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Going back to school

05 Sep 22

Going back to school can be an anxious time. You might be moving schools, restarting school after taking some time out, or going back to school after the summer holidays. Here at Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) we have put together a few tips to help you manage the transition back to school.

Identifying your emotions

Do you know how you are feeling, or what emotions feel strongest for you?

Emotions begin in our bodies as sensations before we can name them. Some examples of sensations might be: feeling sick, tired or restless, having a stomach ache or headache, or having difficulty focusing. These are all sensations in your body that might be linked to the feelings of anxiety, worry or uncertainty. It’s okay to feel these emotions, and not judge yourself for feeling them. By identifying the sensation, we can use coping strategies to help manage this emotion.

For example:

  1. If you feel your heart beating fast, you might find a breathing exercise helpful
  2. If you feel sick, you might find a walk for some fresh air helpful.

It’s important to remember emotions are normal and natural.

Managing your worrying thoughts

When we feel anxious or overwhelmed our brains can feel like they are racing at 1,000 miles per hour. We might have thoughts that the worst possible outcome will happen: This is called catastrophic thinking. You might have thoughts like “I am not going to know anybody”, “I am not going to manage the step up”, and these may spiral out of control. You may feel like you are overthinking and cannot think of anything else but that worrying thought.

It’s important to remember you can choose to be willing to manage these thoughts.

  • Accept the uncertainty of not knowing what going back to school might be like. You may be uncertain about the schoolwork, your friends, teachers, or change in routine. Give yourself permission to let the thought be there without needing to react it. Thinking about school is not going to change the situation, but it will likely make you feel more anxious.
  • Don’t think too far ahead into the academic year. Try taking each day, hour, and moment a day at a time. Can you choose to do something today that you enjoy and can help distract you?
  • Remind yourself of coping statements such as “my school will be able to support me”, “I have managed challenging situations before”.
  • Be kind to yourself! What would you say to someone else who is worrying about the return to school?

Reaching out for support

Managing these emotions and thoughts alone can be really challenging, and its okay to reach out for support. Do you have someone around you that you feel comfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts with It may be a teacher, parent, family member, sibling, friend, or CAMHS worker. Going back to school can feel really overwhelming, but it is important to remember this is not something you need to manage on your own!

Written by Alex Faulkner, Assistant Psychologist HPFT CAMHS


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