If you have been following my journey on here for any amount of time, I am sure you are well-aware that I am an extremely anxious person. I get anxious about crowds, new places, airplanes, when loved ones leave the house… honestly, name something and I am most likely going to feel some degree of anxiety about it. However, my all-time favorite anxiety (I say jokingly) would have to be the start of school.
And since so many of us are, or know someone, who will be returning to school soon, I thought it might be helpful to share some tips on how to create a transition that not only feels manageable, but supportive. Unless you are one of those magical people who can make friends literally anywhere, doing anything, and can find joy in nearly all situations, and I am pretty sure this population is nearly extinct due to quarantine, then I am sure you or someone you love struggles with some degree of anxiety around school. For me, my anxiety revolved around assignments, finding new classes, eating in front of others, or any opportunity where someone could possibly judge me. It was a lot to say the least.
It was not until my senior year of high school that I finally learned how to manage these anxieties in a way that felt reasonable and effective. My hope is that you or the people you care about do not have to wait this long, or at the very least, that senior year goes well. No one deserves to spend every day crying in the guidance counselor’s office or staying home “sick” so many days that your school kicks you out.
I broke this down into two parts: part one focuses on people who experience anxiety and part two focuses on those who are supporting people with these anxieties.
New Environments: Nearly all humans feel some degree of anxiety when they are adjusting to an unfamiliar place or routine. That is normal, and completely okay. While there will inevitably be some level of anxiety, there are some ways you can make this experience more manageable.
- If possible, tour the space ahead of time. This can help you visualize and prepare for the upcoming year.
- Consider listening to music. Focusing on your favorite song, rather than trying to take in the thousands of things happening around you will make the situation feel a little less overwhelming and bring a sense of comfort and familiarity.
- Have a designated safe space or group to check-in with. If you have a friend group or people you are familiar with, it may be helpful to have a plan to meet up first thing or in the middle of the day to check-in.
- Leave notes for yourself in your phone or notebook, such as “Remember to breathe,” or, “All places begin as somewhere new at first, and I have learned to love, or at the very least, navigate most of these places now.”
- Create a schedule. If you have an idea of what your responsibilities may be for the upcoming year, it can be helpful to create a schedule to help you manage it effectively, so you still have free time throughout the school year.
- Do not be afraid to reach out for support. Believe it or not, most teachers are aware of mental health. If you are struggling, ask for an extension or to check-in if you do not understand.
- Prioritize rest and time for relaxation/fun. School can be a lot to manage. To avoid burnout, make sure you also incorporate your favorite activities.
- Remember: your worth can not be determined by a number. I received an F five years ago and nothing in my life has changed as a result of that. I promise, it all ends up okay.
- No is a complete sentence. You are allowed to say to no to friends or peers without guilt or explanation. Your mental health is the priority.
- Find places to recharge throughout the day. Maybe this is the library, or taking a walk during class, or even the bathroom. Find a place that is quiet where you can just take a breath.
- You are entitled to feeling comfortable and confident in who you are. I promise you, you are enough as you are. No one has the right to say otherwise, and if they do, they are not worthy of your time.
- It is not your job to support and please everyone.
Maybe you are not experiencing this anxiety, but you know someone who is. A lot of us want to help but are not sure how.
- Listen to their concerns. If they are willing to share, listen without judging or dismissing their feelings.
- Ask what they need. Before offering support, ask what is needed of you. Some people may just need to get it off of their chests, while others may need actionable items, such as time together or visiting the school with them.
- If possible, let them know you are available for support moving forward. Maybe this means helping advocate for an extension on an assignment or picking two days every month to do something fun.