Dr. Don Colbert – Stress is a natural, even useful, part of life. It can warn us that we are taking on too much or trying to control things we cannot. It can alert us to danger, help our bodies respond in emergencies, and help our brains focus. It can simply be our natural response to difficult situations. So, why should we want less stress back to school strategies?
Stress can also be very problematic. When it’s based on inaccurate information, on future or present made-up worries rather than reality, or when it becomes chronic, it can become unhealthy and extremely detrimental. It can be tough on parents and students to head back to school when feeling stressed.
DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS OF CHRONIC STRESS
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America survey, more and more adults report stress as an interference with their own physical and mental health (1). Approximately 33% of adults reported sleeping issues, 32% reported headaches, and 27% reported an inability to concentrate due to stress. Additionally, 47% of adults reported losing patience with or yelling at their partner, and 46% reported similar behavior with their children because of stress.
Prolonged stress results in high cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that’s released by the adrenal glands when the body faces stress. In modern times, this stress is often more mental than physical and usually has no outlet. For many, it’s chronic. It builds. And it does damage.
According to an October 2018 study, researchers found that increased blood cortisol levels are correlated with impaired memory and lower brain volume in mid-life (2). What’s more, after studying 2231 human participants, they found the effects were more pronounced in women participants than men.
High blood cortisol levels are correlated with weight gain and impaired loss, increased blood pressure, negative impacts on mood, sleep and energy, and an increased incidence of glucose and cardiac issues (3).
As many of us head into this season as parents, students, teachers, and community members, let’s prioritize mental health. Choose less stress back to school strategies!
12 Less Stress Back to School Strategies
1. AS A PARENT, IDENTIFY YOUR OWN STRESS
It’s no surprise: chronic parental stress affects children’s mental health and stress levels (4). As kids head back to school, it’s important for parents to identify their own stress.
Of note, parents should not feel guilty about their stress level. That only adds more stress! Instead, do what you can to manage adult stress, starting with prayer, talking to your children, and using these strategies in your own life to better manage or confront it.
2. ASK YOUR KIDS, DON’T ASSUME
Kids have a way of surprising us throughout life! One surprise might be that a parent’s perception of their child’s stress is different from what the child is actually experiencing.
One reason is that our perspectives of what’s important are often very different. While a parent might think a student is stressed about an upcoming exam, the student might actually be stressed about a social relationship.
Open communication is key. So, ask your kids about stress, don’t assume. Identifying stressors is a huge step to less stress back to school.
3. PRAY TOGETHER ABOUT SPECIFIC 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.
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 and school staff
- Health and safety at home or school
- Childhood fun, joy, and playfulness
- Clear minds and low stress for learning
With each prayer, you give control to God in any 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.
Remind your students: Prayer is strength. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
4. EMPHASIZE GOOD BREAKFAST, SNACKS & HYDRATION
For years we’ve known that eating breakfast improves cognitive performance in students (5). So first, make a plan for good breakfasts each day.
Next, many students need small healthy snacks between meals to stay focused and energized. They are active, busy, and growing! Consider sending healthy bars, fruits, nuts, etc. for snacks during the school day.
Lastly, did you know dehydration increases cortisol (6)? Encourage your student (and yourself) to stay hydrated throughout each day for less stress.
5. WATCH YOUR WORDS
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 and school stress.
In fact, even when patients are recovering from chronic illness, optimistic language and optimism have been shown to improve outcomes (7).
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.
6. EMBRACE “FAILURE”
One big way we can change our words and perspectives for less stress back to school is to embrace “failure.” When we try hard things, we might fail. Failure can simply be a sign that your student is pushing themselves.
Ask, what did you fail at today? What did you try that was hard? How can you learn from it? Are you going to try again?
As we embrace failure rather than fear it, the world opens up and all of us can become more willing to take on challenges!
7. DO LESS
If you’re like many parents, you may bring some of the stress onto yourself by loading up your schedule and your kids’.
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 promotes health and peace within you, and which causes extra stress.
Never be afraid to say “no” to a busy schedule for the sake of your family’s health and well-being.
8. PREPARE FOR THE NEXT DAY
Much of healthy parenting is instilling healthy habits into your kids.
You have the power to make school mornings significantly more peaceful with a simple habit: prepare the night before.
Make evening preparations a non-negotiable priority. Set out clothes. Pack the backpacks or organize the learning area. Prepare lunches and snacks.
This simple step can make a huge difference.
9. THE GRATITUDE HABIT
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.
- Thank God for the opportunity to learn and interact (in whatever way interaction is occurring).
- 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.
10. KNOW YOUR KIDS’ SCREEN TIME HABITS
It’s not surprising that screen time and social media affect students’ stress (8). What is surprising is how diligent parents now have to be to become aware of excessive use.
Mobile devices have opened up a whole new world of accessibility to screens 24-hours per day. Parents have to be aware and ready to limit it and tackle issues.
If your student has access to screens, consider taking them out of bedrooms (phones can be docked in a central place). Set time limits on devices (you can make the internet and apps inaccessible at a specific time, for example). Learn about current apps, content, and healthy digital habits on sites like braveparenting.com.
11. SLEEP MORE
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 (9), making the sleep-stress cycle a potential threat to health.
By aiming for less stress and more sleep, you can encourage less stress back to school this year.
12. ADULTS: CONSIDER NATURE’S STRESS RELIEF
Have you considered natural stress relief like hemp oil? As a part of a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, it’s worth a look. In fact, it has been well studied and accepted. Hemp oil, especially nano-particle oils, is different from many other plant-based compounds. It:
- Supports healthy, stable moods (1)
- Promotes stress relief and normalized cortisol levels
- Supports comfortable, healthy joints (2)
- Encourages healthy sleep habits (3)
- Promotes healthy skin with fewer irregularities and blemishes (4)
- Supports healthy brain and nervous system functions (5)
- Encourages healthy cardiovascular functions and normalized inflammatory actions (6)
Nano-particle hemp oil like Dr. Colbert’s Nano-Science Hemp Oil can be a great tool for a less stress back to school!
Back to school doesn’t have to be high level stress. It’s a new season, new opportunity, and new adventure for everyone involved. Enjoy it! For more tips, try these additional stress busters. And, use our less stress back to school strategies throughout this school year!
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