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Crossing the bar

You can feel the fear in the air.

When we posted a tweet about the first day of the 2015 Virginia bar exam, held in Roanoke last week, one lawyer replied, “A cold chill just went down my spine.”

Another said that waiting for the results “damn near killed me.”

Educators and parents complain about high-stakes testing in public schools, but there are few tests with stakes higher than the bar exam.

Stress management expert “Dr. Romie” had some tips for bar examinees to help the bar examinees make it through the process. The same advice might benefit anyone facing performance anxiety, including lawyers on the way to a hearing or trial.

The neurologist – known more formally as Romita Mushtaq M.D. – suggests a three-step process for the night before the exam. The first step is to recognize your fears, she says. If there are many, write them down.

Secondly, take a breath break. Calm yourself by closing your eyes and consciously breathing.

Finally, visualize a successful outcome. Picture yourself getting up on the day of the big event, going through the morning routine, and then successfully meeting the challenge of the day.

When fears intrude, visualize how you would overcome the obstacles, the doctor says.

“Start by taking a deep breath and saying to yourself, ‘I got this,’” she says.

For bar applicants, she suggested “fast-forwarding” to the day the results arrive.

“See yourself reading the words, ‘congratulations you have successfully passed the bar examination.’

“Stay with this feeling of relief and joy as you fall asleep,” she says.

Good advice, we think.

The calming routine should come in handy for the 1,143 test-takers who now nervously await the test results, expected in early October.

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