Hello there! School has been back in session now for a couple weeks in our area of the country. How are you doing?


Whether you are the student tackling this semester, or living with a student, the back-to-school transition can be stressful. I mean, really stressful. But you already feel that!


There are multiple factors that come into creating that stress so here are a few creative ways to deal with the natural stress of the back-to-school transition.


  • Acknowledge the needs beneath the stress. Every feeling of stress is connected to a God-given need in relationship. It’s true. When you stop and listen to what the stress is telling you to do, you might be surprised to find one of the following needs driving the intensity:
    • Need for affirmation—can sound like, “Am I smart enough?”, “Do I have what it takes?
    • Need for acceptance—can sound like, “Where do I fit in?”, “Who can I sit with?”, How do I look?”
    • Need for support or respect—can sound like, “Who has my back?”, “If I speak up, will it be ok?”, “Who can I share this with now?”

With each of these questions, it helps to acknowledge the need as something that everyone feels because God put there to help you connect in healthy ways with Him and others. After acknowledging the need, brainstorm about your next steps “What would it look like/feel like to have that question answered?”, or “What would I feel like if that need was met?”, or “Who can I share this with who can help me with this need?”


For the non-student—consider asking these types of questions with the student. Realize they might need a breather or a snack or a stretch before they start chatting.


  • Use music and visual art for de-stressing and for motivating. From listening to string or baroque composers to jamming to some house or techno, the brain is easily influenced by music. Experiment with what genre or composer brings down your stress levels—many people find non-lyric/instrumental music to be most helpful. Visual art calms the brain by using the psychology of color. Typically light blues, greens and grays are calming while corals, deep blues, deep greens, yellows are energizing. However this is not always true, as preferences and visual memory plays into the influence of color. Also, shapes are very personal as well with simpler shapes being calming and more a complex shape being energizing.


For the non-student —have the preferred music playing in the car or in the home when the student comes home. Visit about the option of bringing colors and visual art into the student’s environment (everything from their sleeping, studying and storage areas). Help the student with this experiment by visiting a local art museum or a paint supply store with large paint chips. Be sure to schedule any outings at a time that best fits their schedule and includes water and/or healthy snacks.


  • Strengthen your brain with nutrition. We often consider what to eat based on taste buds but we should also consider what to eat based on our daily tasks. Eating food that acts as fuel for our daily tasks allows us to perform without the necessary physical stress on our bodies. Consider consistent intakes, protein levels, B-vitamins, Fiber, Healthy Fats and carbohydrates as a whole picture for de-stressing. Snacks and meals with protein levels adequate for our schedules will allow our brains to retain information and think clearly. Consistent vitamin intake through consuming whole food allows the brain to easily move from a place of rest to a place of activity to a place of critical thinking. Maintaining proper neurotransmitter levels in your brain makes a world of difference for class attention, studying, creative thinking, and retaining/recalling information.


Locally visit with the good folks at www.Neurogistics.com, www.NeuroFitNutrition.com, or even good ol’ People’s Pharmacy. As always, if you visit with someone over-the-counter take what they suggest to your medical doctor before implementing.


For the non-student —if you are also feeling stressed, consider meal planning together or schedule a visit with one of the above professionals. Stress is contagious so you could easily pick it up or transfer your own. Help with shopping, meal planning and snack prep or ask for permission to remind the student to take this one to heart.


  • Stretch it out and work it out. Our bodies hold stress through tensing muscles but movement will help release the physical tension while breathing through movements will help lower heart rates. Consider the basic stretches you can do between class, study and commutes. Typically stretches include the head and shoulder rolls, the leg rolls, the deep bend, the knee bends, arm rolls and arm stretches. All of these work great when you breathe in before the stretch and breathe out while stretching. While at school or while at home bring our your approved mobile devices and follow along with guided stretches that last for only a few minutes from places like http://www.kelseylee.com/#!fitness/cdwa or similar.


For the non-student —you could plan to do these together or set a time to go to a class together. Dance classes are great ways to stretch it out, work it out, and laugh together.


  • Say “No”. There are many things that must be on your schedule, and then there are some things that are just not necessary right now. Keep a focus on your overall current semester goals and what you need for the next one too. With that focus, consider what you value in life and make decisions on what gets to be on your schedule. If it isn’t needed now, if it isn’t lining up with your life values, and it is necessary for your next steps, then it might be a time to say NO to that item. Sharing this with someone who understands your short term goals, your long term goals, and your life values might help give you discernment on what to say no to for now. We all have limits to what we can do now and at all. Practicing honoring our limits keeps us in a healthy place with God and others.


For the non-student —ask curiosity questions such as, “Is this necessary for this semester?”, “Is there another time this could be done?”, “What need do you think doing this might be needing?”, “How much band-width or energy do you have for this right now?”, “If this is critical to be done now, what is 1 thing I can do to help?”, “May I help you with providing meals, or scheduling breaks, or reminding you of things during this busy season?”, “If this is a necessary busy season, when can we schedule 1-4 days of rest and refreshment?”


And lastly some more typical ways to deal with the natural stress:

  • Schedule time to visit with teacher about how you best learn and retain information.
  • Avoid caffeine and energy or focus enhancing drugs unless prescribed by a skilled M.D.
  • Say “Way to Go” to yourself when small tasks add up to big goals.
  • Get deep sleep and prepare yourself for sleep.


So what is 1 thing that you can apply today?

What else helps you de-stress and be your true self?

Who can you share your overall goals with today who can understand the stress you feel?

With joy,


Liz Lawrence, MA, LPC-S is counselor, coach and creative who is passionate about people. She directs the Streams Counseling Center in Austin, Texas and co-leads the non-profit Renue.Me whose mission is to invest in the dreams of leaders in underprivileged communities around the world. Connect with her at www.lizlawrencelpc.com or www.renue.me


Originally posted on www.LizLawrenceLPC.com

Photo Credits: Photo by Blaine Hogan, starring Pavel Tabutov

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