Back to School Anxiety

The start of the school year is an exciting time, but it can also be scary. With activities starting, homework piling up, and waking up early again, it is easy to become anxious and intimidated. In fact, the start of the fall season brings many changes for all; even parents of children going back to school can observe the anxiety building-up. However, it pays to embrace the change, and to find strategies to help reinforce this positive mindset.

Here is a list of the top five strategies to combat back to school anxiety.

Find something you love to do.

Raphael Saadiq once said, “The way to stay inspired is by doing what you like, doing what you love.” Everyone has something that they are passionate about, whether it is sports, art, reading, or really anything at all. In this time of transitioning from summer vacation to school, it is crucial to find something to keep you motivated. If you love sports, try to set aside a little time every day to practice. If you are passionate about reading, read a little bit before bed every night.

This is also a perfect time to try new things. We all have something that we’ve always wanted to do, so if you haven’t discovered your passion yet, just try everything! If you keep at least one small thing to look forward to every day, it will serve as a source of motivation and excitement.

Remember that it’s not the end of the world.

Chances are, you have probably heard this at least one time in your life. However, hearing this phrase is one thing, but committing to it is another. I will admit, I still have trouble with this on a daily basis. It sometimes seems like my world is falling apart if I don’t do as well as I had hoped on a test, or someone who seemed to be a friend is angry with me. The American Psychological Association found that teenagers reported that their stress level throughout the school year exceeded what they perceived to be healthy. The average stress-level was a 5.8, while a 3.9 was perceived to be a healthy level on a 10-point scale. What’s more – the average stress-level for adults was only a 5.1. According to these statics and simple observations, it is not hard to find a high school or college student that is struggling with this problem. A good rule is to look ten years in to the future, and think about if the source of stress will still be an issue. If the answer is no, it is most likely not something worth worrying about.

Surround yourself with good company.

In times of increased stress like going back to school, it is important to know that you’re not alone. Simply being with friends, family, or people with similar problems and interests can make a huge difference. It is easy to isolate yourself during times of increased anxiety, but this can lead to depression, more anxiety, or feelings of loneliness. Find someone who you feel comfortable talking to about your concerns. And if you are a supporter to one of your peers, simply listening to what they have to say and letting them know that they are not alone can make a huge difference.

If your child, friend, or significant other is anxious about going back to school, encourage them to talk about their fears. Not only does it make you aware of what they are specifically feeling anxious about, but it also helps them to identify it for themselves. Sometimes, simply taking aloud to someone can alleviate lots of the anxiety. Also, encouraging your loved-one to practice any of these strategies is very helpful, as it can help them to alter their mindset or take a different approach. Simply seeing that someone is there to listen can make a huge difference.

Recognize the anxious thoughts, but do not try to push them away.

This is a tough one, as it’s hard to resist from trying not to think about anxiety. However, pushing away the thoughts that make you nervous will most likely make you more anxious. A relatively new type of therapy, called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) validates this point. ACT reinforces the fact that, “trying to change difficult thoughts and feelings as a means of coping can be counter productive, but new, powerful alternatives are available” (Hayes 1). ACT embraces mindfulness, which is a very helpful tool in recognizing anxious thoughts. For example, if you are worried about a test coming up, you could say “I am having the thought that I am worried about a test coming up” rather than pushing the thought to the back of your mind. This may seem tough in the moment, but it is a proven way to reduce anxiety in the long run.

Find something good in every day.

This is relatively self-explanatory, as this is something that you should do everyday, whether you are anxious or not. It may not always be easy, but looking back on your day and picking out one good thing that happened forces you to see that there is truly something positive in every day.

References

By Recognizing and Addressing These Challenges, Individuals Can Become Better Able to Make Room for Values-based Actions That Support Well-being.  . “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.” , Core Processes, Mindfulness and ACT. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Hayes, Steven. “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).” Association for Behavioral Science (ACBS). N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

Saadiq, Raphael. “What You Love Quotes.” BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.

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