School can be shit: how to cope when a new term endangers your mental health
There can be a whole tonne of really good things about school, but it can also be really tough for a whole variety of people. Everyone seems to say that your teenage years are the best years of your life, but my opinion? That saying is utter bullshit. And not only because it's not always true. It makes your future life seem pointless and a thing of never-ending misery. I spent a lot of time in my teenage years asking myself just how awful adult life could be if I was currently in my 'prime of happiness'. The truth is that my adult life isn't awful. It's rocky, I have a tonne of responsibilities, but I have a far better time than I did as a teen.
Despite enjoying the academic side of school a lot, I really found the social and physical side of it to be a massive strain on my mental health. When I say physical here I don't mean having to do PE (although that was a challenge too), but more bringing myself to actually go into school every day was something I genuinely found hard. There were some really horrible periods, where getting through one single day seemed like an impossible challenge. So just know that if you feel like each day is unbearable you are not alone. I even remember going through a phase of ticking off each day three times on my calendar to motivate myself to get through it: I would tick the calendar for waking up, tick it for going through the school day and tick it before bed. That way I could count down the days until it was the weekend or a school holiday in a much more intense way.
This may seem 'crazy', but that's because we've all been taught that your expression of mental health problems makes you crazy, when in fact the very word exists to simply divide people from each other. I hate using the word, as it has so many negative connotations. So yes, my behaviour was erratic, upsetting and hard to understand at this time, but it was never crazy. 'Crazy' is just a construct.
Going back to school after a break, especially after the Christmas holidays, can be really hard. And a lot of people don't understand how or why. It's often perceived as laziness: just because you struggle to get out of bed early in the morning to get to school does not mean you're lazy. This kind of prejudice against how you feel when you return to school makes it so much harder for you to accept that what you're doing is brave and tough and it's okay to feel as though it's all a little too overwhelming.
I'm not saying I know what any of you are going through, but if you are struggling with the first week back at school, or with the idea of getting through a whole seven weeks before having a real break, then just know that you're not alone. The fact that other people struggle with it too does not however lessen your struggle.
I've thought of a few tips that either really helped me when I was at school, or I wish I knew back when I was there that could have helped me to cope with school when I was having a rubbish time with my mental health:
1.) Find yourself a 'comfort blanket' item. This one is a bit of a double-edged sword, but is something I find so helpful. Pop something small that helps you to feel calm in your blazer or backpack that you can pull out when you're alone and feeling anxious. I was kindly given an Irish worry stone as a little Christmas present by another blogger, and I'm going to put it in my main handbag so that I can rub it when I feel stressed.
2. Prepare for school the night before. This is something that everyone tells you anyway, but I find it stills helps me now to deal with work in the morning. Get your clothes ready and school bag packed whilst you're feeling fully awake so that you have less to do in the morning. It also minimises the chance of you forgetting something important for school, which can really set your anxiety off.
3.) Treat yo-self. This sounds like a silly one, but it's probably the one that I found to be most useful. Reward yourself for going to school and getting through the day with something special. It could be a favouite chocolate bar, a nice bath, or simply taking some 'me' time out to read a book. On really bad days I'd pop a little treat in with my lunch as something to look forward to having for getting through the morning. You could even have a big treat for the end of the week: a new book, popping into LUSH and buying a special bath bomb, or maybe even cooking your favourite meal are favourites of mine.
4.) Take time out when you need it. Sometimes it's really bloody hard trying to be sociable all day every day. It can all get so overwhelming that you switch off from everyone and go into a little spiral of anti-social behaviour. Instead of this, it's nice to take little breaks from people. Spend a break time in the library relaxing on your own, or if you really don't feel up to school, taking one day off isn't the end of the world. Take the time to re-coup, really think about what's bothering you and tackle it.
5.) Keep up to date on your work, and focus in class. I know I sound like an overbearing parent right now, but I found my general school-related anxiety sky-rocketed when I ignored everyone's advice. There's nothing worse than realising you're at a point of no return: you're so far behind that you possibly can't catch up again. Anxiety levels rise as school grades drop, and it's so hard to fix. Getting into a good routine of doing work at the start of a term can stop this showballing effect.
So, there we have it. Some tips that I really hope can help some of you that are struggling in the first week back. My twitter or email inbox is always open if you need a friendly face to talk to about your concerns. And remember: things get better, and school is temporary, even if it seems neverending.