Back-to-school season is here, which for some can mean hectic mornings feeling rushed, stressed, and overwhelmed. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone! This past year has undoubtedly been full of twists and turns that no one could have expected, and this school year is no exception.
Whether your child is going back to the classroom in person or attending virtually, getting them to class on time requires a certain amount of effort and added responsibility that has likely been on hold over the summer. Getting back into that back-to-school routine doesn’t have to be as hard of a transition, and there are several ways you can set yourself and your family up for success. Below we have listed five wellness-based tips so your mornings can go much more smoothly.
1. Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
A regular sleep schedule can impact your entire day. Over the summer, rules may have been a bit more relaxed around bedtime for your kids (and yourself) and getting up early for school can lead to feeling groggy, which can slow your morning down.
Following a regular sleep schedule, which means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day (or as close to regular as you can – don’t be too hard on yourself, life happens) will allow you and your family to feel energized and ready to take on the day ahead. A sleep schedule helps set your internal clock (aka your circadian rhythm), and once you maintain a regular sleep-wake schedule, your brain is automatically going to adapt with you, which eventually makes it easier to fall asleep and wake up.
There are two key factors to remember about sleep schedules – make gradual adjustments and stay consistent. Upholding a regular sleep schedule is not going to the easy at first, especially if you haven’t been in the habit of going to bed early and waking up early for a while. This is why it’s important to make adjustments each night until you reach a satisfactory bedtime; if you are used to going to bed at midnight, try 11:45 PM, and make that time earlier and earlier each night. As well, staying consistent is important because the body needs to develop this habit. This means even on weekends, try to maintain the same bedtime and wake-up time you and your family follow throughout the week (this will also help ease those common Monday zombie-like feelings).
There are so many health benefits to getting a good night’s sleep, including improved concentration, memory, and problem-solving, as well as the ability to think more clearly and have sensible judgement – all of which are important when kids are back in school and retaining new information.
2. Prepare the night before.
The less you have to do in the morning, the better. The night before, organize your kids’ clothes, supplies, lunches, or anything else they need for the next day. This is going to help you focus on a more reasonable number of tasks you need to do in the morning, and it can help you and your family feel less overwhelmed.
That frantic scramble of trying to pack backpacks and lunches, while also getting your kids dressed and fed is a lot all at once. Implementing some organization into your morning by planning the night before can help shape the trajectory of your entire day, as a stressful morning can really do a number on how you feel going forward.
Some of the ways you can do this are by planning lunches for that day or week (tip: make and/or pack it the night before), making sure clothes are laid out that are weather appropriate, and packing their backpacks full of everything they will need for the day – all of which your kids can help out with! If they are virtual learners this school year, planning ahead is still just as important. Things like making sure their computer is fully charged or that the room where they learn is ready are some things to keep in mind before each school day so that mornings are easier.
3. Stick to a routine, but set some boundaries.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have lost your typical routine due to the dramatic shift in day-to-day activities. For instance, if you have been working from home throughout the pandemic, you have likely established a new routine. However, now that it is back-to-school time again, there are likely even more responsibilities that can take up your time, thus changing your routine once again.
Sticking to a routine is highly important, and it can offer great benefits for your mental health. Research has found that a regular routine can help you lower your stress levels, feel more focused and productive, and can help you better manage anxiety. A routine can also help you manage your time better, which can exponentially help reduce the feelings that arise during those frantic mornings. For example, if you start work in the morning, plan out a routine that leads up to that time, that way you can be sure everything can get done in time.
Remember, setting boundaries is important. Even though there can be many things to do in a day, you can’t do everything; if there are some shortcuts you can take when crafting your routine (such as having your kids dress themselves or pack their lunch) make them! Being realistic with what you can do in the morning (and throughout your day) is going to lead to greater results and help you feel less overwhelmed.
4. Get ready first and create a positive mindset.
When your kids wake up, it’s full steam ahead with getting them ready for school, which might result in you skipping out on fully getting ready yourself. A great way to combat this is by setting aside some time in the morning to focus entirely on you. This might mean getting up earlier in the morning (such as 30 minutes – 1 hour) in order to do so, but this act of self-care can help set positive intentions in the morning, which your family will pick up on.
Incorporating self-care in the morning that prioritizes your physical and mental health can help better prepare you for what lies ahead in the day. For instance, exercise releases endorphins, which may be a nice boost in the morning to give you the energy you need. If you prefer to take things slow in the morning, set aside that time before anyone wakes up to peacefully transition to the busy morning, and it can start you off on the right foot.
5. Limit as many distractions as you can in the morning and incorporate relaxation.
Relaxation at any time of the day is important but especially in the morning, taking time to focus on relaxing, less stimulating tasks can help establish how you feel for the rest of the day. For instance, if you are one to immediately check your phone in the morning after waking up, it can actually put you at a disadvantage, as it floods your brain with information and can lead to increased stress. Especially if you check your emails that may have come in during the night, it has been shown that this can lead to feeling overwhelmed and directionless, especially since your brain is immediately switching from a relaxed state it was in while asleep to a more productive state without giving yourself some time to fully wake up.
What can you do in the morning instead of reaching for your phone? Try drinking water as soon as you wake up, incorporate some meditation, stretch, enjoy a coffee/tea, take a morning walk; whatever it is that you find relaxing, try to include it in the morning.
Some mornings will inevitably go better than others, and it’s important to not set too many expectations on yourself and your family. That said, try to incorporate some of the tips listed above to help to make back-to-school a better time for everyone involved.