multivitamin. I took all of them at least once a day. I also took with me Piracetam (which I had been using the final month of February). I took as many as 6 during the test day, taking 2 or 3 Piracetam pills plus 1 acetyl-l-carnitine pill before the morning session and 2 or 3 Piracetam pills plus 1 acetyl-l-carnitine pill before the afternoon session (during lunch). I found that this really helped: my writing / thinking / typing speed was much faster, I could logically connect more points more efficiently and more complexly, etc. I ordered my Piracetam from Quality Health.
from How I Passed the PA Bar Exam by L. Kim
Though supplementation seemed to work for the candidate above and for me, all this supplementation is really not necessary. It is more important to stay as healthy and alert as possible. Despite my hardships with the bar exam, it has made me change many of the unhealthy habits I had all my life. I was inspired by taking the bar exam again to become much healthier:
  • balance my diet with more fruits and vegetables and less meat and sugars
  • eliminated coffee and most other sources of caffeine from my diet (except tea)
  • Drink at least 4 cups of water daily
  • exercise regularly 
*I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before getting started on a program of supplements.
Prayer, Meditation, and Hypnosis
To keep my spirits up, I meditated regularly to binaural beat MP3s released by Brainsync. I don't know how much truth there is to that brain frequency stuff that they are sold for; I used them because they were cheap. I believe that in time they did have a positive effect on me.

Other bar exam takers have used hypnosis and subliminal CD's to beat the anxiety and stress attendant with repeating the exam. These CD's and these CD's were recommended to me by two other successful candidates (I did not try them). Caveat emptor - I don't believe these work for everybody. You have to be open to these things working and even then, it might not really work for you. Just know that others have found these methods helpful when used in tandem with other approaches.

A word about prayer. If you are religious, maintain your religious tradition. Don't allow bar review to keep you from church or temple. Some bar re-takers found that maintaining their relationship with God helped them through the difficult times.