Managing Back to School Anxiety

Kristen Roman, Psy.D. | Director of the Young Adult Program

As the weather starts to cool down and Labor Day weekend approaches, many people are starting to think about the transition back to school. While this may be exciting because it means you get to see your college friends again or get back to the freedom you lost while living at your parents’ house over the summer, most of us inevitably experience some anxiety about getting back into the swing of things. To help ease the transition, here are a few ideas to consider about back to school anxiety:

  1. Take stock: Reflect on what worked and didn’t work last semester in terms of academic performance, your social life, and self-care. Set some specific, achievable goals related to keeping up or dropping old habits.
  2. Get ahead of things: While “syllabus week” and the first few weeks of school are generally seen as a time to get away with doing very little academically, the first part of the semester is a good time to set things in motion to help you the rest of the semester. Some ways to get ahead: create a calendar system and input dates for all assignments and exams; start reading a week ahead of the class schedule; begin creating outlines or other organizational tools to use later for studying; connect and exchange contact info with people in your classes.
  3. Cope ahead for things you’re worried about: Stop and think about what specifically you’re worrying about in regards to being back at school. Is it struggling in that difficult math class you’re taking? Running into someone on campus who makes you uncomfortable? Missing friends or family from home? Once you pinpoint your worry, brainstorm ways you could cope with the situation. Even better, close your eyes and imagine yourself using your coping plan each time you start to worry about it.
  4. Change your thinking: Starting school can bring increased demands and stress. And, it also can be good to have structure and opportunities to feel productive and challenged. By focusing on how school relates to one of your values (e.g., achievement, knowledge, helping others), you may be able to shift your feelings about going back.

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