Fighting Back to School Anxiety- One Day at a Time

It’s that time again

It’s that time again, back to school. Whether you’ve already started back, like me, or you still have a few weeks of summer, back to school can be a stressful time for teachers. All kinds of things can start working in your brain, and if you have anxiety, it can be an extremely difficult time. Let me be clear, I LOVE my job. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else (except maybe be a rock star), but even so, there are certain times of year when my job ramps up my anxious feelings to a breaking point. Never mind the woes of impostor syndrome (even though I’ve been doing this for 20 years), or the general quickening of the pulse when you think of all the new students you’ll have. My anxiety is a tangible, physical thing when it rears its ugly head.

How do we deal?

I know we all have our own favorite coping mechanisms, but I want to talk about the ones the work for me, both the productive and nonproductive kind. There are definitely ways to cope that might alleviate the symptoms, but they really aren’t helping you. Let’s talk about those first.

These don’t help

  1. Retail Therapy- One of my go-to coping mechanisms to deal with BTS anxiety is to shop ’til I drop. Especially for things for my classroom. This little knick knack will look so cute! Those curtains will block out light when I need to use the projector. That notepad will help me organize my entire life. Sound familiar? While those things may boost your mood for a time, that credit card bill certainly won’t.
  2. Denial/Avoidance- I was the queen of this one this summer as well. I would get those mini heart attacks when I thought about working on school stuff or my TpT store, but then I would just sit there until it passed. Actually getting up and doing anything seemed to take monumental effort that I just couldn’t make. Even leaving the house got difficult at times. So I would just think, “I’ve already planned everything for the school year. I don’t really have to do anything” knowing full well that I could only benefit from examining and tweaking my curriculum. And my store isn’t going to get better if I don’t work on it!
  3. Glossing over the issue- “How are you today?” “Oh, I’m just fine, thanks.” Sound familiar? We don’t want to talk about how we are feeling because at time it can be a shameful emotion. Our life isn’t bad, so what are we worried about? Why are we making a big deal out of nothing? How come we are anxious about a job we love? Why am I so weird? These are all thoughts that can lead to a spiral of anxious feelings that just compound the more we focus on them.
  4. Eating all the things- I got good at this too. I didn’t realize I was doing it until I was 15 pounds up in just a couple of months. Then once I realized it, food became another source of shame. I felt great when I was eating what I wanted, ice cream is a balm for many things wrong, but then I would hate myself for what I just did. Not a good place to be.

Man, just writing about those is giving me an anxiety attack. I know they aren’t good ways to cope, but I did them anyway. Maybe talking about the good stuff will help.

Do these things

  1. Move, move, and move some more- They say that getting exercise is one of the best ways to combat poor mental health. Well, the gym and I aren’t friends, so I do this differently. I make myself get out of the house. Make plans with friends, go see something you’ve always wanted to, go to a park and walk a trail. Anything that gets you up off the couch and out of your head is a good thing.
  2. Plan ahead- Do you get anxious about being prepared? Make sure you’re the most prepared person on the planet by taking some time to get ahead on your year at a glance or for the next grading period. Planning is one of those things that soothes me, so this is one of my go-to ways to feel better. To do lists are wonderful as well.
  3. Talk about it- The more I try to explain to my husband how I’m feeling, the crazier I sound. However, he starts to see the signs of anxiety in me, and he knows how to direct a conversation toward things that don’t stress me out. Or he’ll just remind me to breathe. You should also talk to your doctor. When I told mine how bad it was getting, with the not leaving the house and eating everything in sight, she prescribed me some new medications. It took a couple of months, but I can tell they are starting to help.
  4. Be grateful- One of the best things I ever did was to start a gratitude journal. Focusing on what you are grateful for makes it so there is no room for the negative during that time. This is a great tool for people that find themselves in a negative spiral. Make a concerted effort to think about the positive. There are tons of gratitude journals on Amazon for less than $10. It’s a great investment.

Finally, my secret weapon

I heard about a nerve tonic for anxiety on the radio. One of my favorite deejays, Kellie Rasberry, was talking about Hyland’s Nerve Tonic. It’s a homeopathic alternative to anxiety meds. This stuff is like manna from heaven. You just put 3-6 of the tiny tablets under your tongue and let them dissolve. There is no weird feeling or altered state. You’ll just realize after about 10-15 minutes that you feel totally chill. Greatest thing ever.

I hope your school year is filled with wonderful moments and fewer anxious ones. If you have go-to methods for beating anxiety, share it in the comments. I can always use more tools in my arsenal.