Back to School Prep Guide

Ah, another school year is here…

Summer is officially over and it’s time to start the school year. The Fall semester typically brings a variety of emotions, especially as this pandemic is still active. Some students (and parents) may experience a great deal of excitement and for others, a great deal of discomfort may come up too. I want to tell you before I go any further that it is OKAY to experience BOTH sides. Yes, it is exciting, and this time may also feel uncomfortable. After all, you are learning how to be comfortable with what is uncomfortable (potentially a new mantra).

I also want to let you know that these emotions are completely normal to experience. Last school year, transitioning to virtual school was quite abrupt. This time around, we all have the advantage to prepare so that you may feel a little more confident. I have put together a list of some tips that may assist with working from home. 

  • Create an organized and dedicated work space – not from your bed or on the couch but at a desk with good lighting, minimal distractions (phones away and televisions off to help minimize the temptation) and a chair that provides good back support. 
    • Have all of your supplies ready to go and in a place you can easily find them – pens, paper, highlighter, markers…
  • Establish a routine and look at (or revise) bedtime and morning routines
    • Set alarms for bedtime and morning (can be on your computer, watch or phone)
    • Showering before bed? This may help relax or may actually energize you. If you prefer a shower before bed, try moving it up a little bit in the evening.
    • Pay attention to screen time ESPECIALLY before bed. External stimulation (light and sounds) causes the brain to work and process images which is the opposite of what you want to do to wind down.
    • Adolescents typically need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep while adults are recommended to get between 7 and 9 hours. 
    • Do not go to sleep hungry or on a very full stomach (or after eating something spicy).
  • Look at your self care activities. Are you eating well, taking vitamins, grooming, exercising, etc.
  • Have structure, just like being in person with school. You had a schedule then and with breaks.
    • Make a schedule and hang it where you can see it (wall and the refrigerator) 
    • Add in lunch, break time, classes, assignments.
    • Keep a bottle of water near the workspace
  • During a break, try to stretch or even go outside for a few minutes and get some sun.
    • Vitamin D helps to elevate mood and can help re energize after staring at the screen
  • Set alarms for login times to keep you punctual and on time.
    • Allow for extra time to log in as technical issues may arise
  • Work and study in batches – 1 or 2 subjects at a time and then a mini break to decrease feeling overwhelmed.
  • Find a reward. This can be something small like a treat, use of the tablet, watching your favorite show.
  • Learn how to reframe the experience – Saying “I feel excited” versus “I feel anxious.” You may also try, “Right now, I feel nervous and that is okay.” Remember to stay aware of the messages and type of self talk (positive or negative) you are sending to your brain. 
    • Think of riding a roller coaster. It is the same physical reaction when waiting to ride a roller coaster as to when one experiences symptoms of anxiety (heart racing, fast breathing, butterflies in stomach, sweaty, shaky…)
      •  Labeling the sensations may help reshape the experience. If you say, “I feel excited” then it may not be so miserable and chances are you will be able to go through it with a little more ease.
  • Remember this is TEMPORARY.  Meaning learning from home AND experiencing the symptoms of uncomfortable emotions. It will pass. Nothing is permanent. Change is constant. Feelings are forever. Thoughts are not always facts.
  • Write down all of the thoughts and fears you are creating and replaying. This way you get it out of your head and onto paper to examine. Doing this may help reduce some of the power these (intrusive and irrational) thoughts are gaining. 
  • Remember, when we are stressed, we typically are thinking illogically, irrationally and emotionally. Also, when we are stressed, we go with what we know… here comes the perfect opportunity for old and unhealthy habits to walk in (you know what I am talking about).
  • Look for the EVIDENCE to each thought – how do you know “they” won’t like you, how do you know you will “mess up”, how do you know the teacher is “mean.”
    • Most of the time, after challenging each automatic negative and irrational thought, they are simply not true or you may be judging an experience that has not even happened yet and comparing it to something that happened in the past or something that may have happened to someone else.
  • Identify your triggers and utilize effective coping skills. Slow down your breathing which will help slow down the (racing) thoughts. Try the “box breathing” technique. 
    • 4 counts in (through your nose), hold for 4 counts, out for 4 counts (through your mouth), hold for 4 counts. Repeat for a few rounds until you have noticed you are a bit more centered.
  • Start your day off with setting an intention, brief gratitude list, positive affirmation(s) or even a small and realistic goal, I.e., “Today, I will try my best”, “I am thankful I have teachers who care”, “I am capable of doing this”, “Today, I will have a glass of water before I use my cell phone” or “I will try my best to practice more self compassion by not judging how I look.”
  • Lastly, remember to communicate with others (parents, teachers, friends or even me). You (parent and students) are absolutely NOT ALONE. Use your support team. Who or what has helped you before. Use coping skills that have helped you navigate through choppy waters before. Is this a breathing technique, is this a little morning yoga flow, is this journaling…? You can do this. You have been through adversity before. 

Published by designsbymas

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