"August is the Sunday of the summer,"my son lamented the other day. Children are not the only ones filled with dread of returning to school. For parents, this can be a particularly stressful time of year too. Transitions are always challenging but the back-to-school madness coupled with end-of-summer blues can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
The good news is that there are a number of strategies to help you stay strong within this stressful season. - Dr. Samantha Boardman
Take a Parenting Chill Pill:
Resist the temptation to fill every afternoon with after school activities and allow for some downtime. Encourage your kids to keep themselves busy and to fill free time by coming up with their own plans. In addition to boosting their creativity and ability to take initiative, you will benefit from not having to shuttle them to yet another afterschool practice.
You are not a bear:
Just because the summer is over does not mean it is time hibernate. Spend as much time as you can outdoors. A walk in the park is an excellent antidote for stress. It also reduces rumination and has a calming effect on the body and mind. If possible, walk your child to school. Walking to school has been shown to improve students’ focus and behavior.
Choose your words carefully:
How you speak about accomplishing tasks on your endless to-do list affects how you feel about them. Saying, “I have to finish the project,” is energy draining. It suggests you are working on the project because it is expected of you. Try switching out “have to” for “want to.” When you say, “I want to finish the project,” you tap into your intrinsic motivation. Not only will you be more likely to complete the project, it will be more enjoyable and less stressful.
Walk the walk:
Make healthy habits a family value. Model the behavior you want to encourage. Eat the fruits and vegetables you serve to your kids. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make sleep a priority for everyone. Everyone will be happier, healthier and less stressed.
When a setback arises, ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” Framing the setback as a temporary challenge rather than a permanent roadblock will help you navigate your way through it. A positive mindset about stress is linked with better health and greater life-satisfaction.
Resist “Me Mode”:
When we feel overwhelmed, it is tempting to withdraw from others and to retreat into oneself. Too much self-focus can lead to a double whammy of stress. Remember to look outside of yourself for connection and inspiration. Look up from your phone. Make plans with friends. Lend a hand to someone in need. Doings things with and for others is resilience-building. Even small gestures like opening a door for a stranger, holding the elevator, bringing a co-worker coffee, telling your partner how much you appreciate them, and asking someone if they need help can mitigate daily stress. Making an effort, even when you least feel like it, will fortify you.