Our Mental Health: The stress of a new school year

BY Ralph Jones

Preparation for the new school year can be most stressful for parents and/or other care-takers of our youth. If only the financial burdens and stressors of buying new clothes, school supplies, backpacks, etc. were not enough; there are many psychological stressors as well; which raise many questions and concerns.

Gone are the times when children, and their parents, could find safety and security within our schools. As a child growing up in the 1940’s and 1950s, we had no concern whatsoever with safety and security within our schools…no security guards were ever necessary, no electronic monitoring devices, no monitoring video cameras, no bullying and other abuse from other students as it is today, no illicit drug use, etc.; it was a most simpler and docile time in our history.

The cultural revolution of the late 1960’s and 1970s changed all that, as our society began its moral decline. Parents and/or other caretakers, in addition to teachers, and of course our children themselves, facing new anxieties and fears, must now be always hypervigilant and aware of what is going on more so than at any point in our history; and as evident by school shootings, lock-downs from threats, etc.

All of this has raised stress to a new height; as the parents support the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the children.

Lee Iococca, American Executive, Philanthropist

“In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”

Parents and/or other caretakers of youth have many questions at the beginning of the school year, as they enter into a new school grade, but most particularly if the child is entering a new school: Will my child be safe in school? Will my child have a nourishing meal at school? Will my child make good friends with good students? Will my child be able to resist peer-pressure to use drugs? Will my child have a good teacher?

Many, many concerns. All of these questions, in addition to the preparation for the new school year, may be most stressful to many parents and/ or other care-takers; and if not kept in check may lead to feelings of dread, anxiety, and fear.

Of particular concern is the stress endured by adolescents; a very critical time in the development of the child. At this age, the teenage years, children are most concerned with their self-concept; their appearance in dress, their demeanor, etc. They are most concerned with “fitting in,” belonging.

At this stage of development, with their burst in hormones, they become quite moody, rebellious, and exhibit other behaviors that can be most difficult to deal with. With the added stress of today’s culture this can be most difficult.

Yet we know, there is much that can be done to alleviate the stress posed upon the children and their parents/ care-takers. Most people deal well with their “ups and downs” in life, appearing to always have things “all together.” How do people maintain this healthy balance?

Staying in good mental health means taking steps to achieve and maintain one’s self in balance; taking care of physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. For without this balance we undergo unhealthy tension and stress.

Everyone has experienced life’s tension and stresses. Stress, to a certain degree, is necessary in maintain our balance; keeping us in all around good health. When tension and stress become problematic, however, steps are necessary to bring back our perspective and feeling of well being.

The following steps allow one to get a good grasp on the situation before it develops into a major problem. These steps also help one maintain good mental perspective on life.

1) Talk out your problem. Talk to a person you know to be trustworthy, sensible and that you respect. Another person can help you to see the problems from a new angle, and thus a new alternative or solution.

2) Get Away. This doesn’t mean running away from your stressful problem. It means to step away from it to gain a new perspective. Trying a change of pace, keeping active or trying some relaxation techniques.

3) Get enough sleep, rest, exercise and watch your diet. An old adage states “sound body, sound mind.” Don’t allow fatigue and hungers add to your worry and stress.

4) Take one step at a time. Put one foot ahead of the other toward healthy alternatives. If you are taking action toward a goal, you take pride in your ability to handle the situation, and by diverting your stress to worthwhile reachable goals you will be in a better position to take control in managing your life.

5) Get rid of anger safely. If left bottled up, stress producing anger can produce unhealthy actions. Release anger in a healthy ways as it comes up. When angry try a healthy activity such as throwing a ball, taking a walk, hitting a pillow, or other similar energyreleasing activity.

6) Take it easy. Learn to give up lesser goals for peace of mind. Don’t make great expectations or plan too far in the future. Don’t get wrapped up in overcompetiveness.

7) Avoid self medication. Many chemicals, such as alcohol, may mask stress symptoms, but they will not help you adjust to the stress or solve the problems; they will most probably add to the stress. The ability to maintain good mental health comes from inside you, not from outside sources. 8) Do something for someone else. This will take your mind off of your own problems. It also builds your selfconfidence and selfesteem, and gives you an opportunity to make new friends, or develop deeper friendships. Yes my friends, it is that time of year once again; the start of a new school year with old and new stressors. Remember that children learn through observational examples of the behaviors of you parents/other care-givers.

We adults must show them how we handle stress and stressful situations in a healthy and constructive manner; and primarily by the virtuous behaviors of doing good and being good, and by teaching them good values and attitudes; so they may be able to deal with the stressful events in their lives.

Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!