Students are starting to get ready for class from kindergarten to college. For some students, they’re starting school for the first time. For others, it’s transitioning to a new grade or moving from home to start their first year of college. These new changes are common triggers for stress and anxiety. Managing stress and anxiety at school is very important.
This year, almost 21 million new students will be starting or returning to American colleges. As exciting as these new experiences are, they can also trigger feelings of anxiety and possibly even more serious mental illnesses.
It is not just leaving home to begin a new academic career, it is also learning how to maneuver in a new social environment. This transition is difficult in terms of triggering mental health issues.
Additionally, in the teenage years and early 20s many psychiatric illnesses start to appear because the causes are genetic. College students often struggle with depression which can be triggered by stress and change of environment, as well as abusing alcohol and drugs.
Up to 30% of college students had a serious enough depression to interfere with functioning during school. In fact, the second leading cause of death among college age youth is suicide
It is important to make college students aware that they are not alone and that they are able to seek help.
Other helpful tips for coping with the changes of college life are as follows:
1. Get enough sleep. Eight hours of regular sleep are key to having enough energy for a balanced academic life.
2. Eat a nutritious and balanced diet. Avoiding junk food is important as well as eating enough fruit and vegetables and eliminating eating late at night.
3. Developing a social network such as getting involved in clubs, finding people who have similar interests in dormitories or in class.
4. Maintain your support system at home by phone or visits. It’s very important to keep the connections with people at home who can offer good support and guidance.
5. Don’t fall behind in your classes, one of the biggest sources of stress in college is falling behind and feeling like you can’t catch up.
It is not just college students that are vulnerable to stress at school. Younger children can be vulnerable to anxiety when they start returning to school or start a new grade. It is very important for parents not to discount these fears. Parents need to realize that their children’s anxiety and stress is real, and it’s important to let their children know that they are not alone and other children feel the same way they do.
Parents can help their children with the following tips:
1. Start to the school schedule with plenty of time to prepare. A good time to start transitioning is two weeks before school starts.
2. Prepare your kids for school by getting them information such as mapping out their classes and schedule and reviewing it together prior to the start of school period
3. Know your children’s abilities. Do they need extra help to keep up with their grades, and if so provide extra help and support such as hiring a tutor.
4. Make sure your children know that there are clear boundaries and that they have consistent rules. Consistency is very important to create a feeling of safety so children know what behaviors are acceptable.
If you need help managing anxiety caused by a transition to school, or helping your children manage their own school anxiety it is important to seek out professional advice from a psychotherapist. Patricia Hecht, MFT, is very experienced in helping managing school anxiety, so please contact her at 415-813-0404 for an appointment today.