How to beat back-to-school nerves

Toorak College
Jan 23, 2020 6:29:59 PM

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Welcome to 2020! A new year, a new decade, and a new school year brings with it plenty of excitement for continued and renewed opportunities and experiences. 

This year, we look forward to STEM FEST, school productions, learning in the new Swift Science & Technology Centre, welcoming 126 new students, and of course, celebrating Toorak Spirit! While the new year can be an exciting time for those who look forward to new opportunities, for others, the uncertainty of the year ahead can feel overwhelming. The transition from holidays back into a school routine is not always an easy one for everyone and can bring up feelings of worry, doubt, anxiety, and tension. 

We know what those back-to-school jitters are like, so we devised some tips to help with some of those nerves you might be experiencing. Plus, we are excited for all the opportunities the new year can bring for you! So we’re here to help you get off to a steady start.

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Back-to-school nerves are common

Lots of people, even adults, feel uncertain about change. Although change might feel different or uncomfortable at first, such as having new teachers and subjects, a new locker, changing classrooms or even being in classes with different peers, the likelihood is that most of your peers might be feeling the same way—especially after a long holiday break. Headspace Youth Advocate Amelia, says, “There is this idea that everyone else is managing and is succeeding, but it’s not the case and many people still don’t talk about the pressure because there is a stigma in admitting that you’re struggling.” Be reassured that you’re not the only one feeling this way, and that experiencing nerves on the first day of school is common.

Learn to identify when you are feeling worried

The first step to calming anxious thoughts and feelings is identifying you are feeling anxious in the first place. Becoming aware of your nerves helps you learn how to recognise and become familiar with what you are feeling, so you can then address what you are going through and be able to move forward. Nerves are experienced differently by everyone and can present as physical, psychological, emotional and/or behavioural symptoms. Jodi Richardson, researcher of best-selling parenting novel, Anxious Kids, who has more than 25 years experience in wellbeing and education, encourages parents and children to, “make sense of it [anxiety], key knowledge such as why it happens, the flood of physical symptoms that comes with it”.

For more information on signs and symptoms of anxiety, click on the following link: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/signs-and-symptoms

Identify the thoughts causing you to worry

Have you ever thought to yourself or told someone, “I’m feeling worried but I don’t know why”? The feelings you are experiencing are most likely a result of unhealthy thinking patterns and common thinking errors. Maybe you are worried about waking up and getting ready for school on time or have been catastrophising about dropping your books in front of everyone on the first day and being laughed at. Maybe you are worried about going to a certain class.

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Writing a list of your worry thoughts in a journal, drawing them, or putting them on pieces of paper into a ‘worry jar’ can help you identify what is causing you to worry, help you feel a sense of control,  even make sense of the way you are feeling. Identifying and expressing your worry thoughts in a healthy, productive way, is essential to dealing with worry thoughts effectively.

Confide in someone you trust
Confiding in someone you trust about your worries will most likely help you feel better, more supported, and reassured again. Vocalising your worries out loud can help you articulate and make sense of them, and take the weight off your own shoulders with the knowledge that someone understands and cares for what you are feeling. A trusted loved one can comfort you with a hug, words of affirmation, write you an encouraging letter, and/or help you work on strategies together.

Find strategies that work for you
It’s important to find solutions for what you can control, and let go of what you can’t control. Here are some more strategies that can help you:

  • Let go of the fear of failure
    Remind yourself that you don’t have to start perfect or be afraid of making mistakes on the first day. Renowned Psychologist, Brené Brown says, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together”.
  • Practice positive self-talk
    Too often we are our own worst critic. Challenging those self-deprecating comments and turning them into uplifting ones must become a regular habit. Start by writing down the negative thoughts you are experiencing about yourself such as, “I am not good enough” or “I can’t do this”. Write alternatives and rebuttals next to each one such as, “I am worthy and proud of who I am” and “I can do this and I will thrive doing so”. Read these aloud to yourself each morning and night before school, even in the mirror, so you begin to believe them! For more information on reframing your self talk, visit the following resource by ReachOut : https://au.reachout.com/articles/3-ways-to-talk-yourself-up
    3 ways to talk yourself up
  • Practice getting into a routine
    As school approaches, start by establishing a night and morning routine to practice getting your body back into the swing of a school routine. Go to bed a little earlier, be productive throughout the day, and wake up in the morning with something to do and look forward to. Writing yourself a step-by-step plan or to-do list is a helpful way to achieve this.
  • Organise yourself ahead of time
    Get familiar with what classes you will have on the first day, check out the class list to see who you will be spending time with in class, and look at what you will be learning first. Take a trip to the shops, and stock up on some new pens and stationery you might need this year. This can help you feel more prepared, ready and self-assured for the first day. Packing your lunchbox and books, and organising your uniform the night before helps ease the pressure of getting ready in the morning and gets you off to a smooth-sailing start ready for your first day!
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  • Set some goals
    Putting your mind towards a certain goal helps you to act on certain tasks, rather than avoiding or procrastinating them which can often heightened nerves. Being productive, and working towards a desired goal can provide feelings of achievement, motivation, and enthusiasm to achieve things for yourself. Having a structured SMART goal, helps you put what is obtainable into perspective, and eliminate concerns that are not relevant.
  • Create things to look forward to
    It’s important to have something uplifting for you to enjoy on your first day. Think of packing a colourful, nutritious lunch, with strawberries and some yogurt. Or cheese and crackers. Text or call a friend and tell them you're excited to see them again, and look forward to what you can laugh about together and what stories you might share form your holidays. Check out Toorak’s Instagram @Toorak_College for what you can look forward to this year on our #Toorak2020 countdown!
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  • Practice staying calm
    There are many strategies you can use to help calm nerves. Controlling your breathing and taking deep breaths helps to bring down physical symptoms such as having a racing heart rate and other ‘fight or flight’ bodily responses. Step-by-step meditation or instructional videos can help you achieve this. Try it out for yourself via the HeadSpace mini meditation videos.

    Perhaps preparing a playlist and listening to music on the way to school can help ease nerves and act as a distraction tool to unwanted thoughts. Toorak has its own Spotify playlists, ‘Empower’ and ‘Thrive’ for you to get in the zone to be the best you can be at school. Bringing a small comfort object to school, such as a fidget cube, or a photo of a loved one can also help you feel comforted. Using your five senses and grounding techniques are also useful ways to narrow your thoughts down, and centre yourself again. For more information on grounding techniques, click on the following link: https://www.livingwell.org.au/well-being/mental-health/grounding-exercises/
  • Talk to your teachers and staff
    At Toorak, caring for the physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing of every student is paramount. Our Wellness Centre includes Health Services, the School’s psychologists and a communal space for meeting. All students can access these services and they are safe, non-judgmental spaces for students to seek support.

We Iook forward to seeing all students back at school soon, and wish the last few days of holidays are uplifting, and positive so you can dream, dare and do to develop as aspiring young people with confidence and character again this year! 

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For additional resources, you can visit the following links.

‘Is your child ‘prepped’ for Prep?’- by Toorak College

How can your child transform their anxiety into resilience?’- by Toorak College

Tackling back-to-school anxiety’- by Beyond Blue

‘Back to School Anxiety’- by Child Mind Institute 

Discover what makes Toorak College unique by attending our small group tours and prospective parent information evenings. Enrolments now open!

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