Intermountain Healthcare

Emotional stress and anxiety of returning to school during the pandemic and how to cope

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With school set to begin within the coming weeks across the state, it can be a stressful time filled with uncertainty and anxiety for parents and students as COVID cases surge in Utah. Today we have Travis Mickelson, MD, associate medical director for mental health integration at Intermountain Healthcare.

Dr. Mickelson offers the following tips for parents and kids as school returns in dealing with stress and anxiety of the uncertainty surrounding this year’s school year focusing on four key areas:

  • Anticipate and prepare for uncertainty
  • Actively listen and help your children find solutions
  • Recognize progress and success
  • Be a role model for managing anxiety at home

1. Understand These are Uncertain Times

Everyone needs to get to a point where they’re able to be flexible. Understand that there will be changes to routines, said Dr. Mickelson.

“Don’t be stressed too much when they do,” he added. “The added stress can leave the whole family in turmoil. Especially if parents can model for their children how to approach change with curiosity and a positive, hard-working attitude, that will be very beneficial for the kids.”

2. Be Resilient

The good side is that through the strife of the past year, we have also been given the opportunity to practice and develop our resilience.  Some people think of resilience as a trait one is born with (hardiness) or an outcome (presence of post-traumatic stress or growth). 

Resilience is neither lucky nor passive and can be strengthened with practice. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.

“When we get far enough past an adversity to look back with perspective, we can consider its effects on our lives and identities, reflect on the skills we developed, the actions we took, the lessons we learned, and the reasons we kept going,” said Dr. Mickelson.

4. Parents Can Be Advocates

If plans are not working, then parents should be empowered to reach out to schools and engage in constructive conversations, Dr. Mickelson advises. These conversations should not be complaints, but a discussion about finding a commonplace to help the student and family. 

For more information, you can visit the Intermountain Healthcare website or reach out to one of the numbers listed below.

  • Intermountain Healthcare’s Behavioral Health Navigation Line: (833) 442-2211
  • Utah Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255
  • Intermountain Connect Care for Behavioral Health: (833) 442-2670

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