Managing Fall Stress
Our therapists provide tips for managing the adjustment from summer to fall.
For many of us, the inevitable change from a relaxed summer schedule brings a host of challenges. From adjusting to new school schedules and managing disruptions to our routines, to the realization that the seasonal change is upon us; the fall months bring with them a myriad of opportunities to manage change.
Here are a few tips and reminders from our team about how to weather September and beyond:
Normalize Change. Remind yourself (and your family) that this is normal. It's normal for kids (and parents) to be stressed out about the start of school. If children are in a new school, it presents additional challenges of 'learning the ropes'. Give yourselves a break and remind everyone about your family's resilience and that the seasonal change is just that, a change or transition -- and you will all soon adjust.
Prepare for Change. Preparing children about the upcoming changes through regular discussion or things posted around the house can help normalize change and calm anxious nerves. Wherever possible, consider adding in large amounts of change in stages. Families can talk about the upcoming changes in advance so that you can plan together and help each other when one of them is struggling in the moment with a particular change. Make change a frequent topic of discussion in the family; maybe around the dinner table. The more that the changes are talked about and normalized, the smoother transitions can be for everyone.
Keep Playing. The days may be getting shorter, but the games don’t have to stop! Keep your summertime rituals around by bringing them indoors. From hide and seek, make believe, and board games, to staying creative and using tech alternatives. Find fun indoor locations like MECCA or the Science Factory in Eugene, or the indoor pool at the the Osborn Aquatic Center in Corvallis. Even if your time is limited, your kids will never forget how they felt when you were able to spend some quality time in their world.
Keep it Organized. Have a family meeting where each person talks about their schedule, goals, and limitations. Bring a calendar and map out the first month's schedule. This may help clarify expectations and build a successful routine. Try to get into a regular morning and evening/bedtime routine. Getting enough sleep should also be a priority to help manage the extra demands fall can bring. To the extent possible, have things ready and packed the night before to minimize the last minute rush in the morning. Make sure you eat healthy and start the day off right with breakfast, even if it's quick like a granola bar, hard-boiled egg or a piece of fruit. Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed so you can write down last minute reminders so they don't stay in your mind and prevent you from a good night's sleep.
Manage the Meltdowns. Keep in mind that transitional stress is often temporary -- take a breathe. If your child is having a tantrum or meltdown, know that it's his way of learning to self-regulate. Self-regulation takes place in the frontal lobe of the brain which isn't fully developed until about the age 25! So it's important to let your child learn how to do this. Let your child have his fit because eventually it will pass. It's also important to keep your cool during this time. Be mindful of not over-engaging while she gets through it (making sure the child is out of harm's way). Yelling or even talking to your child during a tantrum is likely to be ineffective because chances are she is past the point of listening/reasoning. If that feels too difficult and you want to assure your child you are with her, you could say something like, "I see you are really upset, once you're ready to talk to me in a calm voice, I'll be ready and happy to listen." If it feels right for your child, sometimes a quiet hug can do wonders.
Make Time for the Adults. Don't forget to model self-sufficiency by planning and taking time for yourself; whether alone, with your partner or with other adults. During their airplane safety presentation, flight attendants recommend 'putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others'. This is a great metaphor to remind us to take care of ourselves during transitions too. Even a brief walk around the block can do wonders to help ground you, clear your mind and help you manage the transitional stress of seasonal change.
When in doubt, practicing self-awareness, acceptance and self-compassion are great ways to recognize and cope with transitional stress while steering clear of undue judgment.
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