As the new school year rolls in, so does the stress associated with the transition from summer to fall. Stress and anxiety can seem like barriers, but in fact they are natural experiences that we all have and can use to our advantage. The beginning of the school year is no different!
I’ve included some thoughts and concepts below with the goal of helping bolster and empower the youth we care about to manage and find strength from their stress (They are likely also helpful for parents to consider!). We may want to ‘fix for’ our children when they struggle. Often, though, showing him or her that he/she can handle it for his/herself may be the best way to support success and health.
- Modeling ‘coping’ instead of modeling ‘mastery’ may be helpful in teaching how to approach stress and work through it. If a child doesn’t see the adults around him or her struggle with stress, he or she may start to believe there is something wrong when he or she struggles. This couldn’t be farther from the truth: stress is normal!
- Sometimes anxiety ‘pops out’ seemingly from nowhere. This is normal and does not last forever.
- Consider ‘riding the wave’ of the feeling. Although not comfortable, this may be the best way to handle it. By living through the uncomfortable, you teach your body and mind that you have the strength to manage it. Do your best to not avoid.
- Coming up with ‘scripts’ can often be helpful. Having a few lines that you can deliver to others to ‘get through’ the day can help.
- When in doubt, ‘fake it till you make it.’ Sometimes when you act the part, it can help you ‘ride the wave.’ know that at the end of the day, you will have relief, because you will get home and be able to take a huge, deep, breath.
- Give yourself credit and reflect. After getting through a tough day, reflect on what you accomplished and allow yourself to feel good. ‘Riding the wave’ is hard work, and giving yourself credit for what you have accomplished can be helpful!
- Be kind to yourself always.
- Some pointers from the American Psychological Association:
- When Anxiety does become a barrier, it may be advisable to seek help from a professional. Below is a recent article from the Washington Post on the subject:
Your child is nervous about the new school year, which may be normal — or not – Washington Post
- How stress can be helpful: Explanation of the Yerkes-Dodson Law (the relationship between level of stress and performance) from the Harvard Business Review. Applicable to both parents and children:
Are You Too Stressed to Be Productive? Or Not Stressed Enough? – Harvard Business Review
Dr. Kevin Giangrasso