Mental Health

5 Things You Need to Know About Back-to-School Anxiety

Justin K. Hughes

August 17, 2021 | 3 minute read

There’s this story of two parents who were surprised by their child’s rocket-like growth.  They couldn’t believe the pants they just bought didn’t fit any more, and their back-to-school budget was already tight.  They made it work and bought their son two new pairs of jeans (they really cost that much?).  Winter rolls around, and after an awkward first cold day in last year’s clothes, their child pleaded with them to buy new ones - winter jackets really aren’t supposed to fit that tightly.  Amazingly, the parents were always surprised when their child needed new clothes.

Why do such things surprise us?  Do we not expect kids to grow?  Take it a step further - do we not expect to feel stress or anxietywith a new change/transition?  The more significant the transition, the more we feel it.  

Here are the 5 Things You Need To Know in this back-to-school season:

1. Anxiety going back-to-school is normal.  

Why be surprised?  Any adjustment leads to increased stress, which leads to increased anxiety around the things that are uncertain for all of us.  Embrace it; accept it as normal; lean into it.

Many of you will be intentional about getting back to a certain sleep schedule.  GREAT!  Tune into what you might need, but consider effective strategies for anxiety from the research.  Here are just a few examples from my “Get Unstuck” guide (click on the link and get it as your free gift!):

  • Monitor your thoughts and self-talk
  • Deep breathing
  • Rest / Breaks
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Acceptance
  • Don’t Over-Consume Substances (here’s to you, caffeine and carbs)
  • Replace negative and unrealistic thoughts with the truth
  • Exercise
  • Sunlight
  • Expose yourself to fears you need to face in an intentional, supportive way

2. Don’t make anxiety personal.  

Whether you are a parent or a child, just because you feel a little more anxiety, distress, or whatever, this doesn't mean it has to say more than what it’s saying.  Conversely, when anxiety starts to impair a person, it also doesn’t mean it’s something negative about the person.  There’s no shame in suffering.  There’s joy in growing through it (see James 1:2-4 in the Bible).

3. Get personal.  

Each child is different, and getting to know your child or yourself goes a long way in personalizing the journey.  God always meets us where we’re at - he knows we are fragile (Psalm 103:14).  

4. Tolerate uncertainty; live by faith. 

This article is coming out as COVID-19 numbers have been spiking in the U.S. again.  And it’s an ample reminder of uncertainty. For some, the greater uncertainty is other people more than it is the virus itself.  Either way, we can’t minimize that the world has seemed just a little/lot more chaotic.  Check out my article, “Walk By Faith, Not By Coronavirus” for a shot of encouragement in the arm.

Faith is not a blind throwing our hands in the air, like the journey song, “Livin’ On A Prayer.” It is a desperate dependence on God who has revealed himself while we also feel and face doubt, uncertainty, and screw it up (Hebrews 11:1).  The whole point of following Jesus, or as we often say here, of “living Second,” is to not believe that we’re only okay if we’re better - it’s to know and trust that God is the way that gives us hope while we continue to struggle.

5. Asking for help is a sign of strength.  

We all need help, and getting on the front side of a problem is one of the best things we can do.  If we schedule regular visits for physical health why not mental health?  Or spiritual health?  Please, please don’t try this life thing alone.  Many churches help through specific groups and events, staff who offer counsel or support, community groups, and I Am Second also offers resources for starting Live Second Groups - so you don’t have to do life alone. 

Remember that God delights in answering prayer (1 John 5:14). Therapy or medication can be a wonderful step of faith and gaining support.

If you’re a parent - don’t just seek the help of your kid.  YOU have more influence than you may realize at any stage of the journey (yes, even parents of teenagers).  If you’re not stable and healthy, how can your kid do much better?  I have seen in many instances in therapy how quickly parents will get help for their children while themselves mentally and spiritually wasting away.

Go Team!

In Texas, football is a big deal.  Getting ready for the football season you can almost hear people practice their chants from inside their homes.  Remember to be a positive speaker of hope, truth, and joy.  And remember that there is nothing outside of God’s reach.  Go team!

Justin K. Hughes

Justin K. Hughes

Justin K Hughes, MA, LPC specializes in providing therapy for people with Anxiety Disorders and OCD using powerful and researched tools known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure Therapy. More importantly, Justin is loved by Jesus and follows him. Jesus is his ultimate hope and peace. Check out how Justin helps people from all over the world Get Unstuck by visiting his website:

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