How to Replace Your Back-to-School Anxiousness With Back-to-School Hype

Young female student holding a binder representing back to school anxiousness.

Back-to-school anxiety is the most normal thing in the world. You’re going to have new experiences, meet new people, and with any luck, learn new things.

But maybe you felt nervous just reading that, and you’ve spent the last couple weeks dreading that first day back. If you did, then you might just need a few changes in perspective.

Here’s how you can curb back-to-school anxiety if you’re in middle school, high school, or college. If you’re a parent, this can serve as a guide for your kids too.

Shining A Light On What Makes You Anxious (Kids and Highschoolers)

Being anxious means you are uneasy or apprehensive about an uncertain event. And obviously, a new school year comes with a lot of uncertainties.

Let’s break the biggest uncertainties about school down into two categories and look at why they shouldn’t make you so anxious.

1. Social Life

You’re going to be around different people this year. You don’t know how they’re going to perceive you. Maybe you’re looking for new friends, or even someone to go on a date with. You’re probably just hoping that the people you like will like you back.

The truth:

I know you might not believe me, but no matter what you feel about your social status, how many friends you have, what clothes you wear, what podcasts you listen to, or what streamers you watch, you can always find people to connect to.

There is no time limit on making friends. And often, the deepest connections you make happen in the least likely scenarios with the least likely people.

If you haven’t found your friends organically yet, you might just have to be a little proactive. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Practice talking to kids you don’t know. This might be the scariest thing in the WORLD to you right now, but you can work up to it. Follow the principles of exposure therapy, and make yourself a bravery ladder to face every fear you have around it.
  • Give someone a genuine compliment in class or in the library (or anywhere). It has to be sincere. People will respond to your authenticity.
  • Participate in things. Don’t just go to class and then go home. Join the golf team, the art club, or an anime club. Don’t shy away from what you love for fear of judgment.

There’s one more thing you should know about school: You’re in a bubble. 

You don’t know that you’re in a bubble because you’ve been in the school bubble since you were a little kid. But trust me, you are in a bubble.

Any embarrassments you have, any perceived faults, any mistake you’ve made that you think defines you, it doesn’t. The world expands when you graduate, and all that stuff will cease to matter. If you’re struggling now, know that you have all the time in the world to make things better for yourself. 

There’s nothing wrong with having a great time in high school, but if an old man says that his best years were his high school days, then he probably didn’t live a very exciting life, did he?

2. The School Workload 

You’re going to have homework, projects, quizzes, tests, and oral presentations. On top of that, you might have clubs to attend, SAT prep courses, sporting events, practices, and even part-time jobs.

And in line with #1, you’re going to try and maintain a social life.

The truth:

The reason they give for making things busy for you is to “prepare you for the real world.” 

There’s truth to this, however, the real reason you should embrace being busy is that one day you can be busy doing things that benefit you.

The more you learn to be disciplined, organized, and stress-tolerant, the more you can use those powers to pursue your own goals and dreams. That’s the point. It’s not just to torture you.

Yes, you might never need to do math equations again after high school, but if you take the discipline you gained from doing them even when you didn’t want to, you can apply that focus to things you actually care about: i.e., learning instruments, being more social, getting a Ph.D., becoming president, etc.

The more disciplined you are, the more free you are. It’s like this: If you get your work done early and consistently, you’ll have the time to do the things you want to do. Being academically disciplined translates into being socially free.

The more you learn to prioritize your time now, the more awesome your life can be later (and now!). 

Shining A Light on What Makes You Anxious (College Students)

College is its own beast, with its own stresses. 

There’s still the social element of dating and finding friends. But there’s also the chronic pressure of picking a major and “deciding what you want to do for the rest of your life.”

The truth:

College is also beautiful in many ways. It’s like a cauldron of opportunity for growth and experimentation. There’s time to think. There’s time to work on the parts of your life that you want to make amazing.

Whether you live on campus or not, you’re presented with an abundance of free time in between what could be hardcore studies. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Your college major may not be the deciding factor in what you do for the rest of your life. According to a recent  survey of 1,000 college students, under half (46%) ended up working in their fields. 
  • You can work on anything you are unhappy with in college. You can make the dive to be more social. You can use the campus health centers to improve your body. You can even learn marketable skills in addition to your major (sales, marketing, copywriting, coding, etc.)
  • Experiences build you, even bad ones. Anytime you screw up, you can reorient and reassess. You are not sunk. This is the iterative process of learning: try, fail, reassess, and try again. Facing the thing you’re most anxious about could end up being the most important thing you do in your college career.

If you feel like you’re struggling in college, know that this year could be the year you finally do things differently. Because right now, you’re in a perfect position to change. 

Fear, School, and Life

Fear is a dare. 

Everything about school that makes you nervous is something you can turn into an opportunity for growth.  And the great part is, your life, aka the “real world,” has barely even started. You can make tons of mistakes and still be fine. More than fine.

You’re laying the foundations for the rest of your life. That’s an amazing opportunity that people would give anything for. 

Once you go through one stressful oral presentation or sporting event, or you get rejected by someone you want to date, and you realize that you’re still alive, facing anxiety becomes a point of pride.

You respect yourself more. You feel more fulfilled that you didn’t leave opportunities on the table. You realize what you’re capable of, then you start feeling excited about the future.

So talk to your crush this year. Find the cool people you vibe with, no matter how long it takes. Try to do your work as best you can, and make time for fun too. What you have before you is an epic opportunity, not something to shy away from.