The first day of school is almost here, and maybe you’re starting to feel the anxiety. Biting your nails? Fidgety fingers and restless legs? Trouble sleeping? Well, if so, you’re not alone. Here’s a list of tried and true ways to manage your back-to-school anxiety.
1. Know your surroundings
Maybe you’re worried you won’t find your classes, or that you’ll walk into the wrong one (we’ve all done that), but that’s an easy fix. Scheduling a tour of the building can help calm your nerves. So go get the lay of the land. These are your stomping grounds now after all. Might as well walk around like you own the place!
2. Prepare for what you can, and don’t sweat the rest
It’s easy to fear the unknown, so learn what you can. If possible, review your class schedule ahead of time. You may find it comforting to know exactly what classes you’re taking, when, where, and with what teacher. Is there an orientation? Don’t miss it. Have assigned summer reading? Give that another glance. Make a habit of keeping your old notes, so that you can review them over the summer. If you’ve “misplaced” your notes, then look online for a quick refresher of the material.
A common back-to-school worry is that, over the summer, you’ve forgotten everything you learned last year. Don’t be too worried though; your teachers know the deal. They expect you to be a bit rusty.
3. Get involved, find a club
Will I have friends in my classes? What if I don’t know anyone? Who will I sit with at lunch? We’ve all asked ourselves these questions. Chances are, you’ll encounter some familiar faces, but this is also a chance to make new friends. The easiest way to make new friends is to bond over a shared interest. And the easiest way to find shared interests is to get involved in a club. Your school’s website should have a directory of its existing clubs, societies, leagues, study groups, the times they meet, and the meeting locations.
4. Rise and shine
It’s easy to underestimate the value of a good morning routine, and how much order it can bring to your hectic life. Make your morning a conscious act. Find satisfaction in it. Brew the perfect cup of tea, or go for your favorite neighborhood jog. Are you a yogi? Then it’s time to get yoga-ing. Maybe you’d like to do something creative—write a poem, or journal, or sketch. It’s your routine; let it be an expression of you. Begin the day from a centered, collected frame of mind.
Talking about it actually helps! Don’t let all those anxieties go unchecked, bouncing around in your brain. Sometimes your worries don’t sound so big and terrible when you hear them outside of your own head. So spill the beans to a parent, a friend, your favorite uncle, a sibling, your therapist, anyone you feel comfortable with. Chances are they’ve experienced their share of anxiety too.
6. Think on the bright side
Positive thinking is hard work. Somedays it feels impossible. So approach it as diligently as any other exercise. Work it into your daily and nightly rituals. In the morning, as silly as it may feel at first, tell yourself how great the day will be, encourage yourself, and then repeat as necessary. Find at least one good thing to look forward to, even if it’s just your morning routine, then hold onto that. And when night comes around, recount all the small good things before bed.
7. Cut out negative self-talk
Knock off the negative self-talk! No one gets to talk to you like that, not even yourself. Be kind. Forgive. Reassure. Treat yourself like the valuable person that you are. Then go show ’em what you're made of.
8. Remember your past triumphs
When you start to feel anxious about the new school year and the challenges it will bring, try to slow down and think through all the past challenges you’ve faced and survived. Chances are you have felt these same nerves last year too, and the year before, but you survived those years, didn’t you? Meditating on our past successes can help us find confidence in the face of new challenges.
9. Set realistic expectations
Making goals throughout the semester is a great way to break your work down into manageable tasks, and to find satisfaction as you accomplish each, but be sure you’re setting reasonable expectations for yourself. You don’t need to be the most popular person at school; you don’t need straight A+’s. Instead of framing your goals in terms of the results, try framing them by the amount of effort you’d like to put into them.
10. Seek help
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 30% of adolescents are estimated to live with a diagnosable anxiety disorder, but only around 20% seek treatment. If it seems that your anxiety is not getting better—if it gets in the way of your ability to function on a day to day basis—it may be time to seek professional help. You can start by scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider, or by making an appointment with a therapist, or your school’s counselor. Treatment works and you are worthy of it.
If you’re having a difficult time and would like to talk to someone about it, there are other teens at Teen Line who want to listen. Reach them at 310-855-4673, or text TEEN to 839863.