4 Ways to De-Stress After the Ontario Bar Exams


Weeks of studying and two 7-hour exams later, the Ontario bar exams are finally behind you. What now? Maybe you’ve already started articling and you’re headed back to work. Maybe you’ve got some free time before you start articling or attend the Law Practice Program later this summer. Either way, there’s one thing that you definitely should not be doing right now: stressing about your exam results. (Trust us – refreshing your email won’t make your results come faster.)

For the next 6-8 weeks, try and put the bar exams out of your mind. Now that they’re over, you can devote your energy towards those aspects of your life that might have been put on hold while you were studying. Here are four ways you can keep your mind off the bar exams over the next few weeks.

1. Get Some Rest

This piece of advice you heard before the bar exams is just as important after they’re over. Preparing for the licensing exams has likely taken up the majority of your time over the last few weeks and writing them has probably left you exhausted – both physically and mentally. Now that the exams are complete, you can take some time to unwind and recuperate. Exchange your highlighters and post-it notes for blankets and pillows. Get a good night’s sleep and sleep in the next morning, lounge around at home, or spend a few days doing absolutely nothing. Give your body and mind an opportunity to truly relax, without expending your mental energy worrying about your results.

2. Travel

If you do have a bit of time before you start working, consider taking a trip. Exploring a new city will definitely keep your mind off the bar exams. Depending on your personal preference, your ideal vacation might be a backpacking trip in Europe, South America, or Southeast Asia, a week-long beach vacation in the Caribbean, or maybe a trip down to Disney World. Whatever option works for you, a trip abroad can give you the opportunity to distance yourself from the stress of the bar exam.

Admittedly, international travel is expensive and if you’ve just started articling, you probably don’t have the luxury of taking an entire week off. But that doesn’t mean you can’t travel! There are plenty of places to visit right here in Ontario. The best part is that these travel options are far more affordable and perfectly suitable for a short weekend trip. Here are a few destinations in Ontario that you might want to consider:
  • Toronto
    Ontario’s largest city – there’s no shortage of things to do and see in the Six.
  • Ottawa
    It may have a reputation for being sleepy, but Canada’s capital is beautiful, historic, and exciting – there are many fun things to do on a weekend.
  • Kingston
    From Fort Henry to the Thousand Islands, Kingston is home to a range of unique attractions.
  • Niagara Falls
    Breathtaking views and activities for days. They also recently opened North America’s largest elevated go-kart facility!
  • Tobermory
    Crystal clear water and remarkable hiking trails. Easily one of Ontario’s most awe-inspiring destinations.
  • Muskoka
    Lakeside lodging and plenty of outdoor activities make Muskoka a popular choice for a weekend trip in the summer.

3. Plan a Staycation

If travel isn’t an option at the moment, don’t worry. There’s plenty you can do in your own backyard (literally and figuratively). Try a new restaurant or coffee shop, visit parks in the area, or check out a festival happening in your city. Feel like staying really close to home? Invite friends/family over for a barbecue, a potluck dinner, or a games night. If law school and the bar exams have engulfed your social life, a staycation could give you the chance to reconnect with friends and family. Plus, you might end up discovering some hidden gems in your own hometown!

4. Pick Up a Hobby

The stress, pressure, and amount of work involved in law school and preparing for the bar exams have probably taken up the majority of your time over the last few years. Often, as we prioritize school, extracurriculars, and job opportunities, other activities begin to take a back seat. But now that you’re done law school and the bar exams, you finally have a chance to revisit some of your old hobbies – or discover brand new ones!
  • Get Creative
    If you had to set aside your artistic passions to focus on the bar exams, get back to your music, your artwork, or your writing. Similarly, if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at a form of art, go for it! Learn how to play the guitar, head to a local paint night, or buy a journal and start writing.

  • Get Fit(ter)
    Hopefully you’ve been maintaining a healthy relationship with the gym while studying for the bar exams, but if you haven’t, now is the best time to reboot your routine. If you’ve already got a gym program that you used to follow, pick it back up. If not, try something new. Take a spin class, attend a group fitness class like yoga or Zumba, or head to the pool for a swim!

  • Get Outside
    The summer is arguably the best time to have a bit of time away from work or school responsibilities. Enjoy the warm weather and go on a hike, take a bike ride, rent a canoe/kayak, lounge around at a local park, or spend a day at the golf course.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will help inspire you to keep your mind occupied until your exam results are released. It can be tempting to obsess over the exams and your performance on them, but this will only be counter-productive. What’s done is done, and you should use this time to focus on yourself. Don’t let stress about the bar exams prevent you from enjoying your life. Chances are you performed well and will get the results you hope for. Even if you don’t pass, it isn’t the end – just a bump in the road that many other lawyers have overcome, and you will too. If you get results that you’re unhappy with, take some time to process, develop a new game plan, and consider our tips on what to do if you fail the Ontario bar exams. Now get out there and enjoy your well-earned freedom!