February means back to school. If you are a parent or caregiver that could translate into stressful times.
It is often a time where families are under financial pressure, having to find extra funds for school uniforms, stationery, books and school fees, not to mention having to organise those school lunches and make sure the kids make it to school on time.
If your child is a little older and can find their own way to school that certainly reduces the load, and some parents are reaching out in their community and taking turns carpooling children to school. In both cases, this can be a sanity saver, especially when you have work commitments.
In short, going back to school is the end of enjoying a lovely long stretch of little or no structure and getting back to a set routine. It is a time of adjustment, not only for the child but also for the parent.
On top of this, all sorts of uncertainties are about to present themselves - will your child adjust well to their new class and classmates, teachers and, in some cases, an entirely new school? Again, it can be a challenge not only for the child but also for the parent.
Studies have confirmed that parents feel a variety of pressures from various directions at this transitional time of the year. One such study done by Galaxy Research in Australia in 2008, using a relatively small sample of 510 mothers, resulted in three out of four mothers admitting that they felt scrutinised by other parents about the quality of lunches they were providing for their child.
Another study performed by Zulily on a 6000 parent sample surveyed parents about perceived "back to school stresses" and came up with the following data:
34% said they were always shopping for the next school year
24% said they started shopping for the following year's school supplies in July
26% started shopping for the same in August
52% admitted feeling stressed by the cost of "back to school" shopping
51% felt stressed about getting their children ready to go back to school
43% were anxious about getting a good teacher
30% were stressed over their child's homework
26% were anxious about making school lunches
25% worried about transporting their child to school on time and
25% of parents worried about getting their child's clothes ready for school.
It goes to reason that stress levels could potentially rise if there were several children in the family.
We all know that there are the traditional ways in which parents and people in general are encouraged to deal with stress, such as exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, time management, avoiding alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, managing your day and reaching out for support as well as communicating how you feel.
I'd also like to suggest that a person's spiritual inclination can also greatly reduce stress levels.
Following some form of spiritual path can be anything from believing in a higher power, appreciating nature, music or art to being a devout follower of a particular religion or philosophy.
Spirituality seems to be linked to better relationships, a sense of life purpose, a sense of being part of something greater, and a feeling of connection to others, the planet or even the universe, hence not feeling isolated.
Spirituality can also help us take responsibility for our actions and to be a little more philosophical about what lessons might be learnt from any challenges we are facing.
We may also reflect on the fact that nothing or no one can make us feel stressed - it is our choice how we react to any given situation.
We also need to ask ourselves whether the stressor really has the ability to impact our lives in a substantial way. If it does not, then should we really worry that much about the problem?
This saying from the Serenity Prayer is good advice, so act accordingly: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."
Our attitude has a massive impact on our stress levels so when stressed we should try to reflect on things we can be grateful for, such as family, friends, nature or recent achievements.
Esther, Jerry and Abraham Hicks, have the following advice in their bestselling book Ask and it is Given (Page 114)
"Our thoughts control our life
"We control our thoughts with our emotions
"Our emotions tell us how well we are controlling our thoughts.
"This is how we create the life we have right now."
According to Abraham-Hicks, there are 22 emotional levels that have their own distinct energy vibration. They range from fear/grief/depression/despair/powerlessness at the lowest level, rising through many familiar states such as jealousy, anger, doubt and pessimism until reaching the higher states of hopefulness and optimism and ultimately joy, empowerment and love.
Say Abraham-Hicks, "Our job is to keep working our way up the emotional scale until we get to a level six (feeling hopeful) or better.
"Once we are feeling anything from hopeful to joyful, we are vibrating at a high enough level to manifest (make real) our wishes and desires (thereby reducing our stress).
"While we are in the higher vibrational levels, nothing unpleasant can come into our experience, because like things attract like things in this energy world."
They suggest as a way of reducing stress to identify your current position on the scale and then create thoughts about how it would feel to be at the next level above your current emotional condition.
As your thoughts create new feelings associated with that higher emotion, you can gradually work your way upward to be in a position to change your current situation by using your positive thoughts and imagination.
As parents, I'd like to suggest we use a combination of methods, such as visualising good outcomes, monitoring our vibrational levels and following these simple stress reduction methods I've mentioned in order to help our children and ourselves cope with the start of another year full of challenges, yes, but also opportunities.
Wendy Colgrove is a life and business coach