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5 Reminders Back-to-School Season has for us All

It’s that time of year again. Back-to-school. Whether you’re returning to continue your own education, whether you have children in school, or whether you just notice that ‘something-special’, je ne sais quoi, September feeling—you know, the one where the air is just a little bit crisper, the bustle of the city just a little bit brighter, and the Starbucks just a little bit louder… September is a wondrous time for all.


Well, until your barista mishears your name, you choose the wrong lane in traffic, and are late for work.


When September rolls around, it can be full of excitement, joy and anticipation. It can also be a time of stress, adjustment, and worry, even for those of us no longer in school. During the summer months, our routines tend to become a little more lax. Whether we’re on vacation, or whether there’s just a quieter lull to the office, to our lives, summers tend to be more easygoing. Getting back into the swing of things in September can be an adjustment.


Here are five reminders back-to-school season has for us all.


1. Finding Motivation

After summer vacation, it can be difficult to get back into a steady routine and find structure. September tends to be busy, and for some the shift from fun in the sun to increased work tasks, may lead to demotivation.  If your schedule tends to be more relaxed during the summer, you may need to rejuvenate your sense of excitement in September, to come back to work and life with the fresh and new perspective that comes with entering a new grade.

Psychologists work with low motivation by helping their clients plan small first steps toward tackling bigger tasks that may feel daunting. Small steps such as cleaning out your desk drawer, decluttering your inbox, or updating your LinkedIn profile, could lead organically to larger steps.

One of my favourite back-to-school traditions was the shopping: new school supplies, new backpack, new clothes. There’s nothing quite as exciting as fresh stacks of paper, freshly sharpened pencils, and the warmth of new clothes. Freshening up your work area (or even your wardrobe!) can help rejuvenate your energy, and help keep you motivated. Buy a new packet of colourful sticky notes. Wear a new outfit to work. Changing our physical surroundings and investing in the materials we use can help not only keep us motivated, but also keep us feeling excited and passionate about what we do.


2. Getting Organized

Speaking of school supplies, stationary and sticky notes, getting organized—and staying organized—throughout the school year can present its own challenges.

“Often, we go from a lax schedule in August, headfirst into more commitments in the fall,” says Dr. Amanda Beaman, psychologist and founder of York Region CBT. “To cope with the increase in activity, plan the month out ahead of time in whatever scheduling system you use. This provides an opportunity to recognize potential conflicts in your schedule in advance, or become aware of small tasks you can take care of now to lighten the load.”

Do today what your future self will thank you for tomorrow.


3. Maintaining Perspective and Finding Balance

With a new school year comes a more challenging workload. There’s always that pressure of getting the perfect grades, of getting all A’s. But, remember: your wellbeing is more important than an A. We may not measure success in letter grades once we leave school, but there are other arbitrary scales we continue to implement throughout our lives. These will be different for everyone, based on what we do, how we see ourselves, and where we are in our lives. But, to some degree, we all do it.

Remember: it’s not about getting A’s. It’s about trying your best, and really learning something. Try not to put too much emphasis on things that you haven’t completed or that are not working for you and focus instead on what you have accomplished so far, what really matters to you (e.g., family, home, health) and new possibilities in front of you.

Finding a good work-life balance can help us maintain a healthy perspective on life. This means that it’s okay to take breaks. When you’re working so hard, make sure to get in some time to play, too. If you anticipate a busy week or a busy month, try to schedule self-care in advance—whatever that means for you. Research suggests that daily exercise, as simple as a short walk, can reduce stress. Socializing is also stress-relieving. Is there a coffee date you can arrange with a friend? Is there a chance to take a short getaway next month? Whatever it is, big or small, try to have something scheduled that affords you a break and you can look forward to.


4. Coping with New Social Environments

Oftentimes, beginning a new school year means encountering new social situations: joining a new sports team or after school activity, sitting next to someone new in class, making new friends. The anxiety associated with new social situations doesn’t leave us when we leave school. Many of us with kids are thrust right back into those sporting events, after-school activities, and other new social situations in the fall with them.  Putting ourselves out there as adults can be just as difficult as when we’re working up the courage in grade three.

But, what happens in grade three? If you take the risk and ask one other child to play on the monkey bars at recess, suddenly a whole world of opportunities opens up and the nerves dissipate.

As adults, it’s important to remember to take the same risks we took as children. Have an office party, social event, or dinner to go to? Psychologists know that when we’re overwhelmed, breaking things down into small steps can relieve nervousness and anxiety.  Try to set a goal: I’m going to talk to two new people before I leave tonight.  This can nip social anxiety in the bud right away, avoiding a build-up of anxious anticipation about the next time you will be meeting with the new social group.


5. Taking Care of Your Physical Health

Sometimes, back-to-school season can also mean flu season. Higher levels of stress have been shown to make us more susceptible to minor illnesses.   Implementing the stress management tools described above, as well as eating and sleeping well, can help keep our immune system resilient.


Mehak Jamil, Social Media Content Writer/Editor, York Region CBT