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Back to School Bliss: Five Ways to Find Your Zen in the Back to School Hustle

Ahhhhh…back to school.  The time of year when parents jump for joy and kids groan in despair.  Adults finally get control of their days between the hours of nine and three, and kids get to spend the day with their friends learning. And nearly everyone is dealing with some back to school stress.

Mixed Emotions Over Back to School Stress

Back to school is a time of mixed emotions at our house.  I would be happy to have slow starts to every morning. I love sleeping in, having time to sit with my coffee and leisurely make breakfast.

Going back to school means getting up earlier, making lunches and lots of driving.  However, it also means I get some time to myself.

One of the perks of being a gardener is that my son gets to be my helper on most days.  We inevitably end up spending a lot of time together. We deal with it well, and both tend to do our own things.

I love the summer for this reason. I get to spend a lot of time with him and see him grow and change in a way that’s not possible during the hustle of the school year.

I love spending time with him and watching him grow up.

At the beginning of each summer, we get reacquainted. Our days in the garden together allow us quality time to really get to know and appreciate each other.  By the end of the summer, I send a different boy off to school.

It’s a catch 22 really.  I get more free time and less pressure to keep him busy, but less time to laugh with my little guy and savor him as a kid.

Whatever your feelings are around sending your kids off to school, here are a few tips on dealing with back to school stress that will make your family's transition a little smoother.

Back to School Bliss Tip One:

Start a routine with your kids before school starts.

For most families, summer is all about sleeping in and loose schedules.  When school days come back around, the habit of earlier bedtimes and getting plenty of sleep can be challenging to say the least.  Add the back to school excitement that most kids experience and you have one exhausted family.

Begin your routine a few weeks early.  Most importantly, start bedtime five to ten minutes earlier every other night or so until you hit your desired bedtime. Having a good night's sleep is key to combating back to school stress and anxiety.

Set up a breakfast out or morning appointment as practice.  Making a habit of regular bedtimes and morning routines will make it a breeze when you actually begin school.

Back to School Bliss Tip Two:

Create your ideal schedule and add ritual to the mundane.

We all know the things that we have to do.  We have to get our kids to school. We have to do the laundry.  We have to figure out how to feed ourselves.

But what about the things that you want to do?  Taking that yoga class, going for your daily walk, meeting friends for coffee or better yet cocktails?  Sit down and write a list of all of your obligations and your new school schedule, then add in the things you really want in life.

Cheryl wrote a great article about how to identify your life priorities to create goals along with a free downloadable worksheet if you need some help with this task.

After you’ve identified some nonnegotiable activities, set up a mock schedule of how it might work on a weekly or monthly basis.  Then schedule it for real and actually do it! It’s that easy.

We can all think of a million reasons we can’t fit self-care into our schedule, but it’s really as simple as sticking to it.  Start with just one 30 minute walk with a friend or yoga class a week if you find this challenging. Sticking to a set schedule does wonders for combating back to school stress.

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Self-care should not be a reward, it needs to be a priority. Taking care of yourself equals a happier, healthier you and a happier, healthier family as a result.  Make it a priority!

Find ways to make the mundane tasks that you have to do more enjoyable.  Listen to an audiobook or podcast while doing laundry or going to pick up your kids.  Choose some for alone time and also some to share with your kids. Create atmosphere by lighting candles (this one smells amazing!)  and fresh cut flowers to your office before paying bills.  Treat yourself to a cup of tea everytime you sit down to do something that’s not your favorite.

Create new rituals for the mundane to make something like driving all over town as lovely as possible.

Back to School Bliss Tip Three:

Make your own convenience food for easy healthy meals.

We’ve all been there right?  After a full day of work and school the last thing you want to do is make dinner, so you end up compromising with takeout.

Stock your freezer!  Double one of your favorite meals and freeze half for later.  Take a few hours of a weekend and make some meals to freeze.

Soups and stews are perfect for this, but the same goes for brown rice and roasted vegetables (obviously skip the rice if you're eating low carb).  Add a fresh side and you're good to go.

The same goes for snacks and school lunches.  I always have whole grain muffins or homemade granola bars stashed in the freezer for lunches and after-school snacks.  Things like edamame and frozen smoothies are perfect to have on hand in the freezer and add to lunch boxes.

Having meals prepared makes you less likely to succumb to back to school stress by eating things that ultimately don't make you feel good.

Back to School Bliss Tip Four:

Start building your immunity.

Every year, we end up struggling with the inevitable cold or virus within the first few weeks of school. Stress affects your immune system, and back to school stress, in particular, is a big culprit here.  Start building a healthy immune system now by getting lots of rest, water, plenty of sleep and eating as healthy as possible.

Sneak leafy greens into smoothies or blend spinach and fruit to yogurt, then freeze as popsicles.  Start with a good probiotic and eat plenty of fermented foods. Our family loves these Smarty Pants pre and probiotics, and in fact, my husband usually ends up eating most of them.  🙂

Getting a steady dose of Vitamin D is also huge for maintaining a healthy immune system.  My son has tried many, but the Honest Company brand is his current favorite. Plus there’s the benefit of getting calcium along with it.

If you visit a chiropractor, schedule an appointment prior to school starting.  I find it always helps our bodies to run more smoothly and keeps our immune systems functioning well.  I also plan on checking in with ours a week or so after school begins. We have won many battles with ear infections thanks to a chiropractic adjustment.

More valuable than any supplement or chiropractic adjustments, is talking to your kids about the importance of healthy eating and taking care of your body. How amazing is it to be able to go to a store only a few miles away in most cases and buy an amazing plethora of fruit and vegetables.

Not everyone in the world has this privilege.  It is so important to not take it for granted and to teach our kids the same.  Plus, we get to have healthy bodies and immune systems as a result!

Back to School Bliss Tip Five:

Be present and enjoy the last moments of summer.

It is so easy to jump back into planning mode.  Back to school lists have appeared in our inbox, resulting in back to school stress. Schedules are changing and summer is dwindling.  But none of that is happening right now.

Right now you are enjoying time reading.  Right now it IS summer. You get to have an open schedule and time to enjoy your kids as they are right in this moment.  All of that other stuff will still be there, waiting for you, welcoming you to jump ahead and fret if you like.

But you don’t have to. Yet. Enjoy what’s left of summer while you have the chance.

Plan, of course, prepare and be ready.  But be present in each and every moment and enjoy what life has to offer you right now.  Make those last trips before school, be spontaneous, surprise each other. Drop everything and walk to the coffee shop or go to the park.  Go camping or do an overnight hotel stay on a weekday.

Enjoy these moments when there is no school to miss, schedules to change and good weather to be had.  Be present and enjoy it!

Although they’ll never admit it, kids love structure and routine and tend to thrive when both are present.  The key is to achieve these things subtly. Keep your back to school plan flexible and remember to do what works for you.  You know your family best, but don’t be afraid to stretch out a little.

Now go get a cup of tea, light a candle and enjoy the process of creating your ideal zen school year.