The back to school period can create a mixture of feelings, as some are excited to get back into a routine and see friends, whilst others may experience feelings of dread and worry. As you settle into the new school term, or if you’re getting ready to head off to college, know that you’re not alone. These feelings can hit at any age, so we’ve put together some key tips to help you manage stress at school and focus on better mental health.
Can you identify what is worrying you?
Young Minds highlight that a good place to start is by identifying what is making you feel worried or anxious about going back to school, so you can find the right help.
Is it your schoolwork that’s worrying you? Perhaps you’re worried about keeping up or have trouble concentrating. Maybe you had a difficult year before or are worried about doing well. It can feel overwhelming to be in school.
Are you worried about relationships with your friends? Friendship groups can be tricky, especially if troubles between friends leave you feeling stuck in the middle.
Is someone bullying you? Even if something seems light-hearted, bullying comes in many forms and can leave us feeling anxious, isolated and lonely.
Share your feelings with someone you trust
Whilst time by yourself can be good for relaxation and reflection, spending too much time alone can contribute to feelings of loneliness and often make your worries feel even bigger. We often feel that talking to other people about our problems is placing a burden on them but, actually, one of the best things you can do is to share your feelings with someone you trust.
Can you talk to someone in your family? If not a parent or guardian, perhaps a brother or sister, cousin or grandparent?
Do you have a trusted friend that you can share problems with?
Would you feel comfortable speaking to a teacher, tutor or an in-school support advisor? You might find it much easier to talk about problems with a trusted adult that you have no emotional connection to.
It can be hard to put what is worrying you into words, so it may help to try writing or drawing what you are experiencing. You can always start a conversation with “I am not sure how to express this, but I am finding things hard”. It is okay to have difficulties.
The Mental Health Foundation advise giving these things time, as talking about your feelings can feel awkward at first but, by learning to share (and listen) more often, you can feel more supported and better able to cope with your problem.
If, after reading this, you’re not sure who you could talk to, why not try connecting with a youth charity such as The Mix? You can take part in discussions, share what’s on your mind and help support others via group chats and forums that are moderated by a trained team to create a safe space for people like yourself.
Recognising triggering situations can help you manage stress
Identifying what triggers your feelings of unease, panic or anxiety is a step towards learning to manage them. The NHS provide some useful resources that can help you break things down into more manageable chunks, separating the feelings, situation and thoughts to make them easier to understand. Some people find that a better understanding of the causes can help to rationalise these thoughts.
The Students Against Depression project recommend identifying areas around your triggers to consider what small things we might change, or how we can start to change our own thinking. For example, if you find yourself experiencing heightened feelings of low mood when waking up on a school morning, making small adjustments to your morning routine – like taking time to sit down for breakfast, rather than eating on the go – can help you cultivate a more positive mindset.
It’s okay if you find this difficult and some days you might find it easier than others. Try not to be hard on yourself as, by making small steps to get the right support, you’re already on the way to better mental health.
Remember, you matter, you are not alone and there is always someone you can talk to. If you are struggling with your mental health and don’t know who to talk to, you can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and speak to a supportive, non-judgemental voice, who will listen and help you focus on your feelings. You can also find links to other support services on our website.