How to Manage Back-to-School COVID Anxiety

25 Aug by HPA/LiveWell COVID 19, Clinical Psychology

How to manage back-to-school COVID anxiety is currently a concern for most parents of school-aged children. Returning to school after the summer months can be an anxiety inducing time regardless of a pandemic, however, in the aftermath of COVID-19, this year’s back-to-school anxiety may be considerably more intense than usual. Instead of worries focusing solely around academia or making friends, children will also have to deal with illness and germs, the possibility of making loved one’s sick, making mistakes with social-distancing rules, as well as missing out on formative childhood events such as dances and band concerts.

If you have a child returning to school in the aftermath of the COVID-19 lock-down, then we at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY can help to manage any back-to-school anxiety that they may be experiencing.

Mental Health During COVID-19

Different groups of people throughout the US are experiencing the COVID-19 lock-down very differently. One area of concern is the possible impact of the pandemic on individual’s mental health, in particular how this may be affecting certain groups more than others. Research has shown how mental-health has suffered in the past following disasters, including previous viral outbreaks; therefore, demonstrating that Coronavirus could potentially have a significant impact on the nation’s mental health, due to repeat exposure to atypical stressors. Furthermore, there has also been reduced access to necessary mental health services for individuals who may have been struggling with their mental health. How to manage back-to-school COVID anxiety has become a concern for many parents as their children prepare for the return to school, as this has been an unprecedented situation for all.

Coronavirus Anxiety

It’s not just concerns about how to manage back-to-school COVID anxiety which can affect mental health during the pandemic. Anxiety around COVID-19 can take an emotional toll on anyone, especially if an individual already has a pre-existing anxiety disorder. For many people, the uncertainty surrounding Coronavirus is the hardest to handle; we don’t fully understand how we’ll be impacted, how long it will last, or how bad things may become. This uncertainty makes it easy to spiral out of control with negative thinking. However, there are many things that you can do in order to manage your anxiety during the uncertainty of the pandemic:

  • Stay informed – but only using trustworthy sources such as the CDC and the World Health Organization.
  • Don’t obsessively check the news – constant monitoring of the news can turn into a compulsion and end up fueling anxiety rather than easing it.
  • Focus on the things that you can control – you may not be able to control the extent of the pandemic in the area in which you live, but you can take steps to control your own personal risk, such as; hand washing, avoiding touching your face, avoiding crowds, and keeping socially-distant when you are out in public.
  • Ground yourself – if you start to feel the ‘what if’s’ in your life spiraling out of control, then grounding yourself in the present moment can be helpful. Techniques such as mindfulness can help you to focus on the ‘here and now’ and reduce the symptoms of anxiety regarding the future.

Tips to Ease Back to School Anxiety

Although it is normal to feel a combination of excitement and anxiety before returning to school after the Summer break, this year, COVID-19 has added extra stressors for children and parents to deal with ahead of the return to school. Not only are parents concerned about how to manage back-to-school COVID anxiety, but children may worry about making themselves or their loved ones ill, as well as how their daily routines will be impacted as schools attempt to prevent the spread of the virus. The level of uncertainty, as well as the alterations to their daily routines may cause a child to experience a heightened level of back-to-school anxiety.

It may be helpful to understand how this form of anxiety may present itself in children in order to manage it effectively. Children show anxiety in different ways; therefore, a parent should be on the lookout for changes in their child’s behavior and moods, for example:

  • Increased irritability.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Sadness or crying.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Refusal to attend school.
  • Physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, or muscle ache.

If you find that your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, then they may have anxiety about returning to school. There are a number of techniques which parents can employ in order to ease their children’s anxiety:

  • Listen to them – validate their concerns and emotions. This lets them know that their concerns and emotions are understandable.
  • Help them focus on the things that are in their control – such as washing their hands, wearing a mask, and focusing on their school work.
  • Encourage them to participate in the things that they enjoy – reading, playing outside, or whatever they would typically enjoy doing.
  • Ensure that they are well rested, have a healthy diet, and are physically active.
  • Mentally prepare them in advance for the possible changes to their routines in school.
  • Whether they will be attending school in person, or virtually, ensure that they are eased back into a structured routine and sleep schedule.
  • Help them to adjust to the COVID-19 precautions, such as the mask, by practicing wearing it at home.

Finally, children are very sensitive to their environment. If they believe that their parents are worried, then they too are more likely to be so. Modelling the healthy activities described above will help when managing a child’s return to school. If you, or your child, need help with how to manage back-to-school COVID anxiety, then we at HPA/LiveWell can help to provide more tips on managing your mental health.

To find out more about caring for your mental health, or to learn about the mental health services provided at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY, contact us at 518-218-1188.