De-stress Your Life this School Year! Share +

Posted by: coronadosafe 2 years, 10 months ago

De-stress Your Life this School Year!

by Monique Reynolds, Ph.D.

The start of a new school year usually involves optimism and the lure of a “fresh start” - empty notebooks and sharpened pencils.  A fresh set of school supplies can make you almost giddy with possibility.  And yet, by November, we’re exhausted.  Our optimism of August has already dampened as we are overwhelmed with academic challenges, deadlines, and the balancing act of work and family.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could maintain that fresh feeling all year round?

Take Inventory

One of the best ways to de-stress your life this coming school year is to reflect on typical family challenges during the school year.  Take 10 minutes to jot down common pitfalls and where you’re constantly playing catch up.  Maybe it’s the shuffle of paperwork and deadlines streaming home from school.  Maybe it’s the shuffle of afterschool activities or the battle over homework each night.  Take inventory of how your family functions in these stressful situations before considering solutions. 

Prioritize

Rather than spend the year stressing about all of the challenges you’ve identified, begin to prioritize based on your family’s need and resources.  Concentrating your efforts on one or two things at a time will allow you to make real, lasting improvement.  It will also help you focus on those things that really matter to you without getting sidetracked by the smaller issues.  In practice, if a solid homework routine is your priority, your focus over the next few months becomes ensuring that the routine you develop is well-established.   Further, the other changes you want to see in your home (e.g. more help with chores) will be more successful if you wait until the first priority has a strong foundation.  Focusing on one new process at a time will increase your success rate and reduce the amount of stress you place on yourself and your family. 

A strong foundation

As you prioritize your goals for the year, consider the following two foundations of a strong family as a starting point.  Family routines and an ongoing maintenance plan are the building blocks to accomplishing family goals and managing stress this year. 

Establish family routines

Predictability is very important in a family.  People vary in how comfortable they are with change and spontaneity, but all children and teens function better if they generally know what to expect from their day.  Having consistent, though not rigid, routines helps families sidestep a great deal of conflict.  It also makes it more likely that your family won’t be stretched too thin when big issues arise.  The content of the routine is less important than simply having one.   Pick routines that work for your family and stick to them. 

Remember that family routines can and should include time for connection and play.  It’s all too easy for to-do lists and responsibilities to loom large over schedules.  Making time in your week to enjoy each other will pay huge dividends in reducing stress and building a cohesive and resilient family. 

Have a Maintenance Plan

Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint and requires ongoing self-maintenance.  Nights out with friends, mini-vacations, magazines, and massages are wonderful and can bring short-term fun and relaxation.  But these are opportunities to escape the stress, not better manage it.   In reality, self-maintenance is about creating a practice that will allow you to manage whatever load you carry over the long-term.   Regular exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet are especially important during stressful times and yet are often the first to fall off the schedule.  Maintaining a frenetic pace of demands erodes the body’s ability to cope with stress.  Over time, this translates into both physical and mental health concerns.  Finding a few moments each day to unplug and quiet your mind is crucial to managing stress over time.   Finally, if you have more serious personal or family concerns, consider talking to a therapist or other trained counselor about ways you can manage these issues.  Tapping into the resources and support you need will allow you to be more grounded and better equipped to handle those ongoing family challenges.    

For more information and specific tools to reduce your family’s stress this school year, please join us for our September Coffee Talk on September 12th at 8:30am at 201 Sixth St.