10 Stress Reducing Methods for The October Doldrums (Back to School)

by Dr. Barbara Lowe

We are at the start of October, and the shiny newness of "back to school" has dulled for most families, children, adolescents, teachers, professors, and college students of all ages. We are feeling the familiar plodding along, and sometimes even drudgery, of making it through. We are blessed to live in an area where we are surrounded by academia. The downside of this blessing is that we find it hard to avoid the pressure and “squeeze” that academia creates. Below are some tips to help individuals of all ages and stages of life to make it through while enjoying the journey.

  1. Use a Schedule. Schedule time for academic tasks, but also schedule downtime. Use either a paper schedule or a scheduling app on an electronic device, whatever works for you.

  2. Laugh More. Make sure you are taking time for laughter. Orchestrate activities that are likely to tickle the funny for you and/or your children. Funny movies, watching funny memes, GIFS or videos, looking at funny pictures on Pinterest, any of these will do the trick.

  3. Watch out for Over-commitment. Extracurricular and athletic activities can help develop social, leadership, artistic, and/or practical skills and may look good on the resume. Nonetheless, if these activities siphon too much of your downtime, stress increases, and effectiveness decreases. We all have 24 hours in a day and have to use it wisely. Wisdom dictates that we incorporate margins into our schedules.

  4. Learn How to Study Effectively. Think about or your study habits (or your child’s) to understand what methods work best for you. For some people, breaking tasks into small manageable chunks over the course of time works best. For others, getting things done right before the assignment is due can be more effective than trying to plan to get tasks done ahead of time and feeling guilty for not doing so. Some do best by themselves while others study best with a partner or group. Evaluate yourself regarding how you study best and then use the principles you learn to study more effectively.

  5. Know When to Get Academic Help. Universities and public and private primary and secondary schools alike typically have some sort of free tutoring available. Know when you or your child need help and avail yourself of that help.

  6. Be Aware of Life Transitions. It is important to observe and address life transitions and or situations that could be upping your and/or your children’s stress levels and address those issues. We must realize that losses, transitions, and big circumstantial changes impact our emotional and cognitive functioning and reduce our physical energy, and therefore decrease effectiveness. When transitions are occurring, it is important to take more off your plate (or your child’s) and carve out increased margins.

  7. Sleep Hygiene. Make sure you and/or your child are getting adequate sleep each night. Use good sleep hygiene practices, such as a nightly routine before bed and limiting screen time before bed. Limit caffeine during the day if appropriate.

  8. Maintain a Healthy Diet. Similar to sleep, good nutrition is essential to proper functioning. Make sure that you are eating three healthy, balanced meals a day. Include some super foods. Watch your caffeine and sugar intake. One great way to start your day off is to make a smoothie in the morning, full of healthy fruits, vegetables and protein. Nourish your body with what you and/or your children are eating.

  9. Use The Power of Optimism. Did you know that it is important for you to monitor how you are talking about yourself and your life? Optimists have better outcomes than pessimists across the board! Encourage yourself and/or your children to think positively and to say what is helpful to yourselves and about your situations. Choose to look at the glass as half full!

  10. Identify and Remove Stumbling Blocks. We all have self-defeating behaviors that get in the way of our successful completion of tasks and/or our ability to maintain peace and contentment. Take an honest look at your life and where your stumbling blocks are. Then, take definitive steps to remove the stumbling blocks with a plan that includes behaviors that replace the maladaptive behaviors. Also, include a reward system that is meaningful for engaging in the right behaviors

  11. Know When to Get Help. At Greenleaf Psychological and Support Services, we are here to help. If you feel you need support in learning skills to manage your stress, we are here to help. Please don't hesitate to give us a call!

Chelsey Robertson