And just like that, summer is over. This week, young people across the UK are returning to school, college, and sixth form. For some people, school is a happy escape or a chance to spend time with friends, while others might be feeling scared or anxious about the start of term.
In England, local authority maintained schools have to open for at least 190 days – that’s over half of your year! This means it’s important that school is good for your wellbeing as well as your learning.
We’ve got five back to school tips to help get your year off to the best start.
Talk about your worries
Most people have some worries about going back to school. Some worries might be about big things, like bullying or exams. Other worries might be more everyday, like getting lost or forgetting homework.
It can help to talk to someone you trust about the things that make you feel anxious or stressed. When other people are aware, they can help us solve problems and manage our feelings and worries.
If you find it hard to start the conversation, you could write something down and show it to someone (on paper, or through text or email).
Some people might not feel ready to talk to an adult they know, and that’s OK too. There are other ways to access support. You can always text NATTER to 85258 to text with a trained volunteer – it’s free and anonymous. If you prefer to text or message online, check out other sources of support on the Get help now page.
You might also find it helpful to think about the adults you can talk to at school. Different schools are set up differently, but it could be your form tutor, head of year or house, or a school counsellor. If you’re starting a new school, you might not know any adults yet – but you’ll soon find out about the support available.
Keep track of your mood
Tracking your mood is the second of our back to school tips because there are lots of benefits.
Being aware of your feelings can help you notice how different things affect your mood. For example, maybe spending time with certain friends or going to an after-school activity gives you a boost – so it’s worthwhile even when it feels like you can’t be bothered! You might also notice that certain things (like tricky lessons or group disagreements) often make you feel low. You can then chat to an adult and take steps to make things better.
Tracking your mood can also help you identify if tricky, unhelpful thoughts are making things feel more difficult.
For example, sometimes we can have negative expectations that feel certain (like thinking a maths lesson will be impossible) or imagine the worst case scenario (like having absolutely no friends or nice people in your class) without definite evidence. Getting stuck in the negative expectation can make us feel more sad or anxious. It can also affect our ability to get stuck in and try our best at lessons or making friends.
Some people love a traditional notebook and pen, but the Best For You app library has trustworthy, safe digital tools for journaling and mood tracking. Some of our favourite apps include MindShift CBT and Wysa.
Make a routine that works for you
Some parts of going back to school are out of your control. You probably can’t choose the teachers you have, the friends in your class, and the homework you’re given! It can be helpful to focus on what you can control to help your wellbeing, like these back to school tips.
Finding a routine that involves plenty of self-care isn’t a new idea: but it can make the transition back to school much easier.
You might want to start going to be a bit earlier so early mornings don’t feel like such a shock – especially if you’ve become practically nocturnal over the summer holidays! We’ve also got information on sleep to help you have a restful night.
Are you a morning person? Us neither! It might be less stressful to pack your bag, make your lunch, and make sure you have a clean outfit before you go to bed, so your morning gets off to a smooth start. You could also incorporate journaling, meditation, or mindfulness into your evening routine.
And we have to mention the homework. Different people prefer different strategies. You could try doing your homework as soon as you get home, or see if your school or a local youth organisation has a homework club to join. Check out our list of apps to help with productivity if your phone’s a constant distraction.
Try to find something to look forward to
You might have heard of the negativity bias – our brains are more likely to notice the negatives in a situation, and they’re more likely to get stuck thinking about the negatives as well. To counter this, it can help to be deliberate about recognising the good side of things.
Could you make a list of things you’re looking forward to this term? Maybe it’s weekend plans, new subjects, after school clubs, or trips. Some people find that identifying three positive things at the end of each day helps their brain find another perspective.
That isn’t to say that looking forward to things or ‘thinking positively’ can fix everything. If you’re struggling with anxiety or low mood, or experiencing something like bullying, it’s important to talk to someone you trust (that’s why talk about your worries was the first of our back to school tips!).
Set some goals
What would you like this academic year to be like? Alongside things you’re looking forward to, it can be helpful to set some goals for yourself.
The best goals are specific and achievable – this means that you decide what you’d like to achieve, and make a realistic plan for how you’ll do it!
Maybe you’d like to start a new club or activity, ask questions when you need to in class, make a new friend by reaching out to someone, or do more of your homework before the deadline!