Managing Back To School Stress

Drawing of a young person in shorts and tank top standing in tree pose with text: Managing Back to School Stress

If you’re anything like me, back-to-school time has become more stressful the older you become. When I was a small child, it was exciting. I got new school supplies! I had so many opportunities to make new friends! It felt like the world was in my hand. For me, that changed around middle school. Instead of excitement, I felt trapped by the weight of expectations. Instead of being happy to meet new people, I feared to learn what they thought of me. Instead of excitedly anticipating fun activities, I began to dread homework. It all felt frankly overwhelming. If this sounds like you, I promise you aren’t alone, and you don’t just have to grin and bear it. Over my years in high school and college, I learned ways to manage this back-to-school stress. Whether you’re just starting high school or you’re in your last year of university, hopefully, some of these hard-learned tips will be helpful for you!

Wear what makes you feel best.

In my experience, when my clothing is comfortable and reflects who I am, I feel more capable to take on the day. Confidence is key. Even if you wear a uniform, you can typically find small ways to personalize it. For instance, you may be able to change your hair, even if you can’t change your clothes. If you can wear whatever you want, try to find something that makes you feel good within your own skin. If you need a little help figuring out what your personal style is, consider looking at style guides like “The Fashion Book” by Alexandra Black. But here’s the kicker, and something that took me years to learn: What increases confidence will vary from person to person. For years, I wore very heavy makeup to cover my acne. YouTube videos, advertisers, and my peers all told me I would feel best if I simply covered or changed what bothered me. It took me a long time to realize that wearing makeup actually decreased my confidence, not increased it. Yet at the same time, a friend of mine feels most like herself with heavy foundation and sparkly eyelids. Long story short, if you feel best wearing a big puffy dress and heels, go for it. If t-shirts and sweatpants speak more to you, have at it. Make your style your own.

Stay on task.

While you may not have to worry about homework for a week or two, it will quickly creep up on you. I’m sure someone out there loves it, but personally, homework was my least favorite part of school. I always got incredibly overwhelmed trying to figure out what to do when and how to stay on task. My stress significantly decreased when I found a specific method that helped. Personally, I am a big fan of the Pomodoro method. One of my friends swears by locking her phone in a special box until she has finished her tasks for the day. Another friend always starts with their least favorite subject and ends with her favorite. There are endless amounts of homework tips and tricks like the ones found in “The Secrets of Top Students” by Stefanie Weisman. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Try some out and see what works best for you.

Take care of your body.

Stress is hard on the body. While you are stressed, it is extra important that you get the nutrition you need to do your best. Consider bringing a small snack with you to eat between classes. Trail mix is a personal favorite of mine, but you might prefer something lighter like crackers. In general, if life simply feels too big, try taking a snack and drink break. You’ll be surprised how many moments become manageable when the body is given what it needs.

Schedule time to relax.

Prioritizing yourself is especially important when in school. While it may seem like a waste of time, in my experience, taking time to relax will increase your productivity overall. Try watching a movie on Hoopla or listening to music through Freegal. Whatever helps you relax is worth it. We have many different resources at the library to help you take a step back from school every once in a while.

Find what works for you.

Have you sensed a trend in my suggestions? This is perhaps the most important thing I wish I had learned earlier. What works for me might not work for you. For the vast majority of my school years, every single new year, I would buy a huge set of stationery. I convinced myself that that was the year I was going to become “that girl.” You know the one. Perfectly organized. Color coordinates all their classes. Has 48 different highlighters, each with a different meaning. Just as I was convinced makeup would make me love myself, I thought a prescribed organization method would make me a better student. For some people, this is true. It wasn’t for me. It ended up making me MORE stressed, and I always reverted back to my instinctual methods. Trying a new thing is never bad. But don’t try to force yourself into a mold you simply don’t fit.

I know that overwhelming feeling. I know that fear. But trust me, as someone who has been through it many, many times, it will be okay in the end. And when in doubt, take a deep breath. You got this.

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