If the explosion of advertising for college ruled notebooks and industrial-sized backpacks hasn’t already keyed you in, it’s back to school season. Starting a new school year is exciting and nerve-racking. Here are a few pieces of advice to think about now, so you can start the year with a little less stress!
1. Make sure your annual physical is up to date!
It’s easy to forget vaccinations during the rush of back-to-school activity, but each grade has specific vaccination requirements. Review your immunizations with your doctor at your annual check-up and make sure you provide the most up to date records to your school. The New York City Department of Education has a handy chart that shows what vaccinations are required for each grade level. Your doctor can provide you with any missing immunizations that you need.
Schedule your annual physical for free at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, which provides free, confidential and judgment-free healthcare to anyone between the ages of 10 and 24. Immunization clinics also provide free or cheap vaccinations.
2. Actually do your to-do list
You’ve probably had the same to-do list since school let out almost two months ago. Whether getting new glasses, scheduling a dentist appointment, or just reorganizing your room, you’ve known you have the whole summer to do it. But now, school is just around the corner. Don’t worry, there’s still time to get everything done. Finish your list now, before you have to juggle a new schedule packed with other obligations.
Clear your head and start the new school year already ahead of the game. Start a to-do list and add items as soon as you think of them. There are a hundred different, free apps that can help you! If your teacher has already sent you a supply list, make sure you get these supplies before school starts. Ask local churches, thrift stores such as Salvation Army, or your school about free supplies. In NYC, the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center can help you get free glasses and a dentist appointment. Just call to schedule a visit.
3. Get some sleep
If you’ve found that it’s harder to both fall asleep early and wake up early, you’re not alone. Teens’ bodies are naturally configured to go to bed later and wake up later. Early school start times work directly against teens’ natural circadian rhythms. But, this isn’t an excuse to sleep through first period. Instead, it means teens need to put in extra effort to get their recommended 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Without enough sleep, you may find it difficult to pay attention during class, feel irritable, or even depressed. Make sleep a priority. Try to get to bed at around the same time each night. Establishing a routine will make falling asleep and waking up easier. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, put your computer or phone down at least 30 minutes before bed. If you can’t do that, consider downloading software or an app that makes your screen colors warmer at night. While it hasn’t been scientifically proven, the theory goes that the blue-based light of the computer screen looks like light from the sky, and sends signals to your brain that it isn’t time to sleep yet.
4. Eat breakfast
I know, I know… you’ve heard this before. But seriously—don’t forget breakfast! Eating before school helps improve your concentration and energy throughout the day. If you’re feeling sluggish, have a headache or feel lightheaded, it could be because of a lack of food. Students who eat breakfast tend to do better in school, too. You may be able to power through to lunch time without food, but you’ll feel and perform better if you fuel your body earlier in the day. If mornings are especially crazy, take a granola bar, piece of fruit, or other favorite food on the go. Plan what you’re going to eat the day before so you don’t have to think about it in the morning.
5. Pay attention to your body
Starting the new school year is full of unknowns and anxieties, especially if you’re transitioning to a new school. Whatever is going on in your life, remember that you can’t be your best unless you feel your best. Check in with yourself weekly—have you been energetic? Are you able to concentrate? Do you have any aches or pains you’ve been ignoring? Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If a problem isn’t going away, you should discuss your concerns with a doctor. Consider keeping a journal or downloading a health app to keep track of your habits and their effect on your mood and health.
6. Be kind to yourself
No one is perfect. Part of being healthy is being happy. Don’t beat yourself up because you ate a cookie, didn’t do as well on a test as you’d like, or had an embarrassing incident at school. Take a moment to recognize that you’re only human, that you’ll make mistakes again, and that that is not only ok but good. Make time to do things that make you happy, whether that’s getting coffee with a friend, taking a long bubble bath, or rocking out to your favorite song.
7. Be open to new experiences—and a new you!
You’ll probably be getting used to a lot of new people and experiences, especially if you’re starting at a new school. Even with this change, there will remain some constants in your life, such as old friends and familiar habits. It’s great to have these when you’re dealing with a ton of uncertainties because there is comfort in familiarity. However, don’t let them keep you from exploring new activities or identities, especially as you grow and explore your new environment. Your idea of who you are may be changing. Don’t shy away from changes in your beliefs, values or self-identity. Explore and embrace them.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 10,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.