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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Heading Back to School: How to Prepare for the Complete Unknown

Are you standing in your kitchen, drinking your coffee, and wondering how to prepare for the uncertainty of your children going back to school during this crazy time? Believe me, you’re not alone. Last week my daughter, who is starting her freshman year in college (how did that happen?), received a huge packet of information on all of the changes and safety protocols required to live on campus and attend in-person/online classes. The new “normal”, right?

How are we expected to get our children ready for the future? How do we move forward, when most public schools are still unable to clearly inform parents, students, and teachers of their plan and how it will be executed? We know that students will return to school in September but what will it look like? A lot of what is to come is undetermined.

Why it’s so hard

These unprecedented times kind of feel like you’re in the process of buying a house. It’s a lot of waiting. With a third party negotiating and then relaying the terms for you to decide what feels comfortable moving forward. New information may arise and the status may change, but it’s always left up to you on how you proceed.

While we are waiting in the unknown, our minds can start to conjure up a variety of possibilities, and this can be damaging to our mental health. Waiting is extremely frustrating as it is, and when our safety is involved—and the safety of our loved ones—waiting can become anxiety-ridden. Before we had to deal with COVID-19, you may have worried about work, your children, your relationships, your health… Now we still have to manage those daily worries while constantly thinking about the distance we have between ourselves and another person. It is overwhelming.

How we can deal with it

We want to provide you with a few mindfulness tools in order to embrace the current changes and be more flexible in this situation, and any stressful situation that comes up in the future.

Remember to breathe. Our breath is one thing that we have complete control over. Tapping into your emotions, taking deep breaths, and connecting to your body allows your heart to slow down and brings you back to your center. It grounds you. When you’re self-aware and breathing through those overwhelming feelings, it can decrease your levels of stress.

Get moving. Physical activity helps reduce anxiety and depression. When you exercise, your body releases natural painkillers called endorphins, which are chemicals that reduce your perception of pain. Exercising and participating in activities that you truly enjoy will help take your mind off of the problem and help you focus on the positives.

Meditate. Don’t skip over this one. Meditation doesn’t mean sitting still for an hour trying to get your brain to shut down—it’s not even possible anyway! Meditation is in essence breathing. Calming your mind and body, and letting yourself relax. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes per day. Meditation will help manage those stressors, maybe get clarity on how to move through an issue, and can increase your patience in difficult situations.

Talk to someone. Whether that’s a close friend, family member, or mental health professional, talking with someone can help you view your situation from another perspective. Not only does talking support you in your current situation, but it can also prepare you for the unknown and the difficult daily struggles. Just like you schedule a dentist appointment or a trip to the store, scheduling a time to talk with someone is just as important for your overall health.

An end in sight…

Now, we aren’t sure when this pandemic will be over or when we can begin to start planning like “normal” again. There will be a new normal, a new way of life, and that’s okay. We can equip ourselves with the tools to be able to move through this in a healthy, mindful way. Some days might be more difficult than others, but remember, you are only in control of your actions and reactions.

In a week, I will be bringing my only child to college to start her freshman year. We travel there with all of our safety equipment and protocols in mind, yet wondering if she will be sent home once classes start due to an outbreak. She has worked so hard over the last several years to get to this place and I always imagined this event to be an exciting and celebratory experience. When it became clear that I will be very limited in my ability to help her move in and I have to leave the state within 24 hours of my arrival to avoid quarantine, I felt really disappointed, let down and angry about having to deal with this pandemic.

This is my example of how I need to accept that life is difficult right now. Plans will change at a moment's notice and the best we can do is to find a way to roll with the punches. Let yourself break free from negative thought patterns, and focus on the healing that is to come. Try practicing the tools above to relieve your stress and anxiety. We are always here to help.


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