Even though fall doesn’t start until Sept. 22, this is Milford’s last week of official summer. The last week for many to squeeze in the last bit of summer fun, but also a week of “Yikes! School starts next week!”
It isn’t just parents holding back tears as they send college students away (and the stress of the financial burden with that), it's parents making sure their kids’ summer reading and logs are complete, and going through closets, desks and stores to prepare for the new school year. This feeling goes for educators who have to set up classrooms, review curriculum and revise lesson plans. And, of course, for children who carry mixed feelings of fear and excitement about abilities, friends and teachers.
For me, it’s a time of sadness with summer closure (and fear snow will soon follow). A reminder that time is flying by quickly, my kids are growing each time I blink and a desire to put on the breaks because every first day of school feels like I didn't have time to buckle as I click to the top of the big hill on the roller coaster and as soon as we go past Labor Day we plummet down that hill at light speed barely catching our breath… and then it’s New Year’s.
It isn’t just the preparation that is stressful, it is the anxiety about teachers (or students and parents for educators), bus routes, schedules, bullying,
knowing where to go, what to wear, organization, testing, balancing sports, arts and scholastic work and sleep. It came to me as I school-shopped this week and thought “I wish we didn’t have to go on this coaster again this year.”
It isn’t just me… the parents, the kids and educators are feeling stress. Why does the new school year have to feel like the start of yet another over-scheduled, rushed, “hurry up," “you are going to be late," “did you remember your XYZ” saga?
Stress is a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension, and may be a factor in causing disease, or a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tends to alter an existent equilibrium, according to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary.
Stress can lead to mood changes, angry outbursts, cravings for less than healthy food choices, lack of motivation and focus, as well as sleep disturbances. Yup, this sounds like the Facebook posts I have been reading this week!
How can we decrease stress to jumpstart a healthier school start?
- Self Nourishment — exercise, meditate, go on a nature walk, play with or brush a pet, play a game, laugh, confide in friends, get a massage.
- Start a grateful journal — this is a great habit for all family members (and a great way to have kids practice writing). Write 3-5 things you are grateful for that day. It may be something huge like the recovery of a loved one from an illness or something silly like “sure glad I had time and internet connection to read the Police log!”
- Sleep — this is your body's way of completely recharging. Your cell phone needs it and so do you. It decreases cortisol levels, blood sugar, blood pressure and stress.
Unfortunately, summertime sleep habits of going to bed later and waking up whenever the body stirs die hard. "Its getting back on track with sleep that is the hardest," according to three of my friends who are teachers. This might be one of the reasons stress climaxes as the roller coaster careens during the first days of school.
Lack of sleep can lead to learning and memory deficits, metabolism and weight challenges, mood disturbances, and a greatly depleted immune function. People who are stressed typically don't sleep well. Exercise during the day, try journaling, reading a calming book, white noise or supplement with melatonin 2-3 mg and magnesium 200 mg at night for more restful sleep.
Focus this week on increasing sleep, decreasing stress, and closing summer with great memories to jumpstart a healthy fall.