The new school year is right around the corner and almost everyone is excited! Yes summer break is coming to an end, but the year will be filled with new opportunities to learn and make new friends…for most. For some, the new school year can be stressful! There is school supplies, new environment, new teachers/professors, stress if there is difficulty learning or reading and the list goes on!
Luckily, I have been there done that, when it comes to the stress associated with school. My anxiety would increase as the time got closer and would skyrocket the day before, “is my outfit right”, “what if I didn’t prepare enough”, “what if no one talks to me and I don’t make any friends”, and etc. As I would sit to take a test, I would begin to panic and often have to go outside of the classroom to catch my breath. Eventually, I began taking my classes outside and away from other classmates.
Stress is your body’s response to a challenge or demand. When you do not address the stress, it can begin to affect many aspects of your life, body and mind. Stress can often cause bodily effects such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, over eating or loss of appetite, and body aches. It can emotional cause you to have anxiety, lose focus, lack motivation, be easily frustrated or irritated, or even become depressed. When you are stressed you are more likely to use substances to cope, have angry outbursts, isolate yourself and have a decrease in participation in activities you once found pleasurable.
Throughout my experiences with stress, I learned many tips and tricks to decrease stress and rationalize my thoughts.
- Identify Your Stressor. If you walk into school/class and you begin to tense or you begin to have negative emotions identify where that comes from. Stressors can be anything and frankly that’s what makes them hard to identify. This is why it is important to have an effective self care and mindfulness routine so that you can identify your body’s responses to outside stimuli. Your body and mind will tell you that “this is not a safe place” or a “this is not comforting”. Is it the subject, teacher or assignment you forgot to do? Once you identify the stressor it is easier to…
- Eliminate the Stressor. School can be a stressor in and of itself. The pressure to do well and achieve adequate grades will stress you out! Now add, family pressures, obligations, work, friends, relationships, bills, assignments, deadlines, extracurriculars…have I caused your heart rate to increase yet? Unfortunately some stressors we cannot eliminate but for the things we can impact, find alternatives.
- Breathing Techniques. I know, how cliche’! But seriously, taking slow breaths in and out will allow oxygen to get to the brain, your heart rate to slow and relaxes your body. Breathing in for 10 seconds, holding, and releasing for 10 seconds will allow you to make better decisions and become in tune with your body and what it needs.
- Exercise.The benefits of exercise are endless! Exercising is a mindfulness technique used to reduce stress, develop a healthy lifestyle and allow excess energy to be released. A simple 30 minute workout could reduce your stress and allow you to think clearly about decisions and what you need to do to have a successful day (this is why it is normally recommended in the mornings).
- Take A Mental Health Day. The brain is the most important organ in the body and yet we care for it the least. Stress can lead to many physical symptoms but also mental symptoms. I often see patients that have developed Anxiety Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder due to stress. How? If you continuously stress about your grades in school to the extent that you sacrifice your sleep or rarely eat you will get physically sick. You will also (eventually) burn out, lash out, fall out due to stress, lack of sleep and poor diet. Now there are no social supports, because you have isolated or pushed them away due to your emotional response to stress and you are not succeeding in school because you have burned out and fell out due to exhaustion. What is not advertised in school is taking time to care for your mental health. You will not give your best self if you are not caring for yourself.
- Seek Help. Speak to your teachers, counselor, family and friends about what is going on and how they can support you. I often suggest individuals disclose their stressors to their support system in hopes that they can help combat them. If the stressor is one you cannot avoid, develop a plan with your support system so that they know how to be there for you during that time. If you need to be told to rest, eat, sleep, bathe, meditate, journal, listen to music, etc. let them know that. They cannot help you unless you tell them.
Good luck on your new school year! I know it will be everything you wish for and then some. Remember to implement these tips and stay positive!
Hi I am Jessica, founder of Just Call Me Jess, a mental health blog that seeks to reduce stigma by normalizing the conversation surrounding it. I am a Licensed Master Level Social Worker with experience working with adults with severe, persistent mental illnesses and substance use.
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