The Wellness Revolution
Preparing for Back to School: Managing Stress & Anxiety
This year’s school year will be unlike any we have experienced. Times of transition and change can be stressful under typical circumstances but given these unprecedented times, it is understandable that stress, anxiety, and general feelings of uncertainty may be elevated for both parents and kids.
As a naturopath, I help patients of all ages learn techniques to cope with anxiety and stress.
Here are my top 7 recommendations for managing stress or anxious feelings:
1. Talk about it! Having open communication around feelings can be stress relieving, just think about the last time you ‘vented’ – didn’t you feel so much better afterwards? Seek support from friends, family, or help/crisis lines as needed. Even talking to yourself can be helpful, question your feelings, challenge yourself by asking if what you’re feeling is “true” or if you’re getting hung-up on the “what-ifs”. If it’s the latter, try to regain control by focusing on what is in your power to control versus what is out of your control, and cannot be changed by you. Modelling and teaching this positive behaviour sets an example for your kids as well.
2. Use guided meditation: I think a lot of people hear the word “meditation” and automatically jump to the image of sitting silently for hours on end trying not to think of anything. If that type of meditation works for you, that’s awesome, but sometimes it’s easier to start with short guided meditations. One of the most common websites/apps I refer patients to is calm.com – this is a great resource that allows you to pick how long you want to meditate for and what your goal is – for example falling asleep, reducing stress, etc. There are even meditations specific to children based on their age. These meditations are guided, meaning a relaxing voice instructs you on what to do: how to position your body, when to take breaths in and out, what to picture, etc. Guided meditations can be very helpful for inducing a state of relaxation.
3. Get outside: walking outside for as little as 15 to 20 minutes can eliminate or reduce stress and anxiety. Being outside surrounded by nature grounds us – meaning we can escape negative emotions or thoughts and refocus on being in the present moment. Many research studies have demonstrated that time spent in green spaces significantly reduces our cortisol (stress hormone) levels while boosting our endorphins (happy chemicals).
4. Journal or draw: writing feelings, thoughts, emotions on to paper, regardless of if they make sense, can allow us to release them from our minds. This is a good strategy for kids and adults. If preferred, drawing can also be very relaxing and provide stress relief. Adult colouring books have become very popular over the last couple of years, and are easily accessible.
5. Establish a routine: creating a daily routine where you check in yourself, your thoughts and feelings is an essential way of managing anxiety and stress. And, when you think about it, it makes sense – if you put aside 20 minutes daily to think through your anxious thoughts, stresses, or problems they become more manageable versus the alternative of letting those thoughts/feelings pile up. The key is consistency. Having a routine allows you to set aside time for self-care, hobbies, passions, etc. To create a routine, start by writing down everything that you do in a day, then a week, see what can be reduced or cut out and then schedule time for things that are important to you. Don’t be afraid to alter your routine every once in a while to keep things from getting boring. Creating a routine and being consistent with it will be an essential aspect of managing stress around going back to school – whether it is in person learning or at home.
6. Change up your diet: did you know there is a connection between our gut health and anxiety, depression, stress? Have you ever felt sick to your stomach right before giving a presentation or doing something that makes you feel anxious? This is because there is a nerve that sends signals from the gut to your brain and vice versa. So if you’ve been eating poorly, or if you’ve struggled with digestion now is the time to prioritize your eating habits and gut health. Cleaning up your diet, focusing on whole foods, taking a probiotic, and drinking a healthy amount of water are just some ways to restore a healthy gut-brain connection and reduce feelings of anxiety.
7. Seek professional help: if you or your kids are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed, and can’t seem to get a handle on it, it may be time to speak with a professional – such as your family doctor, naturopath, counsellor, therapist, etc. There are several therapeutic techniques, including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) which may provide coping strategies for anxiety and stress. There are also supplements and herbal medicines that are very effective at reducing anxiety and helping the body to cope with stress. Medication may also be necessary, and that is okay. Anxiety and stress shouldn’t take over your life, but if you find it is, it’s better to seek out help and resources than to suffer silently.
Need a little more guidance? Reach out to us, we are here to help get you started, back on track, or support you where you’re at.
Wishing parents, caregivers, and their kids a happy, healthy, and safe return to school this September.
Yours in health,
Dr. Kate Klein, ND
About the Author
Dr. Kate Klein is a licensed naturopathic doctor and clinic director at Your Health Collective, an integrative wellness clinic located in the heart of Ajax. Dr. Klein and her team offer services including, naturopathic medicine, holistic nutrition, acupuncture, osteopathy, and psychotherapy to patients of all ages. Practitioners at Your Health Collective provide a collaborative approach to patient care through a variety of natural treatments and solutions for health concerns ranging from disordered sleep, allergies, fertility, headaches, digestive concerns, and much more. We believe that health is more than just the absence of disease; health is when we function at our best through proper nutrition, exercise, a balanced lifestyle, positive emotions, thoughts and actions. For more information about Dr. Klein, naturopathic medicine, or our clinic please visit: www.yourhealthcollective.ca