Title text: how to mentally prepare for back to school with an image of a school bus coming up the road, pink and green notebooks, pencils, and doodled hearts and stars.

How To Mentally Prepare For Back To School

Written by Michaela MacBlake Matthews

Going back to school can be exciting, stressful, overwhelming, and anxious all at the same time! What can you do to keep a level head, and go in feeling confident? Today, we’re talking all about mental preparation for just that, so grab your pencil!

Two yellow no.2 pencils surrounded by colorful doodles of hearts, stars, school subjects, and hobbies on a blue background.

Summer Freedom & The Back To School Blues

One of the most common emotions that comes up during back to school season is feeling squeezed back into the tube, as far as scheduling and responsibilities go. It doesn’t have to be a loss, though! When we transition back into weekly routines, we are still social, and we still have fun- it simply becomes a more interactive experience, instead of being so freeform.

When we’re on our summer schedules, we get to explore miscellaneous ideas and interests that may have built up over the last year. Having the freedom to dive deep into new obsessions, stay up all night finishing a new book, or work on a project for a week straight can be downright blissful. However, these built up muses had to come from somewhere! Without interaction, eventually we do start to run out of inspiration and get bored. Going back to school helps us refill the tank, find new things to take interest in, and relearn how to balance discovery with immersion.

A back to school calendar, a clock, an open book, a camera, and a ball of yarn on a blue polka dot background.

Associative Memory & Routine

One of the reasons that back to school can be so overwhelming is the tightly knit memory association that goes with it! Think about it, at the same time every year, the weather is the same, the light is the same, the way the air smells, the way a crisp notebook feels in your hands… When we get ready to start school in the fall, we’re put into a strange position. Tons of details feel exactly the same as every year before, while the whole point of school is to confront the unknown!

This combination of familiarity and mystery can feel ultimately surreal, and even as a working adult, it still comes back to me every September. The best way to handle this stretch is to use all of those memories to your advantage. Rather than getting locked into that first day feeling, think back on how every notebook eventually softened at the corners, how things felt more normal by November, and how by Spring, this whole school experience was just normal life, and summer was actually the odd one out.

A school bus with a thought bubble containing a pink ribbon on a blue doodle background with stars.

Use The Opportunity To Reinvent Your Habits

Okay, so just about everyone and their cousin puts the pressure on to ‘start off on the right foot’ around this time. Honor roll students are pushing themselves to take on more AP classes, while struggling students are told to stay ahead of their work for as long as they can, to make finals easier when they come. What about the big picture, though?

Passing classes is important, of course, but consider setting goals and intentions for the year that make you feel productive and in-the-game. If you love being creative, focus on finding ways to bring that into the harder classes. If you have passion projects or hobbies, set up your homework habits in a way that gives you time to work on them while you still have some energy left from the day. If you want to cut back on the extra social drama this year, pick out back to school clothes that make you feel like the sort of person who knows when to say no. It may seem counterintuitive, but using this time to feed who you want to be will help you stay focused, and make the schoolwork itself come easier.

The Finish Line

At the end of the day, half of the school experience is about what you learn, and half of it is learning how you work! Every new year starts another opportunity to hash out what we like, what we’re good at, and how to combine the two, so we can build ourselves a custom tailored future that is balanced, manageable, and keeps us interested for years to come!

Okay, class dismissed! …Now go squeeze in one last midnight beach trip.

Meet the Author

Close up of the author, Michaela Matthews wearing red lipstick and a poofy red scarf with white flower arrangement in background.

"Mac" is on the Lifestyle Team here at Darn Good Yarn, and loves taking a ‘teach a man to fish’ approach to creative therapy. She is certified in neuro-linguistic programming, and is also the surreal artist and author behind Surrealismac.