Feeling Return to School Stress? 7 Tips to Bust the Stress

Even during a typical year, the return to school can be both exciting and stressful. This year, many parents are experiencing extra anxiety, uncertainty, and fatigue. And so are students. For both parents and students, stress can stand for the way of peace, joy, health, and fun that school should bring. Whether schooling from home, at school, or otherwise, we could all use some return to school stress busters.

If you and your household feel stressed, take heart. We are all feeling it. And we can all find peace. Here are 5 Tips to find peace in the midst of this year’s start of school stress.

7 Tips to Bust Return to School Stress

1. Pray with Your Kids for Specific Sources of Stressors

Before any stressful situation, our first line of defense is prayer. When we pray, we give our worries to God and release our pent-up stress. When we pray, we can listen to God, and align our perspective with His. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids the power of prayer.

Yes, our current start of school situation is stressful. And yes, we are held up by a loving, caring, understanding God.

You and your kids can pray for:

  • Your child(ren)’s stress level and their specific worries
  • Their friends and friends’ families
  • Your child(ren)’s teachers, whether online or in-person
  • Health and safety at home or school
  • Childhood fun, joy, and playfulness
  • Clear minds and low stress for learning
  • The entire school staff whether virtual or in-person

With each prayer, you give control to God in this out-of-control situation. With each prayer, you can listen and feel peace and truth from God, rather than anxious lies. With each prayer, you can give your worries to the one who can handle them.

Pray in strength. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”

And sincere prayer? It does the opposite and fills you with strength.

2. Choose Your Language Carefully

How you talk about situations can completely change your household’s reactions and outcomes.  As the adult in the room, you have a lot of power when it comes to language.

In fact, even when patients are recovering from chronic illness, optimistic language and optimism have been shown to improve outcomes (1).

This doesn’t mean to downplay any concerns, but it does mean to talk about them from a prayerful perspective that doesn’t evoke extra stress.

For example, you can make these simple word replacements:

  • Use the word “challenges” rather than “problems”
  • Talk about difficult or new situations as opportunities to grow and learn
  • Acknowledge stressful situations and talk about helpful actions such as prayer, talking, and habits to address them
  • Avoid using negative “always” and “never,” and acknowledge difficult seasons with hopefulness
  • Affirm with your children that you can thrive in tough situations
  • Talk to yourself with love and care, just as you would to a friend. Capture and replace negative self-talk with positive

Using more positive words can transform your thoughts and attitude, personally, within your household, and within your school.

3. Define Peace and Success Based on Realistic Expectations

It’s very likely this start of school period will not look or feel like any year we’ve ever experienced. This is simply our situation.

But, this does not mean it can’t be a positive experience as long as we have realistic expectations.

Disappointment is often the result of unmet unrealistic expectations. Instead of setting yourself and your kids up for failure, readjust your expectations, and give yourself some grace.

You may not get everything turned in on time. You may not have Instagram-worthy lunches. Your kids may not even have matching socks every day!

Give yourself grace and realize that schedules, locations, and school functions may change. While this is tough, changes and challenges cannot define your peace and joy.

Rather, take it day by day with the goal of healthy conversations and learning. Perfection is not realistic.

4. Tap Into Your Support System

While you may or may not have family in your area to help, it’s vital to reach out and tap into any support system you have.

You may need to join forces with other parents. You may need to ask for help from others even when it’s uncomfortable. You may simply need to acknowledge your stress and struggles and talk to a friend.

But don’t go through a stressful time alone. Loneliness is a true epidemic among many adults, but local churches, small groups, pastors, online groups, and friends can all be amazing support.

5. Declutter Your Calendar

If you’re like many parents, you may bring some of the stress onto yourself by loading up your schedule. Maybe you feel guilty that all activities were canceled during the past 6 months.

Maybe your kids are bouncing off the walls and you need them to burn off energy in a lot of activities. A healthy amount of activities is very positive if they are available in your area and you’re comfortable with them. However, an overload can cause anxiety, lack of sleep, fatigue, and more.

Or, maybe it’s your own activities that overload your schedule. Decide which promote health and peace within you, and which cause extra stress.

Never be afraid to say “no” to a busy schedule for the sake of your family’s health and well-being.

6. Make Evening Preparations a Priority

You have the power to make school mornings, whether staying home or heading to a school building, significantly more peaceful. And this tip only takes about 15-20 minutes per day.

Make evening preparations a non-negotiable priority. Set out clothes (yes, even if staying home). Pack the backpacks or organize the learning area. Prepare lunches and snacks.

This simple step can make a huge difference.

7. End the Day with Gratitude

No matter how the school day went, the practice of daily gratitude can change everything. In fact, practicing gratitude has been proven to support decreased cortisol and stress levels.

  • You can be thankful for the challenges and opportunities to do better.
  • You can thank God for the opportunity to learn and interact (in whatever way interaction is occurring).
  • You can be thankful for the chance to face this together.

In fact, teaching your kids to keep a simple gratitude journal could be one of the best lessons of the year.

8. Prioritize Sleep

No matter the situation, our stress levels and mental health can be improved with adequate sleep. In fact, adults should all aim to get 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night. Kids should generally aim for 8-10 hours each night, depending on their age.

While adequate sleep is not always easy or even feasible, it’s a crucial health habit. The alternative, lack of sleep, can impair melatonin levels and cortisol, increase the risk of metabolic issues and weight gain, and generally deteriorate well-being.

What’s more, an overload of stress can be the cause of poor sleep (2), make the sleep-stress cycle a potential threat to health.

By aiming for less stress and more sleep, you can vastly improve your levels of peace during the start of school stress this year.

Bottom Line

Nothing about this year has been easy. And for many, the return to school stress may feel extraordinary. But, you can take simple steps to promote health within your household and community this year. It’s a great opportunity to overcome in the face of this challenge. Be proactive in prayer, positive language, daily preparations, relationships, schedule, gratitude, and sleep. You’re not alone and you can find peace, no matter what the return to school looks like for your family.



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