Stress-Free School Start

Stress-Free School Start

As the carefree days of summer come to an end, students of all ages are preparing to head back to school. Many students will be returning to the classroom full-time after a couple years of remote learning and disrupted schedules. For some, this transition to a new routine can cause all kinds of emotions, including anxiety. Younger children may find it stressful to sit still for long periods of time; older students may find it challenging to deal with strict deadlines and large assignments; and students of all ages may face social or academic challenges. 

Frequently, anxiety can result from “what if” thought patterns, for example, “What if I don’t get an A on this assignment?” or “What if I can’t make any friends in my classroom?” For children and teenagers alike, these thoughts can be draining, and over time can take a physical toll on one’s body.

There are various techniques and daily activities that can be used to help students (and teachers!) feel more grounded if anxiety and negative feelings arise.

Grounding Techniques

20th century American psychotherapist and father of bioenergetics, Dr Alexander Lowen, developed the concept of “grounding.” This technique encourages people to focus on the physical aspects of their surroundings to help them feel connected to the earth, instead of focusing on their emotions or thoughts, allowing them to stay grounded in the present. The grounding technique is rather simple and is appropriate for people of all ages when feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated.

Try grounding now: 

List five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing that you can taste. This simple practice de-escalates heightened emotions and allows the mind to focus on the “here and now.”

Sensory tasks such as listening to music or rubbing one’s palms together can also be used as techniques for grounding. By focusing your attention on physical stimuli, your body grounds itself back to Earth and the present.

Mindfulness Techniques

Mindfulness is another popular technique used to reduce anxiety over time. While Mindfulness has some similarities to grounding, the two are quite different. Grounding is better for providing quick relief of an acutely stressful or anxiety-provoking situation, while mindfulness is used to promote long-term changes in overall wellbeing. 

Mindfulness is a practice of awareness and meditation used in Buddhism, Hinduism, as well as other cultures and traditions around the world. Mindfulness can be achieved through being fully present and focusing all thoughts and emotions on a task without judgment.

There are four key components to mindfulness that induce stress relief and increase compassion: attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and sense of self. Many studies have shown that by practicing just a few minutes of mindfulness twice a day, you can significantly improve both your physical and mental health. Because mind and body are  highly connected, learned optimism and the ability to appreciate your surroundings can provide many health benefits. 

Try Mindfulness now: 

Spend time walking outdoors. Walking is a wonderful way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. As you move, inhale and exhale deeply while focusing your mind on what you see, the way the ground feels beneath your feet, and the impact it has on your emotional state with no judgment. You can walk around campus and apply the same principles. Movement with incorporated mindfulness can help relieve anxiety. Dr Jaffe recommends at least 20 minutes a day of mindfulness practice(s).

Color Mandalas. Mandala, means “circle” in Sanskrit, and began in Hindu culture as an artistic way to anchor an individual to their community or self through self-observation. In Buddhism, mandalas have also been used as meditative and spiritual tools for centering and grounding oneself. Joan Kellogg developed the MARI (Mandala Assessment Research Instrument) as a psychological assessment and treatment tool in the 1970s, and Dr. Jaffe recommends this technique.

Today, coloring pre-drawn mandalas can be used to practice mindfulness, meditation and reflection. It is a fun and creative outlet for students and a great way to relieve stress. The symmetrical and intricate details require focus and attention that will help to release anxious thoughts, regulate emotions and encourage calmness. Find a free mandala coloring page here.

Add a Magnesium Supplement.

The human body uses magnesium to neutralize acids. Chronic stress and the acid-producing effects of caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and sugar drain magnesium stores in the body, and as a result almost 80% of the US population has a  deficiency of this important mineral. By using a high quality supplement, you can support stress resilience and overall mental and physical health. Consider adding choline citrate to increase magnesium absorption.

Identify Allergies and Sensitivities

In some instances, hidden food and environmental sensitivities can stop us from feeling and functioning at our best. Delayed allergy testing can help to identify and remove these specific immune triggers.

Prepare in Advance

In addition to all of these great stress-busting tips, there is something to be said for advanced preparation for the upcoming changes in routine. Simply knowing what to expect can help alleviate many of the first-day jitters.

  • Visit the school before the official first day; walk to the bus stop in advance
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast and pack a healthy lunch. Proper nutrition can keep students feeling energized and engaged.
  • Go to bed early and wake up at the required time so there is plenty of time to get ready without stress.
  • Lay out clothes the night before
  • Allow more time for calm discussions in the evening and morning, talking through any feelings that may arise.

By using the above tools to manage stress, you can help yourself and your family tackle back to school anxiety, and minimize stress throughout the year.