Adults and children everywhere are in back-to-school mode! It’s an exciting and stressful time for many. Exciting because it means a fresh start, new teachers and friends, new books, new clothes and embarking on a new step in life. Stressful because it involves many changes in routine, decisions, and potential for success or failure. Whether you’re a parent, a college student, or trying to help a loved one through this normal but still challenging transition, follow these tips to have your best year yet and avoid burnout!
- Remember what works and what’s important, and put those at the top of your daily priority list. If you know that you need morning prayer time, having lunches packed the night before, getting enough sleep, or taking 5 minutes to sketch out tomorrow’s to-do list to stay sane, do it and don’t get distracted. Whatever distracts you can probably wait, and won’t help you to maintain balance.
- Limit outside or extracurricular commitments to a specific time or day – don’t let the temptations of every sports team tryout, play audition, volunteer opportunity, or happy hour take over your schedule. One extracurricular or volunteer activity per person in the household per week is usually plenty, and still allows you to do those things that you identified as “works and is important” (see #1).
- Keep overwhelm at bay by setting daily goals and encouraging children to do the same. For example, “I’m going to call to set up that appointment I’ve been putting off” or “I will complete my math drills before time runs out.” If possible, share goals as a family over breakfast or dinner, or while traveling to/from school or extracurricular events. Setting and achieving small goals builds motivation and confidence for moving toward long-term goals.
- Sketch out an approximate schedule for the week. Now that you probably know recurring obligations, classes, and extracurricular activities, sketch them all out (on paper or electronically) so you can see it all together. Don’t forget to include time for homework, and maintaining self, health, and home. Let this be your guide for making decisions on spontaneous or additional activities.
- Take time to listen and connect. Relationships often suffer when we get stressed or overwhelmed, but with a little effort they can fill us and keep us going. Make it a priority to truly connect with someone important to you each day – maybe it’s a phone call to a family member, pillow-talk with your spouse, 1:1 time with your child, or spending time in prayer.
- Don’t ignore problems that arise – act on them prudently, but quickly. If a teacher or professor doesn’t seem to be a good fit, schedule a conference to discuss concerns and see if the situation can be remedied before everyone gets too frustrated. If you or your child seem to be struggling, arrange tutoring, peer mediation, or counseling to help get back on track.