Whether you’re a parent, a student, or a teacher, chances are you’re familiar with back to school anxiety. You may not call it by that name, but you’ve probably experienced it at one time or another.
Perhaps you’ve felt worried or stressed before the school year starts. You may have spent sleepless nights tossing and turning in bed. Maybe you’ve experienced that tight-chested feeling or shortness of breath. Or perhaps you’ve simply felt a bit off, short-tempered, or “down in the dumps.”
I know I’ve been there.
In fact, I experience these very emotions almost every year before school starts.
And it’s not because I don’t like teaching; that’s my favorite part of the job. Instead, it’s the anticipation of a new year, new students, new classes, and new responsibilities that create my anxiety. All that “new-ness” can throw a type A routine-fanatic in a tailspin. 😂
So if you or someone you love experiences back to school anxiety, then you’ve come to the right place. Because today I’m here to share with you 8 ways to quiet those nerves and start the year off strong.
Back to School Anxiety: 8 Tips for How to Cope
1. Make A To-Do List
A common cause of back to school anxiety is worrying we’ll forget something. We convince ourselves that we’ll overlook some major detail, which will make us start the year behind schedule.
My favorite way to silence that worrying mind is to make a to-do list of everything I need to accomplish. By writing things down, I reassure myself that I won’t forget the tasks, and my chatty mind takes a break.
2. Share Your Biggest Fear With A Friend
I don’t know about you, but when I stare down anxiety, feelings of overwhelm often take over. I start imagining the worst possible scenario, and soon enough, I’m convinced it will happen.
If you can relate, then do yourself a favor and try talking through those feelings with someone you trust. Because if we don’t take steps to silence that racing mind, it can quickly take over our emotions.
So the next time you start feeling fear take over, spend some time telling a friend about it. Share that “worst-case scenario” that you’ve built up in your mind and don’t skimp on the details.
By talking with your friend and sharing your (often outrageous) story, you realize how unlikely it is that the situation will actually happen. Speaking your fear aloud to someone else helps you remove fear’s power and start focusing on the good instead.
Additionally, this gives you an opportunity to practice if-then statements.
What are if-then statements, you ask? They are a great strategy for creating plans and silencing your worrying mind. Simply state the obstacle, and then offer a simple solution.
For example, IF [worst case scenario X] happens, THEN I will [insert your plan here.]
By coming up with a plan, you kick fear to the curb, and you silence those worrying thoughts.
(Want to know more about if-then statements? Check out my post here!)
3. Distract Yourself
If you or your child experiences back to school anxiety, sometimes distraction is a helpful solution.
Sitting in dread or anxiety for weeks leading up to the first day of school is fruitless. It not only brings you down, but it also depletes your energy.
When I’m experiencing anxiety, exercise becomes even more valuable.
You see, both stress and anxiety release adrenaline in our bodies. When we take time to exercise, however, we release that hormone, which helps drop our anxiety levels and return us to a state of calm.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from exercise, you might also try meditation. Taking time to quiet your mind and tune out everything around you can leave you feeling relaxed and centered.
If you can’t seem to silence your anxious mind, then focus carefully on your breath; try counting each inhale and exhale if you need something on which to focus.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am an AWFUL meditator. I can’t seem to go 30 seconds without a random thought popping into my head, but that’s okay! If you find yourself struggling with that same chatty mind, simply acknowledge the thought and then clear your head once again.
Remember, this takes practice.
6. Lighten up on the caffeine (yes, really!)
Believe me, I hear all of you teachers laughing at this suggestion right now.
“But Paula,” you say, “as a teacher, caffeine runs through my veins.”
I get it. Really, I do.
But here’s the deal; caffeine is a stimulant, which often makes anxiety worse.
So for the weeks leading up to the start of school, try focusing on drinks like water, milk, or decaf tea and coffee. Additionally, foods like berries, yogurt, nuts, and legumes have proved to reduce anxiety as well.
7. Repeat a Mantra
Think of a phrase that brings you feelings of peace. Then, simply repeat that phrase in your head.
My favorite phrase at the moment is: “all is well.” It’s simple, but it also brings me incredible comfort.
Other mantras might include:
- I’ve got this
- It’s all good
- I can do hard things
8. Focus on the Now
Rather than stressing about what you’re going to do in the next month, week, or day, try focusing on the minutes in which you’re living right now.
Look at the things around you. Consider the temperature of the room. Think about the chair in which you’re sitting. Look at the clouds in the sky or the texture of the wood on your desk.
Then, try to pinpoint the thought that’s causing you to feel anxiety. It probably sounds something like, “there’s not enough time.” “There’s way too much to do.” “The summer went too quickly.” “I am nervous about ___.” etc.
Once you identify that thought, try shifting it to something that serves you better.
Rather than thinking, “there’s not enough time,” try on the thought: “I have enough time to complete what’s most important.”
Instead of thinking, “there’s never enough time,” try on the thought: “Things always get done.”
By shifting those negative thoughts just slightly, you will help relieve the anxiety and start moving forward.
There you have it, friends. If you or anyone you know is experiencing back to school anxiety, then give these 8 strategies a try. You’ll be quieting your anxiety in no time.
Want to keep these strategies on hand? Then download a free PDF version that you can print out and keep with you for whenever anxiety strikes.
Do you know anyone who struggles with back to school anxiety? How do you handle anxiety? What strategies would you recommend? Let me know below!