7 Tips for Back to School Anxiety
As the summer sun begins to set, a familiar feeling sweeps over students of all ages – it’s back to school season! While this time of year is filled with excitement and the promise of new adventures, it can also be accompanied by anxiety and stress. The first step to managing your back to school anxiety is to first acknowledge that you feel anxious.
It took me many years to recognize that what I was feeling was not in fact food allergies or intolerance, but anxiety related to school! In my second year of university I began to have a lot of stomach pain when I would eat. I tried to figure out what food was making me feel so sick to my stomach and could never figure it out. My stomach pain mostly went away for a few months and then suddenly came back and I wanted to figure out why. What I realized was that in the summer, when I wasn’t at school I no longer had the same stomach pain, that I can now identify is my body’s response to anxiety! This propelled me forward to my first counselling appointment where I started my healing journey.
If you are feeling stress at the start of the year, or know that you are prone to anxiety, I hope that these tips can be helpful for you in your own journey with anxiety.
Stress Management Techniques for Back-to-School Stress:
1. Schedule in Designated Self-Care Time: Self-care can change as our seasons of life can change. This season make sure you check in and see what will give you life, fulfilment and relaxation outside of all your school priorities. It could be a weekly art class, going on walks every morning, having an evening alone without school work, or something else. Take some time to reflect on what you need to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, relationally & spiritually this fall.
2. Get Organized: Going back to school can be both exciting and overwhelming as there can be a lot of new things all at once. Take time this week organizing your due dates, assignments, work schedule, self-care and other priorities for the fall. If deadlines and organization aren’t your thing, ask a friend to sit down and do your organization together! Organizing your physical space is just as important as your mental space. Be sure to take some time to create a calm and organized environment for yourself this fall.
3. Prioritize your Physical Health: It can be hard to say no to social events, joining extracurricular activities, and other important life experiences because they are all good things! We know that if you don’t have enough sleep, enough nutritional food and movement in our day that we are not able to fully participate in the things that we love. Make sure you schedule in time for sleeping, movement and meal prep this fall!
4. Practice Mindfulness & Coping Strategies: If you notice the anxiety and stress creep in, be sure to pause and practice mindfulness or other coping strategies. This can include sensory grounding, deep breathing, and visualization exercises amongst other strategies. To be extra proactive, write down some coping strategies ahead of time so that you can reference them quickly when you feel overwhelmed!
5. Break Tasks into Smaller Steps: When faced with a daunting assignment or project, break it into smaller, manageable tasks. This approach can make the workload feel less overwhelming. Make sure you schedule in breaks after completing a task and practice self-care throughout your day to avoid burnout.
6. Lean on Your Support System: You are not alone in being overwhelmed by school. Your friends or family members likely feel the same way, or can relate to your feelings of anxiety. Reach out and ask for support, create a study-buddy system and make sure you have a great counsellor for outside support!
7. Practice Self Compassion: You may have a tendency to compare yourself to others or critique yourself when you feel like you aren’t “meeting the mark” with school. Or maybe you are beating yourself up just for feeling anxious. When you notice these thoughts that is a great time to practice self-compassion and try to speak to yourself how you would to your friend. This sounds like: It makes sense that you feel overwhelmed because starting a new school year is a lot of work!
As you dive into another school year, I hope that this can be a reminder to not only focus on academic achievements but also on nurturing your well-being. Remember that your mental and physical health are important. By following these stress management techniques, you can navigate the challenges of school with resilience and self-compassion. Here’s to a successful and fulfilling academic journey ahead!