Introduction: The Back-to-School Jitters
Back to school tends to be bittersweet for a lot of families. As the warm summer memories fade, preparing for new routines and more planned events come to the forefront. With the fall upon us, students, parents, and teachers often can experience a heightened state of nervousness and anxious anticipation. For the 2022 school year, this underlying tension can be especially strong.
Prior to the past few years, most of the back-to-school jitters were the result of transitioning from the relaxed days of summer and into more structure. Children and parents alike contemplated the potential adjustment snags that could result from a less flexible schedule, peer group shifts, navigating a new environment, and the increasing demands of academic expectations.
Today, the increased challenges that weigh heavily on both children’s and adults’ minds are way more intense then what was concerning in the past.
In this article, I’m going to discuss:
- the extreme burdens that the 2022 school year bring
- the consequences of unrelenting stress
- what we can do to effectively cope
- provide my first naturopathic toolkit resource for helping kids and parents handle these trying times
The Extreme Stressors of the 2022 School Year
As stated in an article in Psychology Today, the pressures of back to school in the past few years have introduced many new challenges.
In 2021, schools and families struggled with:
- absences and gaps in learning
- re-entry fears
- lapses in social-emotional skill strengthening
- acclimating to new safety protocols
- pressing issues, such as the children’s mental health crisis
In 2022, even more difficulties have emerged. These include:
- lingering unknowns (from the previous years)
- critical teacher shortages
- the aftermath protocols and “new norms”
- rising costs due to inflation
- other fears such as school safety protocols
Thankfully, one major trepidation of last year was set to ease and isn’t expected to carry-over into this year. Recently, the federal government stated it is determined to keep schools open.
According to a press release by the White House, “every school in America has the tools it needs to minimize the spread … , to open safely, to stay open all year long, and to ensure that students are back in the classroom full-time.”
Although this may lighten one’s mood a bit, recent survey results suggest that parents may need to find more ways to support themselves and their kids. The good advice of planning ahead, checking-in with the school’s new protocols, and keeping communication open with children is helpful, but it may not go far enough.
What Are Parents Really Worried About in the 2022 School Year?
According to a survey of 1,000 parents, parents continue to have plenty of worries as world events keep piling on. The results stated that finances and safety were the biggest players straining parents’ minds in 2022. According to MSN:
- (only) 17% of parents said they could afford childcare if their child were sick. 14% of parents would send their child to school even with mild … symptoms.
- Parents’ top concerns heading into this school year are school shootings (58%), the current world events (54%), and teacher staffing (38%).
- 44% of parents have either already purchased a bulletproof backpack or are considering purchasing one for their child.
- Fewer than 1 in 3 parents (32%) think their child’s school has adequate security.
Add on top of these:
- the growing awareness of the potential detrimental impact of social media and cyberbullying
- loss of loved ones
- heightened peer pressure
- handling “hot button issues” (such as racism, stigma, health inequalities, and social determinants of health)
- the growing mental health crisis…
… and it appears to be almost too much stress to cope with.
The Consequences of Unrelenting Stress Fusing into the 2022 School Year
Long-term chronic stress has many physical, emotional, and mental health repercussions. For our children, the burden of this impact may be even greater, as their brains are still developing. This means they lack the experience and the neural wiring that adults have to deal with such big issues.
This is likely the major reason why, on October 19, 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) declared a national state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health. They called on policymakers to join them in addressing this urgent matter.
In the spring of 2022, the federal government followed suit with its declaration of an official mental health crisis. There was also a national plan issued with steps to be taken to expand mental health services for all Americans.
Was it enough?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), approximately 20 million youth in America are diagnosed with a mental health disorder and many more are at risk due to biology, genetics, environmental exposures, and socioeconomics. The APA states:
There is a great need for mental health professionals to provide the best available culturally appropriate care based on scientific evidence, good clinical expertise, and the unique characteristics of the child.
What One Thing We Need to Realize Right Now About These Trying Times
Before we go into what we can do about this mental health crisis and coping with all these burdens, it’s important to realize something very important.
It is stated that to experience growth and resiliency from traumas, people need social support and social interaction.
Yet, at this time, when we need each other the most, many of us are divided over political and healthcare beliefs.
Our society seems to have not paused to contemplate about how our strong ideals and beliefs on how others should behave are severely, negatively impacting our next generation, and ourselves…
We need to realize that by closing our minds and hearts to those who think differently, we are shutting our children off from others, decreasing their critical thinking skills, narrowing their social support systems, and eliminating potential new experiences.
What we really need is to support each other, parents, children, teachers, administrators. We also need to be given additional tools to manage navigating this world.
What Can We Do to Effectively Cope with Stress and Anxiety this Year?
1. On the Individual Level
We can’t heal the world or make others more tolerant and caring, but we can take action and be accountable for our own decisions, actions, and how we interact with our families and others. This means that we can offer support, exemplify being open-minded, and allow ourselves to be supported.
2. Nationwide and Globally
The federal response for more access to mental health care is important, but we can’t just increase access that is not personalized and solely based on a one-size-fits-every-brain protocol.
We are in desperate need for more integrative mental health care.
It is time that conventional care welcomes naturopathic doctors and functional medicine providers into their treatment plans to help with the demand for holistic mental health care.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) offer a personalized and natural approach that can be effectively combined with allopathic care to provide integrative mind-body support. Not only do NDs support mood at the biochemical level, but we also look for the root cause of the issue on the physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and emotional levels. Functional medicine further compliments this approach by assessing and addressing all brain health factors implicated.
One cannot separate brain health from body health. This has been shown in several studies where the naturopathic medicine (NM) approach has been found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of mood disorders.
This is why I feel naturopathic doctors (NDs) and functional medicine practitioners can fill a major gap in addressing society’s overall state of wellbeing as mental health is being confronted nationally.
(To get a better idea of how naturopathic doctors are educated, and their in-depth knowledge of holistic and mind-body health, you can now access my article review of the 2021 Annual Association for Naturopathic Physician’s conference on NDNR.)
Resources for Incorporating a Holistic Perspective into Mental and Emotional Healthcare in 2022
Now that we have an overview of what we are up against in 2022 and a broader picture of what needs to be done, it’s time to turn to strategies for helping us to cope better.
In this article, and future posts, my goal is to provide you with resources from conventional mental health expert sites and from my own and others’ integrative mind-body perspectives. Subjects will span from dealing with the current mental health environment to handling typical back-to-school brain health issues.
It is my hope that you will want to bookmark these pages and come back to them as needed.
A Peek at the Naturopathic Toolkit for Helping to Balance Stress and Emotions Around Current Events
The first resource I will provide, as a sneak peek of what is to come, is this short 11-minute video.
It summarizes my favorite naturopathic medicine (NM) tips for mitigating the negative physical and emotional ramifications from the excessive stressors of recent events.
Modalities discussed include:
- Essential oils
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Deep breathing
It may be wise to incorporate some of these as school preparation begins.
Intervening early could help to break some of the negative repercussions that can result from these extreme stressors.
In an upcoming article, I will build upon “An Integrative Resource Guide to Beating the Back-to-School Stressors and Anxious Jitters of 2022.”
Summary: An Integrative Resource Guide to Beating the Back-to-School Stressors and Anxious Jitters of 2022
We are being bombarded by an overwhelming number of stressors. Children and parents have many more pertinent concerns than in the past due to current world events, the economy, and changing technology.
In this article, I reviewed the extreme pressures our society is under and the ramifications. I explained why we need to support each other during these trying times. I also highlighted how we would greatly benefit from additional supportive mind-body approaches, integrated with conventional mental health treatments, to better combat the mental health crisis we are facing. Finally, I provided a glimpse into my natural medicine toolkit for balancing the mind-body.
In an upcoming article, I will provide more resources for your “Integrative Resource Guide to Beating the Back-to-School Stressors and Anxious Jitters of 2022.”
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on this topic below.
As mentioned, we all can gain from supporting each other.
Free resources and more education on essential oils and mind-body wellness are available to you here.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, please seek professional help: National Mental Health Hotline
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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.