Combating Back to School Stress: Tips on Caring for Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

BY: Christine Peat, PhD

DATE: August 25, 2016

Heading back to school can be an exciting time to reconnect with friends, engage in intellectually stimulating academic endeavors, and to prepare for the balancing act of academics, work, and social life demands. Although the back to school transition can be characterized by a sense of eagerness and anticipation, this period of time can also be fraught with increased anxiety not only about academics, but about body image and food concerns. For many, the return to school means re-entering an environment in which individuals constantly engage in self-comparisons (“Why don’t I look like her/him?”), worries about one’s appearance (“Did s/he lose more weight than I did this summer?”), and/or strict rules around food and exercise (“Now that school is back in session, I am only eating X number of calories per day and I’m working out X number of times per week.”). Such anxieties can contribute to urges to engage in disordered eating behaviors and thoughts which might make it more challenging to successfully navigate the rigors of academic life.

The good news, however, is that there are several steps you can take to engage in some self-care during the first few weeks back to school (and all year long!) and here are just a few:

  • Check out this awesome blog post by our friend McCall Dempsey founder of Southern Smash
  • Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who encourage and support you.
  • Educate yourself about fat talk and how you and your friends can avoid it.
  • Inquire about body image support groups through your campus counseling and psychological services.
  • Immerse yourself in the awesome world of body positivity on these and other sites:
  • Get the rest your mind and body need! Getting enough sleep while in high school and college can be a real struggle, but a good night’s rest can be restorative both for your mind and your spirits!
  • Schedule “me” time. These days, life increasingly seems to be about how many activities you can cram into a 24-hour period; however, one thing that is often neglected is time just to unwind. So schedule some time that’s just for you doing an activity you love.
  • If you’re local to UNC, check out Embody Carolina and find out how you can get involved!

So as you prepare to embark on yet another year of your academic journey, remember that caring for yourself is every bit as important as studying for exams or applying for that internship. And while the above list is far from exhaustive, we encourage you to take the time to engage in these self-care practices or create a list of your own. Welcome back, everybody, and best of luck in all you do this year!

photo credit: <ahref=”″>_DSC8653</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;