A New School Year with Less Stress!

The last year confounded teachers, students, and parents as they tried to navigate a “new normal” in the wake of a pandemic. Lingering fears about COVID variants, combined with conflicting rules about masking and other health precautions, have led to a worrisome increase in anxiety among educators, students, and parents.

According to one survey, teachers experienced more job-related stress during 2020-2021 than other workers, prompting many teachers to leave the field entirely. In response, many mental health professionals recommend that educators, students, and families practice a few time-tested stress busters as they enter the new school year.

Stay active.

Many people focus on their problems during stressful times, rather than engaging in purposeful, enjoyable activities. They adopt a passive lifestyle that amplifies the anxiety.

To combat stress, people of all ages should stay active. Besides producing endorphins and other “neural chemicals”, sustained physical activity requires time, which allows people to refocus their attention on something besides the problem at hand. Experts suggest that adults and students should consider activities, such as walking, jogging, biking, weightlifting, or gardening.

Choose healthy habits.

Nervous eating is a natural stress response, but it typically leads to unwanted results, including weight gain and an unhealthy focus on body image. People often try to forget about their stress by binge-watching television or by spending hours on social media or gaming. Others “numb” themselves with cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. Unhealthy habits do not alleviate stress; in fact, they can worsen anxiety because the person is not dealing with the stress or its causes.

Rather than allowing unhealthy habits to continue, people should choose practices that promote wellbeing. One way to combat stress is to plan healthy meals and set aside time to enjoy them. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains regulate body functions so that people feel stronger and better prepared to meet the day’s challenges. Getting enough sleep allows the mind to process the day’s events and release nagging tensions. Simultaneously, the body has a chance to rest and repair itself naturally. The result is greater concentration and an enhanced ability to solve problems.

Connect with others.

During the pandemic, people were forced to quarantine themselves if they showed symptoms of illness. While these precautions are necessary, extended isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, sadness, depression, and despair.

Time with family and friends provides a sense of perspective, as well as an opportunity to talk about worries. Experts recommend that people who feel stress avoid social media and opt instead for positive in-person connections and personal phone calls. Adults and students should consider attending a church, joining a club, or volunteering their time.

Be creative.