6 Steps to Overcome Back to School Stress


School is about to start up again, and for many kids a variety of emotions begin to surface—ranging from excitement to nervous anticipation to all-out dread and panic. Starting a new school year is about making new friends, meeting new teachers, buying new clothes and book bags, facing bullies, learning a new curriculum, and, of course, doing homework. Going back to school brings a host of new stresses that many parents and teachers didn’t have when they were growing up. In the digital age, kids are getting fewer and fewer hours of sleep because their minds are over-stimulated by electronics—and lack of sleep can create a number of problems, mood swings, weight gain, and brain fog. Kids are also suffering from overwhelming stress due to social anxiety and sports pressures, and some are even gaining weight as a result of stress eating.

The good news is that there are tools that can have an immediate impact on adolescents in stressful and uncomfortable situations. Here are the top six techniques that parents and teachers can use to help students (and themselves!) stay relaxed this back-to-school season.

1. Breathe deeply and correctly.
When the human body encounters stress of any kind, our chest constricts, causing more shallow breathing to occur. In this way, we only use a small portion of our lung capacity and typically we only use the upper part of our torso. This allows the sympathetic nervous system to be activated, thereby creating a fight-or-flight response. Instead, if you breathe deeply involving the lower part of the lungs and diaphragm, you can activate the parasympathetic nervous system creating a rest-and-digest response.

2. Elevate the feet.
Another way to stimulate the rest-and-digest response is to elevate the feet. One of the best and most effective ways to do this is lying on your back with your legs resting on a chair or against the wall. In yoga this posture is called Viparita Karani.

3. Hypnotherapy.
Hypnotherapy offers a solution that can have benefits that last into adulthood. Hypnosis is a method of getting one’s mind into a state of concentrated awareness so they can find resolutions within themselves and create change in a positive and lasting way.

4. Remember you’re not alone.
Sometimes knowing that every other parent and student out there is experiencing something similar can relieve you from feelings of isolation. Remember that we are a community of people with a common goal of being the best student, parent, or teacher we can be.

5. Think more about what you want.
It astounds me how many people, when asked what they want, can only name me a list of what they don’t want. The fact is that the subconscious mind cannot process negatives directly, so whenever you think, “I don’t want to stay awake all night” or “I don’t want to eat too much candy,” your brain only hears “stay awake all night” and “eat candy.” The subconscious mind, if left to its own devices, is like an unruly child, doing whatever it wants, whenever it wants. It needs direction. So when you can tell the mind exactly what you want, it knows what to do and can do it. The subconscious mind loves to follow orders. In essence, what you think about you bring about.

6. Change your perspective.
Lastly and most importantly, gain a broader perspective of your life. Imagine you can see into the future and know something good is coming. Imagine that you already knew everything works out in the end, you get through the school year, and actually have a lot of fun along the way. Remember your life one year ago and recognize all that you have accomplished in that year. Do you even remember the things that worried you one year ago? Now imagine your life five years from now. How do you look back and see your life differently looking back toward today? The small detail of starting school seems smaller and more manageable when you know the big picture.

Have a wonderful school year! May this be your best school year yet.

Kellie Lupe-Smith is a certified hypnotherapist and yoga teacher. 

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