Return to school blues
The start of a new academic year can come with mixed feelings. Whilst some young people will be feeling excited about seeing friends again, or getting back to learning, others may be feeling anxious, frightened or overwhelmed.
In September, Kimm will join the Mindspace Team of counsellors as our new Secondary Schools’ Counsellor to work within our secondary school-based project in Basingstoke. We asked her for some tips on what we can do to support young people as the new term approaches.
When we feel anxious, one of the simplest and most effective things we can do is to stop for a moment and breathe steadily – with a shorter in breath followed by a pause and a longer outbreath. Slow steady breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system – the part of our nervous system which is responsible for ‘rest and digest’ behaviour.
When we feel anxiety rising, we can help ground ourselves by simply looking around and engaging our five senses – look around you and ask yourself what you can see, smell, touch, taste and hear.
A shoulder to lean on
Give young people the opportunity to chat about their feelings throughout the day – it can be helpful to lead by example by talking about your own feelings too. Try to remember the mix of emotions you felt back in school, and allow the young person to share any of the emotions they are feeling, just being heard can help to relieve tensions and anxiety. The charity Young Minds has some great resources for 11–18-year-olds to help them understand how they’re feeling.
At the same time, remember that they might not always want to talk about what’s going on for them. Don’t put pressure upon them. Instead, let them know that you’ve noticed that they seem low or out of sorts, let them know that you’re there for them and give them the option to talk, if and when they want to.
Don’t add to the pressure
If they’re feeling anxious or stressed about returning to studies and exams, try not to add to the pressure they’re already under to perform. Taking a few minutes to go for a walk, dance around the house or mindfulness, should allow their emotions and concentration to level out, giving them a better mind set for study.
Mark the end of the holidays
It can be helpful to mark the end of the holidays and the start of a new term in a positive way – perhaps by spending some time together. You don’t have to spend a fortune, either. Watching a film together, or cooking their favourite meal, can be just as special as planning an expensive day out.