When August comes around, we know school is about to start. Before the pandemic, parents just worried about the school list, clothes, transportation and lunch, just to name a few things. Now, there are added unknowns. We do not know for sure how school, activities and our lives in general will be impacted by Covid-19 as we head into the fall.
I am hoping to continue planning toward teaching my morning class in person and that my son can continue going to school in person, but I know the reality is that things can change quickly with a pandemic. Things may be different by the time this article prints. I need to prepare for a backup plan and be mentally prepared to handle any sudden changes. As many of us know, even if you try to be prepared, sudden change can still be hard.
Sometimes one major event or an accumulation of little events can make it hard to avoid triggering stress and anxiety. There are some things we can stop to think about to help avoid added stress. Here are some suggestions found in the Mental Health America Back to School Toolkit, mhanational.org/back-school.
Acknowledge productive versus unproductive worries. Some worries are productive to think about, like what you’ll do if your child comes home sick. Other worries don’t have any answers, like how long will we have to live like this. When a worry pops into your head, figure out if it’s something you can plan for or if nothing can be done. If you can make a plan, do it! If not, remind yourself that thinking about it won’t change anything.
Focus on what you can control. People like predictability. During such an uncertain time, controlling what you’re able to likely will give you an added sense of security. Make a schedule for yourself that includes time for things you enjoy (and stick to it). Plan ahead for anything that feels overwhelming — deciding on weeknight dinners during the weekend can take some of your mental burden away from the following week. Think about other things you can do to increase your feelings of safety during this time.
Take a break from the news and social media. While it’s important to stay up to date on the news, a lot of media coverage related to school reopening is the same thing over and over. Social media can be riddled with false information, worst-case scenario stories, and heated arguments that go nowhere. Save yourself the added stress by limiting your overall consumption or tuning out once in a while.
Do what is best for you and your family. Deciding what to do in terms of schooling right now can be difficult. When weighing choices, think about both your family’s needs and situation as well as your comfort level with what your school is doing to reduce the spread of Covid-19. Every student and family is different, so do what works best for you — no apologies necessary.
It is important we take care of ourselves. It is not being selfish. It just means to include ourselves too when caring for others. That way we are at our best for others and ourselves. It’s important to remember that each person’s best will vary because we all have different lives impacted by the environment and the circumstances we live in. Something we can all do to help is keep an open mind and choose to be kind.
Reina Hasting is a coordinator with Extension’s Family Nutrition Program, which is administered by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at email@example.com or 907-474-2437.