Coping with Back to School Stress

The time has finally come. Summer is officially over and you are probably in denial that it is time to head back to school. Where did the time go? Did you do everything you said you were going to do over the summer? Do you feel like you made the best use of your time on your days off? These are all questions you may be thinking about when the summer has come to an end.

Heading back to school after being off for a long period of time can present various challenges, thoughts and emotions. Going back to school can be exciting, anxiety provoking and a stressful time for children, teens and parents. Getting back into a scheduled routine can present challenges. Getting up early, prepping lunches, making sure homework is complete on top of doing all of your daily tasks, working and so forth. One recommendation is to use a calendar. Whether it is paper or on your phone, it is essential to get organized and know everyone's schedules and deadlines. Staying organized helps eliminate stress and prevents you from running around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready. Don't be afraid to ask for help from another parent, grandparent or even your children if they are of an appropriate age to help. Most kids can make their own lunches and check to make sure they have their homework and books they need for school.

Take one day at a time. I know, easier said then done. We tend to look at the huge list of things we need to do instead of taking one task at a time. The more we think about all the things we need to do the more stressed and anxious we become. Take each task, focus on it and if those irrational thoughts keep popping in your head that you will "never get all of this done", do thought stopping. Stop the thought in its track and reframe your thought by reminding yourself that you have to get through your current task before you can move on to the next one. Getting overwhelmed and worried that you won't get it all done takes up more time then if you would have started the task in the first place.

Maybe you have figured out your whole scheduling routine and are managing your endless task list. Lets shift the focus to our children and teens and how they are coping with back to school stress. What if you or your child/teen is struggling with the transition beyond the normal transitional time period and is having a difficult time adjusting? Listen to your child. Listen to what they are thinking and feeling and validate their emotions. Acknowledge that going back to school can trigger various emotions of excitement, anxiety, or fear. Empathize with them what they are experiencing and provide support for them during the transition. It is also important to find a solution with your child to help them transition effectively. For example, if your child is struggling with separation anxiety and misses you during the day. Do a craft together that reminds them of you or send your child with a picture and let them know that you are always with them even if not present. As parents we are here to help our children grow and overcome difficult challenges and times in their lives. If you feel like your child is really struggling beyond the transitional time period, is experiencing anxiety that is disrupting their functioning at school or home, have them assessed by a counselor to identify what is going on and what helpful tools and techniques your child can learn to help the adjust smoothly and enjoy their overall school experience.


Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season is characteristically a time of joy, peace, and a time to gather with friends and family. Although this time of year is filled with happiness, it can also be a time of stress and sadness. You may feel overwhelmed with planning get togethers, scheduling time with friends and family, and finding the perfect gifts, all while managing your normal schedule. This can lead to feelings of irritability, sadness, anxiety and anger. It is important to identify what your expectations are for yourself and family during the holiday season. Are your expectations realistic? 

What can you do to help yourself cope with your stress during the holidays?

Schedule time with friends and family in advance so that you are aware of how to plan each day. Shop early and ask friends and family what they want for presents so that everything is ready and you aren't running around last minute. Manage your time: set priorities and let go of impossible goals that are unrealistic. Ask others to help out if you are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes we just can't do it all. Don't feel inadequate if you can't do it all.

Maybe you are experiencing the holiday blues, which can be challenging and difficult to understand. You may expect yourself to feel happy all of the time and if you don't you may feel disappointed. Maybe you expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. As we grow up, things change and it is important to find new value in the holidays. Practice mindfulness of being present in the moment and enjoy your time with friends and family. So often we just go through the motions and are thinking about your next gathering or things that you need to get ready and you forget to embrace the people you are with at that time. Practice gratitude: identify and remind yourself of all of the things you are thankful for. Sometimes when we are stressed or overwhelmed we forget all of the good things in our lives. If you are starting to feel depressed or lonely, volunteer at a local church or organization to give back to those that are in need and help you feel connected to others. 

Most importantly, as we all know, the holiday temptations of delicious family recipes can be overwhelming in itself. Try to limit overindulgences and maintain healthy eating and exercise routines to help you cope with stress, sadness and anxiety. Make sure that you make time for yourself and give yourself a break. Sometimes we just need to a take a time out to prevent burnout and reboot ourselves so that we are our best self. The holidays are a wonderful time and learning ways to cope with stress can help you enjoy this special time of year.


Finding Balance & Making Time For Self-care

Many of us have so many responsibilities in our lives that we need to forget to make time for ourselves. Sometimes our lives can be so full of things that need to be accomplished, never ending lists that get checked off and then more tasks are added. Does it ever end?

In a fast pace lifestyle it can be very challenging trying to find balance and manage stress. Balancing being a parent, spouse, daughter/son, colleague, student can be overwhelming and cause a wide range of emotions. When we begin feeling overwhelmed, some individuals may feel sad, anxious, angry or irritable.

Each day presents its own challenges and it is very important to take a step back and make time for self-care. Self-care is important for emotional health, feeling balanced, and stress management.

Think of something that you truly enjoy and make time each week to do that something that makes you feel relaxed and happy. Everyone needs time to shut off their crazy, hectic schedules and focus on themselves.

Some self-care strategies for overall stress reduction include:

Getting enough sleep. Turn off your television and computer and go to bed earlier. This can be challenging because technology may be your only relaxation time at the end of the day, but we all need sleep in order to function the next day.

Maintain Social Support. Social support can be helpful in lifting your spirits, feeling connected, and feeling a sense of belonging. Family and friends can be a good listeners and may be able to help you process your thoughts and feelings when you are facing personal challenges.

Finding a Hobby. Having a hobby that you enjoy can make you feel happy when you are facing challenges. It gives you a time-out so that you can focus on something enjoyable. Having hobbies has been helpful for individuals and families to find balance and reduce stress. If you are unsure of what hobby you should do, think back to when you were younger and think about the things you enjoyed, it may be sports, dance, collecting something, making jewelry, art, music. Take some time and explore your options. Look at your local community (park district, churches, etc) and see what classes are offered.

Exercise & Nutrition. It is important to maintain healthy nutrition. This can be a big challenge when you are on the go and convenance becomes essential. Make healthy snacks you can grab from your refrigerator or pantry. Exercise is also important because it helps reduce stress, anger, anxiety, and depression. Exercise is important for both your physical and mental health. Make time, even if it is a quick walk around the block.

Process your Emotions. Keeping your emotions bottled up and not effectively coping with them can lead to an emotional explosion. Learn how to process your thoughts and feelings and identify ways to help you cope with your feelings. If you are unsure of how to process your thoughts and feelings, seek a professional counselor that can help teach you how to process thoughts/feelings and provide you with useful coping skills to keep your emotional balance in check.