There is so much to do this time of year for parents and caregivers — trying to squeeze in those last bits of summer fun, shopping for school supplies and new clothes, signing up for fall sports, and getting kids back into the school routine.
And who can forget about all the other school to-do’s: parent forms, Back-to-School Night, and keeping track of all the emails? It’s no wonder many parents and caregivers report high levels of overwhelm during the back-to-school season.
To help manage, here are some ideas for things you can do to take care of yourself this time of year. Learning how to better manage feelings of stress is a gift that we can give ourselves, making us healthier and happier people and parents.
Sometimes, just creating a plan can help manage feelings of stress. Schedule some time each week to review school emails and complete to-dos. Hold this time sacred and don’t let yourself schedule over it. Start a couple of weeks before school starts and continue for the first couple of weeks of the term. Knowing you have time set aside can help you feel confident you will get things done.
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If you have a child starting kindergarten or beginning at a new school, it can help to connect with other parents who know the ropes. Invite a neighbor with older children for lunch to pick their brain or join your community’s Facebook group for parents.
Most schools also provide ways to get involved or learn more about the school. You could attend a PTO meeting, volunteer at the school, or go to a “coffee with the principal” event. The added benefit is that you learn more about your child’s school while also creating new social connections.
Take Care of Yourself
To be the best you, not just for family or children but for yourself, think about nurturing yourself. Getting enough sleep, drinking water, taking medications as prescribed, and eating healthy and enjoyable food are important components of physical health. Also, think about ways you can get regular exercise- it can be walking during your lunch break, going to a yoga class, riding your bike, or even a few minutes of gentle stretching in your living room.
Don’t forget about your emotional, mental, and spiritual health. Make a list of activities you enjoy and that recharge you. It might be having lunch with a good friend, a daily 5-minute meditation practice, or going to a church service or temple.
If you don’t know where to begin, just pick 1 or 2 things to start. Even small changes can have big impacts.
Building a gratitude practice into your routine can have powerful impacts on your mental health and relationships with others. You can reflect through daily journaling about things you are grateful for in your life.
Even just appreciating the small things in your day can strengthen your ability to notice the positives and develop more resilience to manage the harder things. Noticing the light traffic on your way to work or a beautiful tree you passed while walking into the store are mindful activities that center gratitude in your life.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Remember that you are human and are bound to miss things or drop balls. That’s okay, we all do. Next time you make a mistake, try practicing talking to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend or a beloved family member instead of mentally beating yourself up. This can start to change how you feel about yourself and handle setbacks.
An added benefit is that your children and others will see the difference. Having grace for yourself, being flexible, and problem-solving will support your overall well-being AND model it for others.
In closing, remember that like with most things, this too shall pass. You and your family will settle into the new school year and routines. The back-to-school to-do list will shrink and the newness will fade. Even just reflecting on that, can help get you there.