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Healthwise: Back-to-School Stress

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

August 11, 2010

Instead of jumping into the pool, kids in central Virginia are diving into the books. August is the unofficial "back to school" month, and an early wake-up call comes with the change of schedule.

"There is a big change in the routine. All of a sudden, we are no longer on vacation. We're having to go to bed early, get up at a certain time, think about things like homework, packing lunches and transportation," said health and wellness clinician, Lisa Womack.

August can be a time of year when youths are feeling anxious, and Womack works to help people make time to ease the stress load. She provides a few tips to help kids conquer back-to-school stress.

"Take advantage of all those orientation activities where they go back to school, particularly if they can spend time at school before the school year begins. That will increase their comfort zone. Also, do things that increase the excitement, like go back to school shopping," she said.

One of the main things people schedule out of their days is exercise, which can help them tackle stressors much more positively. Experts say the same things that work as stress relievers for adults apply to kids as well. Womack recommends keeping a stress journal to help you figure out the source of the stress.

"Taking the time each night to think about what the best things were that happened in the day and what they are grateful for. Those things are very re-centering, again they put that focus on the positive," she said.

Womack says children will not always say when they're stressed, so parents have to look for behavioral signs, including difficulty sleeping, acting anxious and being withdrawn. It's also important for parents and counselors to remind children that the stress is only temporary.

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