Secret hearts and sleeping well: sound strategies for back-to-school stress

Most children have been back at school by now and are getting used to the routine of the school day. But for those who have found it difficult, Action Mental Health’s MensSana teams – which specialise in mental health and well-being programmes for children and young people – have devised a host of strategies to help ease the back-to-the-classroom stress.

Pebble in my pocket – find two similar pebbles or crystals. You keep one in your pocket and your child keeps the other in their pocket. Any time they feel a little nervous or are missing you they give it a little squeeze. It is a very concrete reminder of their connection to you.

Hug Button – Draw a little heart on your wrist and one on theirs, near their pulse point (they can keep it hidden under their school jumper). If they are missing you all they have to do is press it to send you a hug. They will feel their pulse like a little reassuring heartbeat when they touch their wrist. Let them know that you will press your hug button if you are missing them.

Exercise – the benefits of exercise are consideration to our mental well-being. Do whatever it is you love, whether it’s running, walking, boxing, yoga, rugby or swimming. Sports also improve sleep and social skills.

Curiosity – Going to school in a new building, with new people can be a time for apprehension but also great excitement. The possibilities are endless, so encourage your child to be open to new experiences.

Self-compassion – learn to be kind to yourself and to treat yourself like you would do a good friend. If you make a mistake, go easy on yourself and realise that we are all human – we all experience the same things. If you feel nervous you can guarantee other people do too.

Capitalise on specific skills – everyone has a unique set of skills. Some of us are creative, others more analytical, some sporty, others have the gift of the gab.  It is up to each of us to figure out our passions and strengths and build on these. This has a knock on effect on our well-being by helping us to see how amazing we are.

Help others, especially strangers – being kind helps us to feel good.  If you see someone at school who seems lost or uncertain, reach out and see if you can offer some help.

Think about the things that you can control – including what you talk about, how kind you are, how much effort you put in, who you hang out with and your priorities. Some things are beyond our control especially when it comes to other people –  so focus on what you can control

Sleep – getting get enough sleep helps us to learn better, concentrate and focus and helps us process thoughts and feelings. So make sure you are getting all devices switched off at a reasonable time and set an alarm.

Mindfulness and breathing exercises – download apps to listen to, even in short bursts throughout your day, while you brush your teeth, while you take a shower, when you are on the bus or going between classes. Mindfulness means paying attention to your senses and your breath – it doesn’t mean you have to sit cross-legged with eyes closed. You can incorporate it into your day in other ways, too by mindful walking, art or journaling.

Plan ahead – make sure your uniform is set out and prepare your bag the night before.

Growth mindset – remember you can do difficult things. You might not do them well at first, but we all have to start somewhere. By persevering and learning from our mistakes we hone our skills, so feel the fear and do it anyway. Believe in yourself and you can’t go wrong!

Remember, the most important thing for children during difficult times is having ‘one good adult’ in their lives – someone they can rely on to be a calm reassuring presence. This is a very strong protective factor for our children’s well-being.

Donate to AMH

Make a secure, online donation to AMH or set up a fundraising page through Just Giving.

Make a Donation

Set up a Direct Debit

Set up a JustGiving Fundraising Page


Step inside Action Mental Health and you'll find talented people working together to improve the lives of everyone living with mental health needs.

View all careers