7 tips for dealing with the inevitable back-to-school stress
As fun as summer can be, the tail end of it can bring along some stress – especially if you're getting ready to go back to school. The thought of jumping back into the classroom, juggling homework and social life, and dealing with grades can potentially make your head spin. All you want to do is jump in a time machine and revert back to Day 1 of summer break. If any of this sounds familiar, don't worry. You're not the only person who deals with back-to-school stress.
Because the summer break is so long, it can leave you a little rusty when it comes to handling responsibilities. All it takes is a little practice, though, and you'll have all the tools you need to handle the pressure that will inevitably come your way. Above all, keep a positive attitude about the next school year. You'd be surprised at how far a happy disposition can go – along with these seven tips, of course…
1. Make yourself some to-do lists.
If planning ahead isn't one of your strong suits, you'll have to muster up all your energy to improve your organization skills. Stress tends to do its worst when you've got your guard down, in those moments when you're knee deep in millions of tasks that you have yet to tackle. If you divide and conquer, you won't necessarily ward off the stress altogether, but you'll definitely be more prepared to face it head-on.
Planning is a secret weapon when it comes to minimizing stress, so sit down, grab a piece of paper and pen, and write out all the things you need to get done at this very moment. You'll feel a rush of positive affirmations when you cross off something, even if it's something as simple as purchasing a few new notebooks.
2. Get a solid routine established.
Humans are creatures of habit and we crave daily routine. The quicker you can establish one for yourself, the less likely it is that you'll feel overwhelmed at strange hours of the day. For example, set aside some time in the morning to eat breakfast, have a few minutes of quiet time, and get yourself ready.
It may feel restrictive at first, but it will eventually feel comforting to know that you've given yourself all the time you need to do the work that needs to be done (while also setting aside some time for self-care, of course).
3. Maintain a certain level of physical activity.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America officially names exercise as a great method to reduce stress in your life. Studies show that physical activity helps you concentrate better, improves your cognitive function, and fights fatigue. It produces many happy endorphins in your brain, leaving you more ready than ever to deal with the pressures that come with going back to school.
It doesn't have to be a gym membership. It doesn't have to be long-distance running. Choose something that you love doing, whether it's dancing, yoga, or a long walk on the beach. No matter what it is, commit to doing it a few times a week (at least!). You might think sparing an hour will rob you of time to do what needs to be done, but you'll feel so fantastic after your sweat sesh that you'll be inspired to sit down and crank out a few hours of high-quality work.
4. Maintain a healthy diet as much as possible.
What you put in your body makes a huge difference when it comes to how you handle stressful situations. Certain foods – like berries, cashews, and garlic – are proven to reduce anxiety and stress. When you're getting yourself ready to return to school, try to stick to eating clean foods and steering clear of preservatives and packaged items, which can negatively affect your health. You want a sharp, clear mind when you step back into the classroom.
Here's another way you can plan ahead: Map out your meals for the next week, especially if you know it's going to be a busy time. If you don't have time to cook, get some alternatives in place – like ready-made dinners from Trader Joe's or takeout from a healthy restaurant.
5. Clear out a quiet, organized workspace.
You can't expect to ward off stress if you're sitting down at a cluttered desk full of paperwork and leftover candy wrappers. Experts actually say that mess causes stress because it overstimulates our brains and causes us to lose sight of what really matters. Constantly being around disorder can also make it very hard for you to relax.
If you don't have a workspace set up in your home, make one for yourself before school starts. Organize the space, clear out the clutter, and make it a cozy spot where you feel comfortable sitting down to do a few hours of homework.
6. Surround yourself with friends who inspire you.
Regardless of how many things are on your plate, don't ever skimp out on your social life! You need friends by your side who inspire you and encourage you to do your best. A 2010 study by Brigham Young University showed that people with poor social lives had a 50% higher chance of dying than those who had loving friends around them. Okay, that sounds frightening, but it just goes to show how life-changing it can be to have healthy relationships.
Make sure your friends are the kind of people who genuinely care about you and your wellbeing. Try to avoid toxic friends who bring you jealousy and passive-aggressiveness.
7. Don’t forget about your beauty sleep!
The most fun way to prepare for school is to sleep – a lot. According to a Harvard study, not getting enough sleep can make you moody, increase agitation, and ruin your energy levels. There's no way in hell you can even think about waging a war on stress if you're dealing with all those side effects.
Start gradually going to bed earlier, just 10 or 15 minutes a day. Climb into a bed that's set in a comforting environment — low lighting, no electronics, clean and tidy — and see how alert you feel in the morning after getting seven or eight hours of sleep. It will make a world of a difference – especially when you have a full day of classes ahead of you!