Back to School 5 Week Sanity Challenge: Week 2

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Back to school

As our kids return back to school, we may notice our stress level increasing. For many of us, our kids will be online learning for at least the first few weeks.  This will likely mean juggling online schooling, other kids at home, teaching, making meals, and the list goes on. Your stress level may be increasing just reading this. One of my kid’s teachers communicated, that as parents it is important to be positive which will help ease our children’s uneasiness towards online learning and/or eventually returning to school. While, I whole heartedly agree, it can be a struggle to manage our own anxiety around so much uncertainty and change when it comes to our children’s education and wellbeing.  Here is the good news, we can hack our anxiety and use it to actually serve us during this stressful period.

Not all stress is bad

Counter to popular belief, not all stress is bad. In fact, we are designed to respond to stress with increased focus and attention to the matter at hand. Being stressed can actually help us tune in to what is in front of us so we can better problem solve and respond to the stressor. If this feels far from your response to stress, you are not alone. We have been taught that stress is bad. We should reduce stress and that stress can even cause health problems. I have written about stress this way myself.  In Dr. Kelly McGonigal’s book, The Upside of Stress, she explains the origins of studies on stress. She describes that studies stating the harmful effects of stress are referring to traumatic events or on-going trauma rather that everyday stress. She goes on to give examples of studies referring to everyday stress which site people’s ability to respond to stress with increased focus and insight.  This is a relief because our lives can be fairly stressful.

[caption id="attachment_4827" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash[/caption]

It may be difficult to let go of the belief that stress is bad and should be avoided at all costs.  Dr. McGonigal also offers help to begin to flip the script on stress. We will start with the idea that many of the everyday tasks that bog us down are actually us living our core values.  What we currently view as our stressful to do list, we can begin to see as proof that we are living our core values. Use the journaling prompts below to begin to reframe the stressors in your life.

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Journaling Prompts

  1. Identify three personal values | Questions to consider:

What feels important and meaningful to me right now?

What do I want to share with others?

Is there something I want to cultivate and work on?

Examples/ideas: attitudes, personal strengths, or priorities

  1. Now that you have identified 3 core values, choose one - write about it for 10min.

Describe why it’s important to you.

How do you express it in everyday life, including what you did today?

Write about how this value might guide you when facing uncertainty in your life.

  1. Repeat with other 2 values

Adapted from The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

Build a daily reminder

Now that you have identified your three core values, considered why they are important to you, and how you live them in everyday life let’s build a daily reminder.  Look for a photo, a meaningful object, or something that you wear daily that could be a reminder of these three core values.  Now when you look at your object or photo you can remember your core values and how you are living your core values in your everyday life.

I hope you have found these tools helpful. Next week we will continue the conversation.


I am looking forward to connecting with you next week.


Michelle Puster M.Ed., LPC

Certified Emotionally Focused Therapist

Certified Clinical Trauma Professional

Katy Couples & Wellness Counseling

Finding Me Again

Couples & Individual Counseling Katy


Michelle offers counseling for couples and individuals in the Katy area.


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