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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan on September 22, 2022

Top Back To School Tips That Reduce Student Stress

One of the best things you can do for your child is help them conquer student stress. These tips can help make the adjustment to back to school as stress-free as possible.

Young child stressed at school min scaled

Back to school can be a stressful time for kids, whether they are in elementary school or college.

From a young age, kids often have to learn how to deal with new technology, school bullies, studying for tests, and meeting homework deadlines.

After-school activities, such as sports, can further contribute to student stress. This can cause your child to do poorly in school. It may also affect their mental health.

In this guide, we’ll provide tips to help you identify student stress. You’ll also learn how to help your child make the back to school process as smooth as possible.

How Does Going Back To School Cause Student Stress?

Back to school stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and even stunted growth in teenagers.

Back to school stress has only intensified since the pandemic.

According to one study, COVID-19 and its disruptions have caused significant increases in stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in college students.

Another study found that student post-traumatic stress could last as long as three years after the pandemic ends. This high level of stress has been shown to impact growth in teenagers.

Many younger children have felt more pressure, too. In the United States, children as young as four and five years old were forced to undergo virtual school, leading to social isolation.

When these children eventually returned to the classroom, many struggled with reading, writing, and even holding a pencil correctly, causing academic setbacks.

As children’s grades suffer, so do their bodies. One study found that bad grades triggered higher cortisol levels in high school students.

Dubbed the stress hormone, cortisol has been known to compromise the immune system and memory performance.

To break this stress cycle, it’s important to know how to identify when your child is stressed, even if they don’t realize it themselves.

How To Identify Back To School Stress

Although stress can manifest differently in each person, symptoms are quite universal in general. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), some common symptoms of stress in children of all ages include: 

  1. Tiredness
  2. Changes in eating and sleeping behaviors
  3. Chest tightness
  4. Dry mouth
  5. Muscle weakness
  6. Stomachache
  7. Dizziness and headache
  8. Shaking
  9. General aches
  10. Withdrawal
  11. Poor concentration
  12. Irritability and being moody
  13. Confusion
  14. Being increasingly fearful 

8 Way To Manage Back To School Stress 

Here are eight ways students can manage their back to school stress: 

1. Meditate

Research on meditation, particularly mindfulness-based therapies, has demonstrated efficacy in reducing anxiety and depression.

Rooted in Buddhism, this form of meditation is divided into two components: attention and acceptance. Mindfulness meditation requires you to pay attention to your breath, thoughts, and feelings.

Whether the thoughts and feelings are good or bad, you must accept them without judgment before finally letting them go.

When you wake up in the morning, sit up or lie comfortably on your bed, and start your day by meditating. Close your eyes and concentrate only on your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Do this for a few minutes until you feel relaxed.

2. Eat well 

A healthy breakfast can help stabilize blood sugar levels, allowing your child to concentrate and focus at school.

A nutritious breakfast will get you ready to face the rest of the day. Avoid greasy meals that can disrupt your digestion. Choose foods with protein, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids that will energize your brain.

Protein promotes the development of the brain while making sure the neurons work well at the same time. You can find it in white meat, beans, nuts, and eggs.

Likewise, calcium regulates several neuronal functions and long-term memory-making processes. Calcium is available in milk and other dairy products.

Twenty percent of the brain’s dry weight consists of good fats like omega-3. Supplements or foods containing the substance, such as walnuts and salmon, are very beneficial for the brain.

One study found that omega-3 can improve brain disorders like depression and anxiety. Alternatively, you can try supplements made from Ginkgo Biloba, which is believed to reduce anxiety disorders. 

The medicinal mushroom Lingzhi has also been shown to bring down cortisol levels and ease anxiety. It works by enhancing the body’s response to stressful stimuli. This could be a useful supplement to give to older children or college students.

3. Take care of your heart 

Another organ that needs to be nourished apart from the brain is your heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), emotional imbalances like anxiety are caused by a weak Heart.

TCM recommends consuming biota seeds or undergoing acupuncture treatments to replenish the Heart and enhance its function.

4. Organize your space and thoughts 

An organized space is one of the contributing factors to mental wellness. A 2009 study by researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles found that mothers with more organized homes had lower cortisol levels than those surrounded by clutter. So, clean up your desk or study area to be free of stress! 

Much like your physical space, your mental thoughts need to stay organized. Instead of making one long-term study goal, divide them into small, more realistic ones that you can achieve gradually.

Doing this will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses while giving you more motivation to reach every goal. 

5. Take breaks

There’s a reason why school recess exists. Research has shown that recess plays a huge role in developing a child’s emotions as well as creativity and social behavior.

Taking a break from studying is vital for mental health. Furthermore, a break will also protect you from digital eye strain.

6. Exercise 

Like taking breaks, being physically active provides a timeout from stressful factors. Moreover, multiple studies have proven that exercise affects the chemicals in the brain that control your moods, like dopamine and serotonin.

TCM, too, highlights the importance of exercise as a stress relief. It believes that stress can disturb the flow of qi in your body, leading to several illnesses. Working out can help minimize the effects of stress by rejuvenating qi and blood circulation. 

7. Go to bed on time 

Going to bed on time can help your child wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go back to school.

Poor sleep has been linked to both mental and physical dysfunction. Children need seven to ten hours of sleep every night, depending on their age.

But more than just the duration, quality sleep also constitutes timing. From TCM’s point of view, the ideal bedtime is between 11 pm to 5 am, according to the meridian clock. 

8. Reduce internal Heat 

Eating and sleeping well are important, but sometimes, students sacrifice healthy meals and rest for good grades. According to TCM, bad eating and sleeping habits can cause Liver Qi Stagnation, resulting in internal Heat or Fire (Yang) in the body. 

To counter the impacts of internal Heat, TCM recommends cooling herbs, like asparagus root (Tian Dong), Foxglove root (Sheng Di), and Chinese magnolia vine fruit (Wu Wei Zi).

TCM Can Help Reduce Back To School Stress

Student stress may be hard to avoid, but it can be managed. Through these eight steps, you can feel more at peace as you study your way toward achieving your goals. 

If stress persists, consult a registered TCM physician to formulate unique treatments based on your child’s specific body constitution.

This is an adaptation of an article, “10 Stress-Busting Techniques for Exam Success,” which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website

References

  1. Frontiers In Psychology. 2021. Academic Stress and Emotional Well-Being in United States College Students Following Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  2. Frontiers In Psychology. 2021. Stress-Related Growth in Adolescents Returning to School After COVID-19 School Closure.
  3. Society for Research in Child Development. 2018. An Entity Theory of Intelligence Predicts Higher Cortisol Levels When High School Grades Are Declining 
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2015. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function  
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2011. Effects of stress hormones on the brain and cognition: Evidence from normal to pathological aging 
  6. UNICEF. 2022. How to reduce stress and support student well-being during COVID-19  
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2018. Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Anxiety and Depression  
  8. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 2017. Brain Basics: Genes At Work In The Brain  
  9. Pubmed. 1995. Role of calcium in brain aging
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2020. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders  
  11. Sage Journals. 2009. No Place Like Home: Home Tours Correlate With Daily Patterns of Mood and Cortisol
  12. Wiley Online Library. 2010. The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools
  13. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. 2013. STRESS RELIEF: The Role of Exercise in Stress Management

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