5 Ways to Beat the Back-to-School Blues

Caylie Gaccione
Curriculum Specialist
Blog on August 30 2022

The end of the summer and the start of the school year can be a stressful time for students, teachers, and parents. It is a time of excitement, but can also be a time of anxiety because of all the major changes that are taking place. Transitioning from summer to school can definitely lead to some mixed emotions, and it is important that we take the time to work on coping strategies to beat those back-to-school blues!

What are the back-to-school blues?

Before we dive into these strategies, let’s talk about a few key components of back-to-school anxiety:

  • Anyone can experience back-to-school blues. Even individuals who don’t typically feel anxious or have diagnosed anxiety can still get this feeling, and that is completely normal! Because of all the changes that are taking place during this time, it is very typical that students, teachers, and even parents will experience feelings of stress.
  • There is a major difference between back-to-school jitters and anxiety in general. The strategies that we are going to discuss are just helpful tips, but if you feel that an individual requires additional support, be sure to seek professional help.
  • Anxiety will look different from person to person and the coping strategies that we will discuss may need to be adapted to meet the needs of the individual.

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some strategies that can help everyone deal with their stress before and during the start of the school year.

1) Recognize the anxiety

The first step in combating the back-to-school blues is recognizing that the anxiety exists, and then determining why it exists.What does anxiety look like? Anxiety and general stress can present itself in many different ways. Some behaviors to look for are: tantrums, difficulty getting along with friends or family, avoidance of normal activities in and out of school, physical symptoms (stomach ache, fatigue, etc.), trouble eating or sleeping, feeling restless or fidgety, clinginess, struggling to concentrate, and angry outbursts. Although these are just a few examples, recognizing that these behaviors are taking place can be helpful in determining the next steps for dealing with anxiety.

Why is anxiety occurring? Is it nervousness about new routines, increases in responsibilities and school work, interactions with peers/teachers, COVID-19-related fears, or just general anxiety? No matter what, it is important to determine what exactly is causing the stress for teachers, students, parents, or other members of the school community. The answer to this might not always be clear-cut and could be a combination of many of these stressors. It also might take some time to figure out the root of the anxiety, so remember to be patient. As long as you start the process of recognizing that you or those around you are not feeling 100%, you will be better prepared to face these challenges head on.

2) Talk it out

Once you have recognized that anxiety exists, the key is to talk about it and have open communication. Remember to reassure students (and yourself) that their feelings are valid. Encourage students to share their thoughts and feelings. This can be in the form of journaling, social-emotional learning games, or general conversations. It may be helpful to start the day with a “conversation circle” where you can have meaningful conversations with students. You can provide them with discussion prompts, or keep it more open-ended. Either way, having that designated time for students to talk about their feelings can create a positive classroom culture where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and emotions with teachers. Here are a couple of response ideas to try out when you are having those powerful conversations:

  • I understand that this is making you upset.
  • You can always come talk to me when you feel this way.
  • The start of the school year is stressful, but can also be a really exciting time.
  • I can see why you would feel this way.
  • Let’s try ___________ to help this feeling.  

3) Be prepared 

Whether you are a teacher experiencing anxiety yourself, or you are looking for strategies to help your students, you want to make sure that you are prepared and organized.As teachers, we know that when it comes to starting off the school year strong, organization is key. Creating a daily schedule for yourself and for your students can help you optimize your time. For yourself, be sure to include time to do things that you enjoy, time for healthy habits (more on that later!), time for work and important tasks that must get done, and anything else that you feel is necessary for a successful and positive day.

For students, making a schedule can be a helpful tool. This can include designating time to get school work done, time for playing or recharging, and even time to run through their home routine before school  (e.g. packing lunch, choosing clothes to wear, getting there, etc.). By having a clear plan for the day, week, month, or even the year, you will feel more confident and relaxed knowing that there is time for everything important to get done. Remember that even if things don’t always go according to plan, you will do your best to stay on track. By creating a schedule, you are also allowing yourself to recognize what might be causing stress and how to make time for what is most important.

4) Health and wellness

Make time to practice mindfulness and general health and wellness strategies. When thinking about taking care of yourself, you also want to make time to do what you love. Whether you like to play sports, cook, read, or anything in between, set aside some time in your daily schedule to do things that bring you joy! Often, when we are stressed and overwhelmed, we forget to do things that make us happy. By taking the time to take care of yourself, you are prioritizing your own well being, which will in turn help you to be the best version of yourself. This applies to teachers and students! Here are some ideas to get you started if you are looking to practice mindfulness and healthy living:

  • Meditation
  • Exercise – choose a workout class you like, walk, jog, do a quick set of exercises (jumping jacks, run in place, pushups, etc.), yoga, and anything else that gets you moving!
  • Make healthy food choices, drink water, eat your greens, etc.
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • If you are looking for some more healthy habit tools, check out these “Calm Down Cards” which include some ideas for when you or your students are feeling stressed, such as taking deep breaths, listening to music, or picking a relaxing activity.

5) Get excited

Be sure to maintain a positive attitude and focus on the bright side for yourself and your students. At the end of the day, the priority is to make sure that everyone is feeling good for the start of the school year, and to keep that momentum going throughout the year. Remember to maintain an upbeat attitude, use positive language, and think about all the good things that keep you motivated on a daily basis. Sometimes, it can be as simple as putting a smile on your face to help you feel just a little bit better.

With all of the steps listed above, remember to be patient, try out one strategy at a time, and find what works best for you and your students. Managing the back-to-school blues is not a one size fits all, so be sure to do some trial and error. May these strategies help you feel positive and ready for the start of the school year!

Be sure to check out our accompanying OTIS course, Tools to Alleviate Back to School Anxiety, as well as many other courses in the OTIS Course Library, to learn about some more tips and tricks you can use for the start of the school year.

For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more content on the Teq Talk blog or our YouTube channels OTIS for educators and Tequipment.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and support with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology and strategies that spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening!

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