Back to school time is always stressful. In 2020, however, things have been kicked up a notch. Whether you’re a student, a parent, or a teacher, the safe reopening of schools is a very touchy subject right now. It’s enough to cause even those without social anxiety to feel the stress of the situation, so for those who are trying to manage their anxiety on top of everything else, it might seem like a terrible nightmare.
As difficult as the situation is, it is possible to get through it while (mostly) keeping your social anxiety in check. If you’re struggling, here are a few things to keep in mind so that you can come out the other side largely unscathed.
Acknowledge Your Stress
Not all stress is created equal, but all types of stress can trigger social anxiety. One way to address the effects of back-to-school stress during the COVID pandemic is to stop and consider the actual causes of your stress. Some of this stress will be productive, in that it involves ways to stay safe and keep others safe. Other forms of stress won’t be so productive, as they’re based on fear or mounting anxiety instead of concrete stressors that can be acted upon. As difficult as it may sound, stopping to analyze your stress and focusing only on those stressors that are actionable can help a lot with controlling your anxiety.
Consider All Available Options
In-person schooling. Homeschooling. Non-traditional instruction or NTI. Distance learning. Depending on where you live and what schools are involved, you or your children may have a number of options available when it comes to the new school year. Many schools even offer the option to switch between different instruction types during the school year. If this is a decision that you’re facing, don’t overthink it; stop, look at all of the options that are available, and weigh the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision… even if it may seem like the “least bad” decision at the moment.
Maintain Safe Social Connections
Positive social connections can be a good way to keep social anxiety in check, but those can be hard to come by in the middle of a pandemic. Still, try to stay in touch with those who are closest to you and who have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing. Send emails, keep texting, schedule weekly video chats, or otherwise reach out. To better strengthen these social bonds, encourage your connections to reach out to you if you go too long without establishing contact, as well.
Care for Your Mental Health
Your doctor, counselor, or any other mental health professionals that you see will be there for you if you need them. Remember that. There’s no shame in scheduling an appointment or remote visit if things are difficult, especially if your anxiety is becoming overwhelming. They may have new coping techniques for you to try, or they may suggest changes to any medications you’re on to ensure that you can cope with all of the additional challenges that you’re facing. They’re there to help, and they’re waiting to hear from you if you need them.
Look to the Future
As difficult as things are, remind yourself that things won’t always be this way. Whether things get back to the way they once were or we all settle down into a new normal, there will come a day when you won’t be feeling all of the stresses that you’re burdened with at the moment. Things are hard, and this is one of the most trying back-to-school seasons in a lifetime, but it will get better with time. Remember that.
Is back-to-school stress triggering your social anxiety? What are you doing to help yourself and your family cope?