September 12, 2019
Overcoming First Day Jitters
“EVERYTHING is PEACHY KEEN” sketchSource: Peachy Keen | Penelope Peru Photography
School’s back in session, rapidly reversing summer’s recession of classroom blues.
Whether you’re the new kid or a seasoned pupil amongst the hustle and bustle of peers hurrying through the hallways during the first week, you’re not alone in your first day jitters. 50.8 million students will be at the hands of 3.2 million teachers in public schools across America, the National Center for Education Statistics reports.
More often than not, first day jitters don’t arise from having school cut into the hours that could’ve been spent on the cushy comfort of your couch, carousing internet memes.
School can have a significant impact on mental health, particularly among high schoolers, due to both academic and peer pressures.
School’s Impact on Mental Health in Youth
The academic environment and exams are two leading causes of stress among high schoolers, according to research published in the Journal of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy last year.
Other school-related stressors include homework, extracurricular activities, competition among classmates, and academic overload. Trouble at home, the ever changing nature of a high schooler’s life, and distress over body image also contribute to rising rates of anxiety and depression among teenagers.
Mental Health America (MHA) reports that nearly 33 percent of those between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
12.8 percent of 12 to 17 year olds in the United States have already had experienced a major depressive episode within the last year, and 11 percent of those between the age of two to 17 currently have at least one emotional, behavioral, or developmental condition.
Recognizing School-Stressors in Your Loved Ones
In order to help your loved ones properly cope with school-related stressors, it’s imperative to first identify signs of how their education may be taking a toll on their mental health.
Signs of school-related stressors include:
- Avoiding school or experiencing extreme distress as they leave for class each morning.
- Avoiding discussing school.
- Displaying “textbook” signs of depression or anxiety.
- Significant disruptions in sleep patterns.
- A sudden increase in physical complaints, such as frequent headaches, fatigue, nausea, and overall lethargy.
- A sudden and significant decrease in academic performance.
Helping Loved Ones Cope with School-Stressors
- Offer love and support when possible. If your loved one is pulling an all-nighter to study, stay up alongside them.
- Encourage healthy habits. Alternatively, encourage your loved one to step away from the books and hit the hay. A good night’s sleep and a nutritional diet are imperative to academic success and relieving emotional distress.
- Stress the importance of destressing. They could use a break every once in awhile – but let’s not confuse a much needed break with procrastination, which could lead to more harm than help.
Overcoming First Day Jitters and School Anxiety
Remember, it’s only the first day. It’s perfectly normal to forget where your classes are, your teacher’s name, course material from last year, or to have accidentally left some of your school supplies at home.
Take it All In
Give yourself a moment to step back and take it all in: summer break is over and now marks your 180-day journey as a student with new classes, teachers, and peers.
Chin Up, Buttercup
Not all is doom and gloom simply because class is back in session. In fact, there’s a lot that’s pretty cool about school: it provides structure and routine, encourages you to mingle with peers your own age, and nourishes your brain.
On the brightside, at least it’s only for 180 days for about a dozen years, right?
Try to Meet Someone New
New school-year, new school-friends. Although it’s easy to gravitate towards classmates you’ve known for years, step outside and meet someone new.
After all, you’ve already got solid, mutual talking points to break the ice on your first day, such as:
- How was your summer break? What have you been up to over the last three months?
- What’s your class schedule like? Are there any subjects you’re excited about?
- Who are your teachers?
However, in your pursuits as a social butterfly, lest not forget the age-old saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.”
Confide in Someone You Trust
Whether it’s a parent, sibling, best friend, a pet, or a diary, let your feelings roll right off the tongue (or off of your pen/pencil). Emotional repression can have profound negative effects on your physical health and wellbeing, states research published in the International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research.
Healthy emotional regulation enables individuals to better adapt to their circumstances and cope with their feelings, which begins with processing your thoughts and emotions in order to identify and effectively communicate them to others.
Seek Additional Help
In some cases, confiding in someone you trust simply isn’t enough. Counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and psychotherapy provide individuals a safe-space to workout their emotions with an unbiased and experienced professional.
Seeking additional help through your school counselor or a local, licensed therapist fosters better mental health and can relieve some of the emotional pressures associated with being a student.
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