For many people, fall is associated with going back to school. This is often an exciting season, full of promise—sharpened pencils, blank notebooks waiting to be filled and the hopeful feeling that comes from starting with a clean slate and looking forward to fulfilling academic goals.
But for some people, the prospect of a new school year can put a strain on their mental health. Instead of excitement, this time of year is filled with anxiety and stress. To maintain a balanced state of overall health and wellness during this busy time—whether you are taking classes to further your education or you have kids in school—it’s important to take an approach of mindfulness. Here are some A+ ways to gear up mentally for the coming school year.
Educate Yourself to Eliminate the Unknown
One source of anxiety can be all the unanswered questions surrounding the start of a new school year: Where are the classrooms on campus? Who will your teacher be? Will you know any of your fellow students? For children who struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, try to get answers to those questions before school starts. For instance, attend an orientation that allows your child to tour the campus and find her classes so she doesn’t worry about getting lost on the first day. For adults going back to school, it can help to map out the closest parking lot to the classroom so you’re not late to class because you couldn’t find a spot. Eliminating any unknowns can help alleviate worries and promote a sense of peace.
Get Back on Schedule
During the long days of summer, schedules can get a little loose. Kids may be sleeping in, or you’re taking time off for a big vacation. The start of school, however, means you are back on a strict timetable. In order to not cause more stress and anxiety, it can help to get adjusted to school schedules before school actually starts. A week or so before classes resume, start waking up the family at the time they’d need to get up for school. To do that successfully, gradually cut back on late nights, establishing earlier bedtimes and wake-up times until you reach the schedule you need to be on for the fall.
Staying in the present can reduce anxieties about the future. Don’t spend time catastrophizing about what could happen if your child gets bullied, or if failing a class will jeopardize your career prospects. Using simple daily strategies to promote mindfulness will strengthen your overall health and wellness. This may look like waking up an extra 10 minutes early to do a guided meditation, enrolling in a yoga or tai chi class on weekends or ending your day with quiet gratitude reflection and journaling. Mindfulness not only helps reduce anxiety about the future, but it can also be calming and a great way to reduce everyday stress.
As the school year goes on, life can seem like a never-ending stream of homework, projects, papers and tests. During crunch times, it can be tempting to skip workouts, eat fast food instead of taking the time to cook a meal and stay up late cramming. In order for your mind and body to optimally function, you need to eat a nutritious diet and exercise regularly. A bit of planning can make this easier: On weekends, for instance, try planning a week’s worth of meals and preparing as much food as you can ahead of time so you can grab healthy meals from your fridge on the go. When you take care of your physical health, you’re also able to better care for your mental health, too.
Don’t Hide the Anxiety
Back-to-school worries can be perfectly normal, so if you or your school-age child are experiencing anxiety, stop and take a breath. Acknowledge and accept this feeling, and make sure to express your doubts and fears to someone you trust; if your child is the one feeling anxious, encourage them to talk with you about their concerns. The prospect of change may seem scary, but it’s also a time to grow and make good, forward-moving steps in life. Remind yourself that this can be a positive time, perhaps by making it a practice with your child to talk about one good thing that happened at school each day, keeping a gratitude journal or setting achievable, measurable goals you can focus on attaining.
Know When You Need Extra Help
Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the pressure can mount and trigger anxiety you feel you can’t manage on your own. If you or your child is exhibiting signs of unusual levels of anxiety—including disruptions to normal sleeping and eating patterns, a fixation on worries that prevents the completion of normal activities or a depressive mood—check-in with a therapist or counselor to discuss the situation and address the problem affecting your or your child’s mental health. In order to have a positive school year, it’s crucial to treat your health and wellness with the same attention you’d give any school subject.
If you need help with anxiety or other mental health issues, contact Casa Palmera today. Our experienced staff members can work with you to hone the tools you need to face everyday stress and fears with courage and mindfulness, not just at the start of the back-to-school season, but all year long.