Back to School: Self Care and Mental Health
It’s September, which means that it’s back to school time. Whether you’re in middle school, high school, or college, heading back to the classroom can be an exciting but also stressful time. Stress and anxiety are one of the leading mental health issues amongst students, and can lead to poor academic results, strained relationships, and further mental issues. So, let’s take a moment to talk about how it’s caused, and ways in which we can mitigate it.
Stress is caused by many factors, but for students one of the key causes is heavy workloads. Here in the U.S., we put a lot of emphasis on homework, and while some is helpful, a lot is stressful. If you compound all the homework students receive by 6 – 8 classes, you end up with students who are overworked and lack down time. This overworking causes stress, and a lack of free time to recover from all that work leads to less time spent on ones self, which only furthers stress. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/mental-health-schools-kids-are-not-all-right
These heavy work loads can then lead into another issue, lack of sleep. Sleep is an important step for our minds and bodies in recovering from the day and gaining energy back. Lack of sleep, and even an erratic sleep schedule, can be detrimental to this. Outside of poor academics, lack of sleep is also connected to stress and anxiety. Often, this lack of sleep is caused by heavy workloads and early class times leaving little room for students across the spectrum to get proper sleep. The combination of stress, lack of sleep, and heavy workloads feed into each other, creating environments where stress and anxiety can progress to full on mental breakdowns. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2015/10/among-teens-sleep-deprivation-an-epidemic.html#:~:text=The%20most%20recent%20national%20poll,hours%20of%20sleep%20each%20night.
So as a student, how can you mitigate this? The most important thing to do is to practice self-care and to pace yourself. You don’t need to be going at 100% all the time, and that’s a quick way to burn yourself out. Recognizing when you’ve been working too hard and taking some time for yourself is a key part in mitigating stress. The same goes for sleep, recognizing that you’ve gotten enough done and going to bed at an early and regular time. These two things alone will go along way in reducing stress.
Of course, parents can help as well. As a parent, you should look for signs that your child or teen might be stressed, such as fatigue, lack of interest in normal activities, and trouble connecting with other students. In turn, you can help them develop strategies and schedules that can lessen workloads and help them handle stress.
Click here to visit John Hopkins or the Child Mind Institute, which both offer further tips and suggestions for mitigating the stress and anxiety that comes with back-to-school, both as a student and a parent. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/school-and-sleep/later-school-start-times
Of course, there is more that can be done in terms of systematic change. Lessening student workloads and having later start times are just some of these ways. Studies have shown that schools with later start times have better general academic performance, and less mental health issues amongst students.
We hope that everyone has a good start to the school year, and that everyone remembers to take care of themselves.
Find Back-to-School resources here: