Back to School: Anxious or Fun’tastic?

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The time of year has come. Temperatures rise – the hustle of getting organised with school supplies, book lists, uniforms, co-curricular activities … No question: The new school year is about to kick off!

Starting a new school year can be an exciting time, but also an anxious one. Lots of kids – and their parents – feel nervous in the build up to their first day back. This is very common, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful! Having your child attend school for the first time or starting a new school can create even more anxiety.

Beyond Blue reports seven per cent of children aged 4 to 17 years in Australia suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past 12 months.Further, one in five of all young people aged 11 to 17 years experience high or very high levels of psychological distress.

PhotoCredit: Parentline

But what does anxiety feel like?

Children and young people experiencing anxiety can feel both physical and emotional symptoms including:

  • racing heart beat
  • rapid breathing
  • being teary and irritable
  • being sweaty and breathless
  • ‘butterflies’ in your stomach
  • pains and discomfort in your body.

For some children and young people with atypical interoception there may not be unawareness of any of the above sensations. These children and young people will appear fine until they experience a ‘fight/flight’ moment which can appear as not just fight or flight but also ‘flop, drop or freeze’.

Many children and young people on the autism spectrum also have high levels of anxiety, and often have atypical interoception. Their anxiety can present as task or even school avoidance.

How Yoga and Mindfulness can help!

Preparation is key to dealing with situations where there are lots of unknowns. The more things feel familiar and controlled, the more your child or young person can relax and feel confident about what’s happening. In all our Programs at YOGAZEIT (which translates into Yoga Time) we provide a platform for Youth to check in with themselves. To identify how they’re feeling and how certain situations are feeling. We describe, draw or move to explain what stress, frustration, anxiety and also happiness and excitement feels like. We then give kids an opportunity to foster this experience and support this with breathing and movement tools . In short, kids learn to become self aware (How am I feeling right now) which helps them then to self-regulate (e.g. taking a breath or a stretch) resulting in a becoming who and how they WANT TO FEEL (e.g. calm instead of anxious, in control instead of outraged).

It is incredibly empowering to give children a way to move themselves out of these reactive, and at times all-encompassing states, and back to the more relaxed feeling of ‘rest and digest.

Yogazeit Kids Classes

In 2020 we offer a variety of Yoga Programs (free of charge) to help youth with evidence-based yoga and mindfulness tools. Check out our upcoming classes here:

Try: Five Finger Breathing:

1. Tell the child to fan out his hand “like a star,” and place it atop a table, on a knee, or other surface.

2. Next, direct him to take his pointer finger from the opposite hand and begin to trace along the hand that is fanned out. Tell him to inhale through the nose as he traces the outside of his thumb, then exhale through the mouth as he traces along the inside of his thumb. Inhale as he traces the outside of his pointer finger, exhale as he traces the inside of his pointer finger…and so on and so forth until all of his fingers have been traced.

Photo: Calmerchoice

3. As he traces each finger, encourage him to not only focus on every breath, but also have him consider how the small movements feel on his hands. Conscious attention applied slowly has a calming, awareness building, and relaxing effect.

When he is finished, ask him about his emotions. Is there a difference in how he feels afterwards?

Simply start with tracing if combining breathing with tracing of the fingers feels like too much at once. Even the simple act of tracing can help your child to focus and calm down.

There’s a nice video from Childhood 101 explaining it all:

BeyondBlue has some fantastic Resources and Tips listed on their websites. Why not take a moment to check them out to help your child (and yourself!) with this transition into a new year. Read more here:

With gratitude – always – Your Yogazeit Team

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Acknowledgment of Country

We wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land we are working and living on, the Whadjuk Noongar people.

We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life, education and mindfulness of this city and this region supported by the leadership of Noongar elders past, present and emerging.

We extend this acknowledgement and respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.