The transition back to school as summer ends can be a stressful time. Many students feel anxious about going back to school after a long summer break. Others may feel nervous about starting school for the first time.
Regardless of what the case may be, it is helpful to have strategies in place to help you feel less anxious.
Why does going back to school cause anxiety?
Returning to school is a transition or change from what you are used to. Even if it is a good change, the process of getting adjusted to a new routine involves energy, effort, and uncertainty. Yet, high school and college are rewarding experiences - and there is nothing that you can’t handle.
Let's explore anxiety and positive coping strategies that you can use to handle back-to-school anxiety.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal human emotion that everyone experiences at one time or another. For instance, when faced with a problem at school, before taking a test, or making a big decision.
Feelings of anxiety are usually future-oriented. This means that you worry about things that may or may not happen in the future.
Anxiety feels like a sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread. You may have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. Or you may avoid certain situations out of worry. There are also physical symptoms of anxiety like sweating, trembling, dizziness, restlessness, feelings of nausea, difficulty sleeping, and rapid heartbeat.
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms know that you are not alone and that there are ways to feel better.
7 Ways to Handle Back-to-School Anxiety
1. Prepare ahead of time.
People tend to feel anxious when they feel powerless in a situation or when they feel like a task is too big to handle. But breaking things into smaller tasks and preparing can make things feel less overwhelming.
Think about what you can break down and prepare for. For example, you can review your schedule and walk through it at school. Think about what books and materials you will need for each class. This way you will know exactly where to go throughout the school day and what you will need.
2. Practice self-care.
Self-care is always essential, especially when you're starting something new. Take the time to care for yourself. Habits like journaling, art, eating well, rest, and exercising are all great ways to practice self-care. Whenever you feel back-to-school anxiety rearing up, choose an activity that helps you feel balanced.
3. Focus on your sleep schedule.
A good night’s sleep improves mood immensely. A lack of sleep, on the other hand, encourages anxious feelings and leaves a person feeling more drained than necessary. Try to set a regular bedtime and wake time to help you feel your best.
4. Be intentional about your social circle.
Creating time to spend time with friends or make new ones can help decrease back-to-school anxiety. Join clubs and groups and have structured social time around activities you enjoy. This will bring passion and happiness into your life and help you to look forward to being a student.
5. Talk to someone.
There’s power in conversation. Stay in contact with good friends and family members. No one ever wants to feel alone, and definitely not in times of anxiety or distress. Sometimes, just talking to someone lifts those bad feelings and takes them away. Even meeting up with a friend for coffee can help you feel connected and give you much-needed time to talk.
6. Practice reframing your thoughts.
Reframing thoughts is when you actively notice unhelpful thoughts in your mind and reframe them into more useful thoughts. Some types of unhelpful thought patterns include:
7. Create a toolkit
A big piece of anxiety management is recognizing what does and doesn't work to help ease your anxiety. When you find things that work for you it's helpful to make a list so you can come back to the strategies when needed. This might include the following:
Your Feelings are Valid
Remember that you're not alone and plenty of people are experiencing the same feelings as you. Your emotions and experiences are valid. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to share with a mental health professional. We can help you relieve your symptoms and provide you with solutions. If you would like to speak with a professional, please reach out to schedule an appointment.
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As a therapist, Jorie Miklos enjoys helping people reach a level of personal happiness and satisfaction that they didn’t think was possible.
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Jorie Miklos, MA, LCPC
Autumn Leaf Counseling
5757 S. Madison St.
Hinsdale, IL 60521