Posted on January 13, 2022 by PROJECT ROCKIT
With millions of young Aussies heading back-to-school in coming weeks, if you’re feeling anxious about what lies ahead then you’re certainly not alone. Anxiety is a relatively common experience, but when it’s happening to you it can feel like life is spiralling out of control. While we might feel like withdrawing or staying home, this can often make it even harder in the long run.
We’ve put together 8 simple tips to help you manage school-related anxiety and kick off the year feeling strong:
When you’re experiencing any kind of mental health challenges, beating yourself up only makes it worse. Also, let’s take a moment to remember that your brain is incredible.
When your brain detects any possible threat to your wellbeing, it instantly reacts by charging your body with the adrenaline, oxygen and strength for you to quickly take action and keep yourself safe. This starts in a tiny part of your brain called the ‘amygdala’ which sends lightning-fast signals out to your whole body. That’s why you might suddenly feel on edge, or hyped up, and ready to fight or run (take flight). In dangerous situations this is really useful, like if you were confronted by an out-of-control orangutan that escaped from the zoo and is running towards you screaming.
But in less-extreme situations, sometimes your brain is a little overprotective and it might detect discomfort or worry and put your whole body on red-alert. If you’ve had negative experiences that you associate with school, your brain may think that school itself is a threat. And that’s why anxiety about school can be such a powerful force to overcome. The good news is, we can work with our own brains to keep our anxiety in check.
Sometimes anxiety can play out in physical ways, like an upset stomach, shortness of breath, a racing heart or a headache.
Try doing some slow breathing exercises, practicing mindfulness, or getting some low-key exercise. These are all helpful ways to start feeling better in your body again. Remember that you need to be kind to your mind and body so avoid hardcore exercise and stick with gentle activities. And if you’re still feeling sick, make sure you get checked out by a doctor!
Try to work out exactly what emotions you’re feeling give yourself a clear picture of what’s happening in your head.
You could draw it as a picture, make a word cloud (like the one above) or write it out in one long flow of words.
While it isn’t always possible to pin down the reason why you’re anxious about going back to school, doing so might just be the first step in having your worries heard.
These are some common reasons why people feel anxious about going to school:
Do any of these worries sound like they apply to you?
Hopefully you’ve managed to work out how you feel and what’s causing your anxiety. The next step is to get it out of your head. If you can, pick someone at home and someone at school who you can talk to about what you’re going through – that way you’re creating as much support around you as you can.
When I think about going back to school, I feel really scared and lonely and I think it might be because I don’t really fit in anywhere with the people at school”
If you’re struggling to find the words, try this format: “When I think about going back to school I feel >insert feeling<, and I think it might be because >insert reason<”
Creating routines and plans might sound boring, but that’s exactly the point! Here are some of the ways you can make going to school feel much more predictable and under control:
This is another great way to make the unknown feel much more familiar, especially if you catch public transport to school. Grab your bag, headphones and head into school a week before everyone else does.
If it really helps, you can even pick your own pump-up anthem so build up your confidence as you enter the school gates! By doing this ahead of time, there’s less unknown for your anxious brain to worry about.
Anxiety has a way of zooming in on all the little things that could possibly go wrong. And the reality is, sometimes things do go wrong but often they make for a good story.
We created this ‘awkward school moments’ bingo game to help you see the lighter side. Try it out with a friend and see how many awkward moments you have in common. Pretty sure everyone you know will have a story or two to share…
If you or a loved one are in need of professional support, head to our ‘Get help’ page to connect with our recommended support services.