Ah, back-to-school! Whether or not you are sending little ones off to new classrooms this year, the anticipation of fall leaves and cooler temperatures signal a fresh start for many of us. While we often look forward to back-to-school routines and schedules, we also must acknowledge the stress and anxiety that can accompany this time of year. As activities gear up and the days begin to get shorter, we may question how we will be able to get everything accomplished in the little amount of time we have. While stress is a good and necessary part of our lives, there are healthy behaviors that can help us all learn to better cope with stress.
- Practice healthy stress management skills:
- Develop good sleep hygiene (e.g., practice sleeping and waking at a regular time, avoid watching TV in bed and avoid drinking caffeine close to bedtime).
- Practice good nutrition (e.g., eat regular meals, eat in moderation and eat foods that are as close to nature as possible).
- Exercise 30 to 60 minutes per day.
- Practice relaxation techniques:
- Deep breathing is an exercise that helps bring your focus to the present moment and promotes being centered even in the most challenging situations.
- Muscle relaxation is an exercise where you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group.
- Guided imagery is an exercise where you envision yourself in the midst of the most relaxing environment you can imagine and try to engage all of your senses. There are guides that can be purchased or downloaded to facilitate this exercise.
- Let go of perfectionistic thinking (e.g., “shoulds” and “oughts”) and strive for excellence rather than perfection.
- Set realistic expectations for life and for yourself. For example, instead of telling yourself “I must make a home cooked meal every night,” consider making meals some nights of the week and eating leftovers the other nights.
- Nurture yourself. Healthy relationships with others begin with a healthy relationship with yourself. Learn more by reading this article.
- Nurture relationships with your partner (if applicable), family and friends. Take time to play and show your family and friends how important they are to you.
- Set your priorities and determine the things that need to be done. Write them down and enjoy the satisfaction of completing one at a time. At this time of year, it is natural for moms to want to be active with their children’s school activities. Make sure you do not overschedule yourself; don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ to commitments that do not fall in line with your priorities.
Because stress can have significant effects on your body, behavior, thoughts and feelings, it’s important to find the stress management and relaxation techniques that work best for you. That way, during the back-to-school frenzy and throughout the rest of the year, you can manage your stress symptoms and ultimately, better protect your health.