Can get personal with you for a moment?
During the first month that my son has been attending high school, I watched his (and my own) anxiety gradually escalate. He was pretty immediately exposed to the peer pressure of smoking pot in the boy's locker room, as well as shoplifting in CVS during lunchtime when students can leave the building. Yes, this totally reminded me of the Afterschool TV specials of my childhood with these exact themes. Not that my teen is partaking in these activities, but it's a lot of social pressure all at once. Now I understand the phrase: bigger kid, bigger issues.
Also, up until this year, he could bike to school through the relaxing and restorative urban nature of the giant park we live near. But now that he commutes via the subway to school in Manhattan, the amount of time he spends in nature has been drastically reduced. This means that rather than releasing physical and mental tension in the park, he's carrying so much in his body and mind all day. All this stress, anxiety, and tension affect his food choices, his sleep, his energy level, his attention span, his stomach, his skin, and his muscle tension. This seems like a lot of personal info, but I list them out because these are also very common and universal responses to anxiety.
As I watch this transition to high school and feel the tension rising within me, I know that as a parent (and an experienced yoga and meditation teacher) reducing the worry and anxiousness within myself first is the most helpful action I can take. When I am calmer, more stable, and more grounded, it's easier for me to listen to my son (rather than trying to fix everything) and spend time with him doing the things I know can help.
In case you are going thru a version of back-to-school anxiousness in your own home, here is a reminder of the tools you can use to refill your cup first:
Deep breathing. When we are anxious, we tend to hold our breath. Long, slow breathing through your nose into your belly, called diaphragmatic breathing, sends signals to the brain to relax.
Exercise, particularly yoga. Regular exercise, yoga specifically, has been shown to reduce anxiety. Among its many benefits, yoga helps decrease tension, fatigue, and anxiety while increasing energy and feelings of well-being.
Listen to relaxing meditation or music. We live in such a noisy world and our brains are constantly going. Meditation has been shown to stop the emotional hijacking that takes place in the brain when you are feeling anxious, so I make the effort for my own sanity.
Take a technology break. Being constantly “on” and checking your phone frequently can increase anxiety and feelings of disconnection. A solution is to regularly put your phone in a drawer or on airplane mode, take a break from social media scrolling, and make time instead for an activity you enjoy, like walking outside, meeting a friend, reading a good book, cuddling with your kids or your pet, or sipping a mug of tea. All these activities can be very restorative.
Here are some other habits that help decrease anxiousness:
Make healthy food choices.
Pay attention to the media and entertainment you consume.
Practice good sleep hygiene.
Trust yourself to know what you really need to refill your own cup of energy first whether it's less phone time, more sleep, healthier foods, time in nature, talking with a friend, having intimate time with yourself or your partner, exploring a career change, having fun with creative outlets, seeing a movie in the theater, or connecting with a new group of inspiring friends.
What inspired action you will take this week to refill your cup and actively address your own anxiety? Let me know in the comments below! We are all in this together.