Secondary school student Maeve Kingston offers some tips for other pupils who may be anxious about the return to the classroom in the next few weeks
NOW that summer is coming to a close, students are being forced to contemplate another new school year in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
This can be a harrowing experience for students of all ages – whether going into secondary school for the first time, college, or even just moving up a year.
It can be a scary and anxiety-provoking experience for all of us, not knowing the outcome of the next year, potentially meeting new friends, new teachers – all a daunting experience.
But maybe we can choose to look at it in a different way this year?
How about treating it like a fresh start, a chance to reinvent ourselves or improve on our previous academic year and social personality.
Especially during these Covid times, anxiety in teens has become far more common. A recent study found 40% of teenagers self-report symptoms of depression and anxiety.
What’s more, just 8% of teens get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise daily, the study found.
It suggests a need for our schools to better develop physical activity guidelines for mental health.
And now the evidence is clear about the health effects of activity.
Teens who took part in sport regularly were found to have higher levels of well-being and lower symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Eight-out-of-ten teens who took part in the study reported playing one sport, and 66% took part in team sports.
This is all well and good, get your exercise in and you’ll feel better, right?
But it’s not as easy as all that. We have to find time to wind down and look after ourselves in other ways, too.
Personally I found exercise became a bit of a negative thing for me during lockdown, because I felt compelled to do it and couldn’t get through one day without it for fear it would make me unfit – so I had to find other ways of coping with my distress.
So, I guess, maybe I’m proof that the sport option alone isn’t the perfect solution for everyone.
Here are some of my tips for coping with anxiety about the coming school year:
Get organised in advance
Get your books and bag ready – even before you have to. It’ll give you piece of mind. You mightn’t be ready mentally, but at least your books will be in order.
Take the time to do something for yourself
Do one nice thing a day – go for a walk, have a bath, paint, and dance, and do something you actually enjoy to help you stop ruminating about the year ahead.
Talk to your friends
Over the summer you may have distanced yourself from your friends – it’s only natural, seeing as you don’t see them every day as you would in school.
So rekindle your friendships with them just in time, so you can go back still knowing your previous friends have your back. You may be surprised to know they have about as much anxiety about going back to school as you, and you’re not alone.
Remember school isn’t everything
You can get it into your head thinking your real life will end once you go back to school – but this isn’t the case. So try and keep up doing the things you loved in summer and see can you add them to your school week – like maybe if you liked sea swimming this summer, incorporate it once or twice a week to keep the buzz going.