How to Manage Back-to-School Stress & Anxiety
Natural remedies and healthy habits to relieve overwhelm
The back-to-school season can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking for children as they navigate new classrooms, teachers and classmates. However, for some children, this transition from carefree summer days to a structured school routine can lead to increased anxiety and stress.
As parents and caregivers, it’s essential to support your child’s emotional well-being during this time. Luckily, there are plenty of natural remedies and healthy habits that can provide gentle and effective relief for back-to-school anxiety to promote a harmonious start to the academic year.
Healthy habits to reduce your child’s anxiety
Establish a consistent daily routine for your child, especially in the lead up to school starting back. This can be very reassuring for children who experience back to school anxiety. Set regular wake-up and sleep times, meal times and study/play periods. The element of predictability provides a sense of security and stability, reducing anxiety and overwhelm.
Limit screen time (especially on social media) as excessive screen time can contribute to feelings of anxiety and inadequacy. It is also linked to poorer cognitive outcomes, affecting memory, language skills and academic performance. Studies suggest that excessive screen use can hinder social skills development, increase impulsiveness, shorten attention spans and disrupt sleep patterns. Encourage healthy tech habits (particularly before bedtime) and screen-free practices such as reading or playing board games.
Get organised and plan your morning routine. Sorting out school bags and pencil cases, laying out clothes and planning lunches the night before can help minimise last-minute rushing and stress. A well-organised environment and morning routine provides children with the assurance they need to face the school year with ease and confidence.
Include brain-boosting foods in your child’s diet as they provide essential vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids to support brain development, memory and concentration. Insufficient amounts of essential fatty acids can lead to brain inflammation, affecting thoughts and emotions. They also influence dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel good. Teens are particularly vulnerable due to their changing hormones. Blueberries, oats, Bircher muesli (see recipe below), avocados, leafy greens, broccoli, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil and flaxseed oil contain brain boosting nutrients.
Avoid processed foods and sugars including sugary snacks like muesli bars and yoghurts, breakfast cereals, crisps and biscuits as eating high-sugar foods can lead to energy spikes and crashes, affecting your child’s ability to concentrate. Processed foods also contain additives, preservatives and colourings which can drive anxiety and behavioural changes in some children. Instead, opt for organic whole foods and natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup in small amounts.
Prioritise sleep. Ensure your child gets enough sleep each night to support learning and memory consolidation. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a crucial hormone that plays a significant role in growth and development during childhood and adolescence. The secretion of HGH is most active during the deep sleep stages, especially during the first half of the night. This is why getting adequate and restful sleep is crucial for children’s growth and development. Establish a consistent bedtime routine to promote better sleep quality.
Regular physical exercise and activities such as playing outside and doing sports can help reduce stress and anxiety. When kids actively move their bodies, whether through playing tag or riding bikes, their brains release endorphins. These endorphins are often referred to as the body’s natural mood enhancers as they have the ability to elevate feelings of well-being and alleviate stress.
Simple deep breathing exercises can help children calm down when they feel anxious. Breathing deeply and slowly can activate the body’s relaxation response and help them feel calmer. It also reduces heart rate and muscle tension, leading to an overall sense of tranquillity. Encourage them to visualise inhaling positive energy and exhaling worries or tension with each breath.
Teach your child problem-solving skills to tackle any challenges they may face at school. Feeling prepared can reduce anxiety related to uncertainties. Encourage your child to use positive affirmations daily to boost their self-confidence. Affirmations like “I am capable,” “I can handle challenges,” or “I am brave” can be incredibly helpful.
How to make Bircher muesli
Cover rolled oats with filtered water and leave to soak overnight. Use 1 tbsp of oats and 2 tbsp of water.
In the morning, peel and coarsely grate a large apple (with skin if organic) and top up with your child’s favourite fruit and raw nuts (providing they are not allergic).
Oats provide a good source of fibre, complex carbohydrates (for slow releasing energy), plant-based proteins and minerals and vitamins including magnesium, vitamin E, iron, zinc and B vitamins.
Bach flower remedies uses essences from flowers to address emotional imbalances and promote well-being. Specific Bach flowers, such as Rescue Remedy (which is a blend of different flowers), are commonly used to alleviate stress and anxiety. They work by balancing emotional states (such as worry or fear) and alleviating negative feelings to create emotional harmony. Adding a few drops of Rescue Remedy to your child’s water can help them feel more at ease and centred throughout the day. A skilled Bach flower therapist can combine different Bach flower essences to create a personalised flower remedy that addresses your child’s unique emotional requirements. Access CNM’s free Bach flower lecture.
Magnesium is an essential mineral known for its calming effects on the nervous system. It helps regulate neurotransmitters in the brain, promoting relaxation and reducing stress.
Incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your child’s diet such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds and whole grains can support their overall well-being. Magnesium supplements (under the guidance of a natural health practitioner) may be helpful for children with low magnesium levels or those experiencing significant anxiety.
Lemon balm is a fragrant herb with a mild lemon scent that has long been used for its calming and anxiety-relieving properties. Lemon balm tea can be a soothing bedtime ritual to help your child wind down before sleep.
As an herbal supplement, lemon balm is available in tincture or capsule form; however, it’s important to seek guidance from a qualified herbalist or naturopath before introducing any herbal remedies to your child’s routine.
Homeopathic remedies offer a gentle and holistic approach to stress and anxiety in emotionally sensitive children. They can help to soothe irritability and restlessness, and reduce sudden onset of worry, fear or panic. Homeopathy provides a safe and non-invasive way to support children during the back-to-school transition.
Seek the support of a qualified homeopath who can advise you on the most appropriate remedy for your child’s needs.
Lavender essential oil
Lavender is an aromatic oil known for its calming and relaxing properties. A few drops of lavender essential oil added to a diffuser in your child’s bedroom can provide a peaceful ambiance that promotes restful sleep and reduces nervous tension.
You can also dilute lavender essential oil and add it to a roller blend to apply to their wrists or temples which can offer on-the-go comfort during school hours. The gentle aroma of lavender has shown to have a positive impact on mood and emotions, making it an excellent natural remedy to support children as they navigate the ups and downs of the school year.
Nurture your child’s emotional well-being
Helping children manage back-to-school anxiety is crucial for a smooth transition. Establishing routines, limiting screen time and fostering healthy habits like balanced nutrition and adequate sleep provide stability and structure. Incorporating calming techniques like deep breathing and problem-solving skills equips them to effectively handle stress. Natural remedies such as Bach flower remedies and lemon balm offer additional gentle support. By combining these strategies, you can empower your child to face the new school year with confidence and emotional resilience.
For more information on stress and anxiety, brain boosting foods and healthy recipes and you can make at home, take a look at these other resources and recipes: