Author, TedX speaker, and queen of empowerment, Grace Victory shares her experience and insight each month
I remember the feeling like yesterday. Waking up before my alarm, staring across my bedroom to see my uniform laid over the giant pile of clothes on my chair that I should’ve tidied weeks before, and a brand new backpack that I just had to have.
The energy of anticipation about starting a new school year would trickle through the morning air. All I could think about was if anyone would look different, if I would look different, and the friends I couldn’t wait to see. I’d brush my teeth a little harder, dab on an extra layer of clear lipgloss, and leave for the bus 10 minutes earlier – you know, just in case.
When September arrives, both parent and child may experience an increase in anxiety, and while this can be normal, most of us know how difficult it can be to manage. It can feel like impending danger, confusion, panic, and like you’re floating but wishing your feet would touch the ground.
For parents, maybe you’re picking up on your child’s energy, and can sense they’re a little anxious about the year ahead? Maybe you have childhood wounds that start to open during this time? Whatever the reasons, I have compiled a few ways to manage this anxiety for both of you.
Prepare & practise
All parents know that the key for a somewhat smooth life is to prepare. Although this doesn’t always guarantee there will be no mishaps, it does mean less stress if difficult feelings and situations arise. A dummy school run is a good way to help decrease anxiety, as you can both experience what it will be like. You can also write a checklist of all the things you need to remember, and pop it on the fridge. Practising a situation will help it to feel less scary when you experience the real thing. This also eliminates the fear of the unknown – especially if your child is starting school for the first time, or is starting somewhere new.
It’s really important that the child can communicate how they feel. Sometimes anxiety will manifest into the physical with symptoms such as withdrawal, heavy breathing, and sweaty palms, but you also might not always be able to see anxiety with the naked eye. Ask your child how they feel, and create an environment where they are able to express their feelings – even if they can’t identify that it is anxiety. Empower and encourage them. Remind them that feeling nervy before a new school year is normal, and tell them they’re brave and strong.
Learn physical techniques
Although communication is great, it doesn’t always decrease anxiety, and for some, it can heighten it. The energetic path of any feeling needs to leave the body at some point, so that we can reset to the present moment. Grounding techniques are something I learned in therapy, and often appear in my counselling training. Focusing on sounds around you is a great way to bring your heart rate back down, and to distract you from difficult feelings. Hear the birds, the washing machine, the kettle boiling. This is a reminder that you are here, and you are safe. Another simple but effective technique is to feel your feet underneath you. This helps to stabilise you, and to give a little nudge to your brain that you’re OK.
Create an anxiety toolbox
When it comes to managing my mental health, I have a toolbox full of things that make me feel better. Maybe have a drawer in your house, or a box in the car, that you can reach into when needed. I suggest the following for anxiety:
Hear the birds, the washing machine, the kettle boiling. This is a reminder that you are here, and you are safe
• Lavender essential oil (calming and relaxing), or bergamot is a great alternative.
• Affirmation cards can be a gentle reminder that you’ve got this, you’re amazing, and these feelings will pass.
• Water and snacks, because drinking and eating regulates your breath, which is definitely needed when you’re anxious.
• And lastly, something comforting – a teddy, a photo, whatever suits the individual.
So there we have it. My first ever column complete! Sending love and courage to those experiencing anxiety of any kind, but especially those who are going back to school. Until next month. Love Grace x
Come back next month for more from Grace!