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Back-to-School and Mental Health

The start of a new school year can bring a mix of emotions. It’s exciting to reunite with friends and embark on the next steps along your academic path. But for many, it’s also common to experience the “back-to-school blues.”

Kids walking to school first day of school

These blues can manifest as feelings of anxiety, stress, and even sadness as you adjust to the demands of a new routine. The “back-to-school blues” can stem from a variety of factors: pressure to perform well academically, social anxieties, and the fear of the unknown. It can all be overwhelming.

Know that many young people, just like you, have mixed emotions about returning to school. Whether you are feeling excited, afraid, sad or anxious, these emotions are reasonable reactions to the start of anything new. Even though school itself is not “new,” the uncertainty you feel is a valid feeling. Being aware of your emotions and finding ways to cope can help manage the mixed feelings you might have before or during the start of school.

Teens talkin in hall at school

  1. Acknowledge your emotions and avoid judging yourself for feeling a certain way. Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel apprehensive.

  2. Identify specific emotions you might be experiencing. Are you feeling sad that summer is over, anxious about what’s to come, nervous about expectations, or a combination of these? Being able to pinpoint what you are feeling might help you address the root cause.

  3. Talk about how you are feeling with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or other trusted adult. Sometimes expressing your emotions aloud can help ease their intensity.

  4. Develop techniques that effectively calm your mind when you’re stressed or anxious. Overwhelming thoughts might be soothed through breathing exercises, positive visualization, journaling about how you’re feeling, or increasing optimistic internal dialog.

  5. Reach out for help. If you find that you are struggling academically or emotionally, seek help from teachers, counselors, or other support services your school offers.

  6. Set yourself up for success. Once the academic demands of the school year begin, tackle the workload by breaking tasks into smaller steps, work at staying organized, and set realistic expectations. The old adage “progress, not perfection” is something to keep in mind.

  7. Establish a routine. Create a structured daily routine that includes regular sleep patterns, healthy meals, and time for study or work. The stability of a routine can often reduce stress and create an overall feeling of wellness.

Starting the new school year will undoubtedly reveal challenges and triumphs. Remember that it is perfectly normal to feel a whirlwind of emotions when stepping into something new. Being in touch with how you feeling will help you move through the start of the school year with self-awareness and self-compassion. Challenging times can become a transforming journey of growth and self-discovery.

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