With only a week until schools re-open, how are you feeling about it?
The last year has been such a rollercoaster that you’d think we’d be used to uncertainty by now, but that’s not always how it works. Even if you’ve been desperately looking forward to an end to home-schooling, change of any kind can be unsettling.
Worry often sneaks up on us in the middle of the night. We might fall asleep OK, but wake up in the early hours, thoughts churning.
So what can you do this week to ease back-to-school worries?
Firstly, transition the household back into the school routine now.
Over the next few days, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier, until you hit school wake up time, and try and stick with it at the weekend. This is especially important for teenagers, who are natural night owls. If you, or they, are struggling to get going in the morning, get plenty of bright light, eat some breakfast and go for a short walk; light, food and movement all send a wake up call to the brain.
Secondly, get your worries out in the open, but not right before bed
The process of writing down what is worrying you can be therapeutic. Set aside 20 minutes in the afternoon or early evening to brainstorm what’s been keeping you awake. You can try this with older kids too. If it’s in your control, then make an action plan to do something to address it – so for example, if you’ve lost track of the school uniform, great, that’s something you can resolve. If it’s not in your control, acknowledge the worry, but let it go. Try to avoid conversations about worries before bed – instead, focus on what made you happy that day, or things you’re looking forward to in the future.
Thirdly, if you’re a bit stressed, winding down before you get into bed becomes even more important
Research shows that kids who have a set bedtime routine, when you do the same things in the same order – such as bath, book, cuddle, lights out - tend to have more and better quality sleep than those without a set routine. Predictability and familiarity will help to calm the anxious mind, and improve your readiness for sleep. This works for adults, as well as their kids!
Five finger breathing exercise
If you would like a shortcut to easing worries when you’re getting into bed, the 5 finger breathing technique is a great way to slow the breathe, calm the heart rate, and focus the mind using gentle touch.
During the exercise, focus on breathing in through the nose, as if you’re smelling a beautiful rose, and sighing out through the mouth.
Spread out the fingers of 1 hand like a starfish.
Take the index finger of the other hand, and rest it at the base of the thumb. As you trace up towards the tip of the thumb, breathe in, pause as you round the top, and then breathe out slowly as you trace to the base of the finger.
Take another deep breathe in through the nose as you slide up, pause, and breathe all the way out as you slide down.
Breathe in, pause, and breathe all the way out.
Breathe in, and out.
And notice how much calmer you feel.