Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or a parent, the start of a new school year can bring on some transitional stress. Heading back to school–or starting for the first time–means navigating new routines, new faces, and maybe even a new school. How can families and educators stay grounded amidst so much change?
From establishing a back-to-school routine to practicing self-care, explore six ways to tackle back to school stress so you can start the new year with an action plan in place.
Spontaneity is fun and all, but without a back to school routine, it’s easy for chaos to ensue. A week or two before the school year starts, establish a daily routine that will take the guesswork out of the day for the whole family. This includes waking up at the same time every day and going to bed at the same time, as well as aiming to eat meals on schedule. According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body’s food clock and sleep clock are closely linked and your meals and mealtimes can have a significant impact on your overall sleep.
You can also have a routine for where things go in the house to help keep your home organized. If you always keep your keys on a hook by the front door and the kids always hang their backpacks in a designated hallway closet after coming home from school, neither of you has to worry about a last-minute scramble the following morning to make it out the door on time.
Everybody needs a support network. For instance, some educators use the Tap-In/Tap-Out strategy, in which they’re able to text an available colleague to cover their class while they take a moment to recharge. In the same sense, parents should also have a support network they can turn to, ideally, other parents who can empathize with all the ups and downs of the school year. Studies show that parents who have social support are also more optimistic, which may improve their physical and mental health and increase the effectiveness of their parenting. Social support also helps parents regulate their emotional responses to their children. Even more, parents can show their kids how to ask for help (and give it) so they can build a social support network of their own. If they see a parent embracing their vulnerability and reaching out for support, they will be more likely to practice this skill in their own lives.
There will be days when the alarm clock didn’t go off, the deadline was forgotten, and the keys weren’t placed on the hook. This is especially true during those first few hectic weeks of the school year. Try not to let one slip-up throw you off track. At the same time, try not to let your daily routine be so rigid that there’s no room for variation and fun detours. Flexibility can be as simple as letting your child do their homework in the living room instead of at the kitchen table where they usually do it, or it can be as big as letting them do their homework later in the day so they can see the premier of that new blockbuster with their friends after school.
Self-care looks different to everyone, but once you find the practice that works best to ease your stress, use it as often as you can. For some, this might mean pumping iron at the gym after work. For others, this might mean soaking in a hot tub while listening to your favorite podcast.
Making time for massage every day might seem too indulgent unless you consider its proven benefits at reducing stress. In one German study, researchers found that just 10 minutes of massage activated the body’s regenerative system for fighting stress. Other studies show that massage reduces stress by decreasing cortisol, the dominant stress hormone, and increasing the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. If you’re still not convinced, other proven benefits of massage therapy include improved sleep, pain relief, increased flexibility, and even a strengthened immune response.
With Ceragem massage chairs and beds, it’s not impossible to make time for a massage every day, or even twice a day. From the CERAGEM D. Core massage chair to the CERAGEM V6 thermal bed, these advanced massage devices are designed to replicate an in-person massage by offering full-body treatments. An added benefit of the CERAGEM V6 is that the massage bed is equipped with patented scanning technology that automatically adjusts to your spinal length and curvature to deliver a customized massage for your body’s size and your unique needs. This means the machine will even adjust to a child’s smaller body so they can experience the stress-relieving benefits of massage at home (something most spas won’t allow). Designated a Class II medical device by the FDA, the CERAGEM V6 also features heated rollers to mimic a hot stone massage and air cell massagers for improved circulation and pain relief for tired feet and legs.
Practicing mindfulness is one of the best things we can do for our mental and physical health. According to the American Psychological Association, like massage, mindfulness is especially effective for reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, and may even boost immunity. Kids can also benefit. Studies have shown that mindfulness increases focus, attention, self-control, classroom participation, and compassion while decreasing stress, anxiety, and disruptive behavior.
If you think practicing mindfulness means sitting for hours at a time in deep meditation, think again. Slow breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, sensory walks, and even coloring can be a mindfulness practice if you bring awareness to the present moment.
Many people look forward to summer all through the school year, so it makes sense that it can be hard to let it go and settle back into fall. Plan some events and activities and sprinkle them throughout the year so you have things to look forward to. You can even have a visual calendar that you can see every day that reminds you that there’s more to the year than the fleeting days of summer.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist specializing in health and wellness. She has written for TIME, Health, Glamour, Parents, Women’s Health, VICE, and the Telegraph.
National Sleep Foundation – Get Healthy Sleep by Eating Right on Schedule
Greater Good Magazine – How to Make This Hard Transition Back to School With Your Students
Science Daily – Ten minutes of massage or rest will help your body fight stress
National Library of Medicine – Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy
National Library of Medicine – The beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women
National Library of Medicine – The Effects of Massage Therapy on Pain Management in the Acute Care Setting
Mayo Clinic Health System – Benefits of massage therapy
American Psychological Association – Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress
Mindful – Mindfulness for Kids