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Stress management 101 for the new school year

“Class, can we spell s-t-r-e-s-s?” For children, educators, and parents alike, September is a stressful month filled with numerous changes and drastic transitions. Back-to-school means a flurry of new activities, challenges, and demands that seem to whirl life into a breakneck frenzy, especially for single parents. On the other hand, the new school year also brings the promise of a fresh start, a blank page on a new composition book. This fall, how about enrolling in Stress Management 101 and learn to erase the stress so you can write a new story?

Cutting Corners: Think of ways to simplify the home routines. Use paper plates on busy nights. Have the kids clear the table and help with dinner clean-up. Pack dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. Set aside 30 minutes on a designated day for quick weekly clean-ups that involve the entire family. Throw one load of laundry in the wash prior to leaving for work each day, and throw it in the dryer as soon as you get home. After several days, the wash is done for the week.

Easy Meals: Heat up a frozen dinner such as lasagna on a week night that is particularly busy. Cook dinner one day ahead of time or in the morning before work in order to avoid the drive-thru or trying to cook while starving. The family will be relieved to come home to a meal that simply needs to be warmed up.

Get Outside: Just because summer is over and the days are shrinking does not mean the family has to stay inside. Enjoy the changing trees and cooler weather by taking the bikes to the trails, exploring a local hiking spot, or picking apples. Go out on evening walks in the neighborhood as a family, eat dinner in the back yard, picnic in the park, and roast s'mores in a fire pit.

Time Out: Take at least 15 minutes for yourself each day to do those little things that help you to relax and unwind like meditating, engaging in a hobby, taking a hot bath, reading, or catching up on your favorite show.

Plan a Trip: Plan a day trip for an upcoming weekend in September or October to have something to look forward to once Labor Day is over. Go to a local tourist site the family has always wanted to visit or plan an overnight road trip for a relaxing getaway that does not have to be expensive. Book your stay at an inexpensive motel, use coupons for lunch and dinner, and fill up the tank with discounted warehouse gas prior to going.

Be realistic: Scale back to one or two extracurricular activities per child in order to protect family time, keep your kids from burnout, and avoid additional stress in your single parent life. Equally important is letting go of unrealistic expectations both for yourself and your children. Likewise, if fall is a stressful time for you, ease up on yourself.

Practice calm: Help you and your children cope with anxiety brought on by the new school year by doing deep breathing exercises, focusing on positive thoughts, being optimistic about the future, making healthy choices, getting enough rest, and counting your blessings before bed.

With the kids back in school, use Stress Management 101 to begin the school year with a fresh start. Create an easy transition for your family, and write a new story this fall!