Transitioning Back to School
By Andrea Schramm, MA, LPC
Whether you are beginning school for the first time as a new kindergartner or heading off to a new role as an adult learner, going back to school is one big transition. Like all transitions, it’s change. Change from what was, summer vacation, life as it is, to new opportunities, change can feel uncomfortable or be downright hard to make. Change as a transition often involves some of the unknown. Will I know anyone in my class? Will I have anyone I like to sit with during lunch? Will my PE teacher be a nice person and understand I hate running? Will I be able to get to my own class on time after getting the kids off to school?
Change involves energy. Positive change like making a new friend who likes the same books as I do and read the same ones over the summer can create energy, fueling us to do more and increase our motivation to keep growing and expand on what we are doing. Having a negative experience with change can have the opposite affect and zap our energy like finding out we have nobody we know in our lunch hour. This experience with change can decrease our energy and our motivation.
Positive change through transition can feel awesome. How do we keep this going on the inside? Something like this way of thinking can help us stay motivated through change; how we think about something affects how we feel about it. Keeping our thoughts neutral to positive protects us from the energy zapping negative thoughts that make change and transitions difficult. Positive thoughts protect our energy and can increase our motivation resulting in more positive experiences.
What does this look like in practice? Here are some self-care ideas: taking a brief walk, taking a shower, reading a magazine or book for a few minutes. Engage in down time doing something we like: watching content we enjoy to decompress, talking with friends and family. Protecting what gets our attention (this is mindfulness): staying in the moment and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Resist over committing and inviting stress and negative thoughts into your daily experiences.
What do we do when negative thoughts bring us down, change our feelings and make change difficult if not anxiety provoking? Make a list of your negative thoughts and an opposing positive thought to go along. Changing negative thoughts to neutral/positive thoughts is something we learn as our negative thoughts are often part of our brain’s job of protecting us and keeping us safe.
Have a plan for returning to school. Wear comfortable clothes you feel good in. Bring something to keep you hydrated, have a favorite “something” in your backpack or locker to keep you oriented emotionally and present. Learn to recognize negative emotional reactions and consider taking a few deep breathes when you feel them. Learn to practice good sleep/wake behaviors as you move through the transition and change of going back to school.
Most of all, try to have fun! Change is a constant part of our lives and something we will always go through as we grow and change ourselves. Learn to take deep breathes and tell yourself it will be okay when change seems hard to overcome. You can do it!
JENNIFER EULBERG, MA, LPC
Welcome Jennifer, our new blogger!
Jennifer is a counselor at Sandhill who specializes in depression, self-esteem, and grief & loss. Get to know Jennifer as she shares her perspectives on life, contemplates value themes, and offers gentle encouragement.
THANK YOU to Stefanie Pisarkiewicz, LPC for her blog contributions from November 2014 - February 2019!