Your Brain and Back-to-School Anxiety (For Kids and Adults)

The new school year brings with it some anxiety for everyone involved: parents, teachers, students. Here are some best brain practices you can use to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for the new school year.

It Happens to the Best of Us.

Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, or student, the new school year can bring up some anxiety. For parents, it might be sympathetic anxiety for their kids. For teachers, it could be anxiety to get everything done, get the classroom set up, being in front of kids all day, the list goes on. To prepare yourself and your kids for the new school year in a healthy way, here are some tips.

 

Mentally Prepare

Mental preparation for almost anything starts with acknowledging it and the worries it brings you. So, for yourself, communicate your concerns or worries to someone who loves you, like your partner, a spouse, a friend. Next, allow your kids to also communicate their concerns. Give them the platform and open space to do so by setting them up in a healthy, productive conversation.

When they present a fear that you can’t really prevent from happening, avoid coddling and using false hope as a mechanism. Instead, be realistic and teach them how to problem solve. By doing this, you naturally work through the issue, providing some potential solutions and preparations that will likely put their minds at ease.  

When the summer ends, a lot of kids feel like the fun does too, and thus, are less enthusiastic for the school year to start. Show your kids that, while summer vacation is over, the fun isn’t. There are plenty of things to look forward to in the upcoming year: game nights, weekend activities, sleepovers, blanket forts, ball games, etc. Keep that positive energy flowing into the fall.   

 

Physically Prepare

This one may overlap a little with mental preparation, but let’s try to focus on some healthy physical practices that can improve mental preparation. For parents or teachers, before the school year starts, treat yourself a little more than usual. That could mean taking a few long baths, getting a massage, or practicing some great relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation, yoga–anything that can make the heart calm and bring your concentration back in a productive way. Teach the same to your kids before the year starts, and teachers, teach them to your students, possibly on their first day. This will really help set the tone of the classroom: positivity.

Next, eat well. Energy is important for the upcoming school year, which will include events that require lots of high functioning. Plus, when you have a healthy stomach, it directly impacts the brain in a positive way. Similarly, sleep well and on a routine. If that means practicing those relaxation techniques at night, reading something “boring” before bed, or drinking some non-caffeinated chamomile tea, then go for it. The same goes for the kids. Mental rest is a must for a good first day, a fresh start. You don’t want them to be falling asleep in their first class of the new school year.

 

Get Organized, Stay Focused

Getting organized is easier said than done, especially when you have so much to GET done, as a parent, teacher, or student. Try some new approaches to getting organized. Studies have shown that there is a positive impact on productivity when writing things down, physically–To Do lists. It demonstrated, in those studies, that planning activities via lists reduced the “burden” on the brain, allowing the brain to sort through other things easier, leading to completed tasks.

Get back to a routine. The brain can form habits through repetition, both good and “bad.” That means, over the summer, your kids may have developed the routine of sleeping in. Try to get them to kick the habit by starting over with repeating a new routine, one that is more accustomed to the school year.

Other research shows that multitasking can lower your productivity. Try your best to give focus to just one thing at a time. Again, much easier said than done. But if you can manage to practice this, you’ll notice an increase in productivity. In fact, it has been estimated that multitasking can reduce productivity up to 40%. Remember: slow is fast, and fast is slow. Ever notice how the faster you try to do something, the more mistakes you make and have to take extra time to fix them? Most of us do. So, just take a minute, do the task, and move on to the next.

 

Be “In It” Together

When getting ready for the school year, go school supplies shopping together. Let them choose their backpacks and take some joy in the process. Read with them, or oversee their summer projects with them. Eat dinner together and encourage open conversation, as mentioned previously. Make the back-to-school process as fun, low-key, and low-pressure as you can. Show them that, while you’re separated throughout the day, you’re still on their team. And you’ll be there at the end of the day, too. Show them you care enough to be involved and make these decisions together, while still giving them freedom to make some of their own.

 

Have a great school year!

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Leigh