It’s almost time for school to begin again! If you’re a pre-teen, teen, college-student, or a friend/family member of one, you are aware of this transition. After a couple months of slower schedule (or a couple months of being just as busy, but in a different way from your school schedule), it’s back to structured days in the classroom, homework, and extracurricular activities.
Some of you may approach the start of school with a renewed sense of commitment and determination. However, most of you likely have at least a small part that is nervous, uncertain, or otherwise hesitant about the upcoming year and its unknown elements. You may be returning to a school with familiar teachers, students, and buildings; or you may be transitioning to a new school environment and unsure about everything from the school itself to the people inside.
Transitions can feel overwhelming. It can be easy to get caught up in worries about what is going to happen: How will this school year be similar to or different from last year? Will any of your friends be in your classes? What clubs or sports will you join? Will you have the same lunch as your friends? What if you don’t like your teachers — or they don’t seem to like you? The list goes on.
There are probably some concrete tasks you’re doing as you prepare for the school year: Buying new school supplies, checking your class schedule, starting to adjust your sleep routines. These tasks will help you feel more prepared.
Amidst all of this preparation, it’s important to take time for your mental and emotional health as well.
You will feel best and do your best, when you are calm, centered, and connected. This state helps you make thoughtful decisions, choose your actions and words, and be intentional about beginning the school year.
One way to help yourself build this sense of calm and connection is to practice mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is a core piece of many therapy approaches, including DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Mindfulness helps us stay in the present moment without worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and one simple way is to focus on your breathing. When you are fully focused on breathing – noticing how it feels to breath in, and then breath out again – you are connected to what’s happening in the present.
Try this exercise to practice mindful breathing:
Watch the graphic below and try to time your breathing up with the moving shape.
As you watch and breathe, notice how the breath feels in your chest. Become aware of how the air feels as it enters and leaves your body. Is it warm or cold? Muggy or crisp? Take a few more breaths. Try to breathe a little bit deeper. As you do, notice if any parts of your body are tight or holding stress. If you find a tight space, use the next few breaths to bring a softness to those areas. Breath in. Breath out. Notice how your breathing feels different from when you started.
Just as you practiced focusing on the breath in this moment, you can use this mindfulness strategy again at any time! Your breath is always with you!
Even if you walk into the wrong classroom, you can return to your breath.
Even if you can’t find a place to sit at lunch, you can return to your breath.
Even if you forgot your homework at home (or forgot to complete it!), you can return to your breath.
Contact us today if you want to learn more strategies to feel calm, centered, and connected even when life is filled with transitions and change. We offer office-based therapy and equine-assisted therapy services (with our horses!) to help people develop new skills and change their lives!