By: Mary Hoofnagle, M.A., NCC, LPC-Intern
Ahhh! September. Heat begins to cool off. Leaves begin to change. The warm spicy scents of autumn fill the air. Alarm clocks ring earlier. Traffic gets heavier. Homework piles up. Schedules grow dense with meetings, and games, and concerts. All of a sudden we have more to do and less time to do it.
Let’s face it, back to school affects us all. Parents, kids, college students…even those of us who fit none of these categories may be feeling the stress of increased traffic. And while it is exciting, it’s also heavy with stress. Here’s your survival guide for facing back to school blues. No matter who you are. There’s something here for you.
Back to school traffic is for everyone to cope with… no matter your relationship to school. Traffic can really take a toll on physical and mental health. These three tips are focused on lowering blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol while you commute:
- Make your commute a mindfulness practice: When you are at a stoplight or stopped in a traffic jam, practice mindful breathing or progressive relaxation techniques to lower your blood pressure and cortisol levels and distress. These activities could also be done at your desk or in between classes to alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Breathe easily: Aromatherapy is a wonderful way to reduce stress. Mint and Eucalyptus calm my nerves and lower my blood pressure instantly. Lavender is also a wonderful stress relieving aroma that improves focus as well. You can get a car diffuser for essential oils to distribute aroma consistently and evenly, but you can also place a few drops on a card under your seat, spray an aroma directly into your AC vents, through a potpourri pouch under your seat, or even hang a bunch of fresh herbs from the mirror.
- Get in the groove: Music has powerful healing properties, but choose carefully. Calming music can reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety. It will even result in you driving more safely. But up-tempo, harsher tunes will create the opposite effect. The top five relaxing tunes according to one 2011 survey are: 1.Vivaldi’s Four Seasons 2. Jack Johnson’s Breakdown 3. Adele’s Someone Like You 4. Coldplay’s Yellow 5. Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide
Fall often comes with some difficulty sleeping as well. Summer schedules are more relaxed. Longer daylight hours keep us up later. As school starts again, many are waking up earlier. Even if you weren’t on vacation, you might be leaving earlier to drop your kids off at school and practice or just to beat the heavier traffic. Sleep deprivation can cause serious problems for your physical and mental health. So be sure to adjust when your bedtime to accommodate for rising early. This can always be a challenge, but follow these basic rules of bed time and your body will adjust in no time:
- Stop drinking caffeine in the early afternoon.
- Exercise 2-4 hours before bedtime.
- Shut everything down before bedtime. No TV, games, text messages, homework at all. And especially don’t do any of these things in bed. Associating your bed with wakefulness makes it more difficult to sleep.
- Create a relaxing ritual and stick to it. A cup of herbal tea and a book. (Not an e-reader. Lit screens stimulate the brain too much for restfulness. ) A hot bath with lavender to bring on sleepiness. Light yoga stretches. There are many possibilities, but when your body gets used to a ritual, you’ll be ready for sleep the moment it’s over.
- Go to sleep at the same time every night. No matter what. We are such creatures of habit that this will work wonders.
If you liked this post, you can also read Back to School Blues and Stress Relief for Students.