Back to School Anxiety

Written by: Amanda Anderson

Typically, school is seen as a time of excitement and new beginnings. And although that can be true for many, it can also be overwhelming and stress-inducing. Many youth and young adults are returning from a summer of choice. Young adults were able to choose their routine, choose who they spend their time with and what they eat. For many, leaving that sense of independence can trigger anxiety and depression. 

Back to school anxiety is defined as the onset and feeling of fight or flight mode that students experience when transitioning back to school. It is a common experience for students where they might become overwhelmed at the thought of reverting back to an environment that is not comfortable and triggering. Students struggle with many feelings when returning such as exclusion, anxiety, depression, pressure to fit in, loneliness, loss and many more. Young adults are navigating these feelings all while trying to find their identity and who they want to become when entering into adulthood. Young adults are also facing countless questions about their future that can be extremely overwhelming and difficult to make. 

So how do we manage this? Self care, planning and hobbies are the three components to easing the anxiety that can become a dark cloud over what can be an exciting time returning to school. Self care looks different for everyone but the first step is making your own personal list of self care activities to reference when you are feeling anxious. Some self care activities on your list could be taking a long shower, cooking yourself a healthy meal, taking a walk, cleaning your space or treating yourself to a new candle! Self care, although difficult to make time for, is essential. Unless you are filling up your cup first, you cannot fill the cups of others’ in your life and fulfill the needs and responsibilities in your life. Planning is another important piece of the recipe. Planning can look like a new agenda/planner to write down to do lists, important due dates and appointments. By physically writing down your tasks, you are able to mentally prepare and think ahead of time of what you need to get done. A planner is also a way to manage your goals into small daily tasks which increases the likelihood of a long term goal being sucessful. And lastly, making time to participate in your hobbies and what you are passionate about. For example, I love songwriting and singing. So, I take time each Sunday to listen to new music and songwrite in a park in my city. Sometimes, I will also take time and record myself singing a new song to post on socials or just save for myself! For you, it may be that you love to be outside so each week, you go to a different hiking trail. Or you love art, so each week you take time to paint or draw something new! But by setting a specific time each week, whether that is once a week or three times a week, it allows you to check in with yourself and feel a sense of pride in yourself that is not related to your professional life. If you are a youth or young adult who is struggling, please reach out to your parents and/ or your school counselor for help.

So how can we support young adults as they are trying to manage the back to school anxiety? There are many resources to utilize when you notice a young adult in your life is struggling with their mental health. Having those tough conversations can be difficult to initiate, but it is important to start the conversation and allow open communication between both of you. Using supportive and attentive language and making sure you are a listener first will allow the young adult to feel that they are in a safe space. Once that safe space is created, you will be able to have an authentic conversation that from there can lead to some goals made to connect the individual to help. From there, it is also important to maintain that consistent open communication with the young adult. One conversation will not accomplish a full recovery, it takes time and patience. If needed and attainable, therapy is an amazing opportunity for a young adult to confide in a therapist who can walk them through their struggles. 

Anxiety can stop us from reaching our fullest potential and our happiest. It can be difficult but ultimately battling it everyday may be a reality for many. It is about who and what we surround ourselves with when we feel that heavy weight on our chest or that panic in our body.

Share this with someone you know who may be anxious about returning to school or starting a new chapter in their life. 


Nami TN Helpline Info- 

Amanda Anderson is the Social Media Marketing Specialist for Tennessee Voices and the Healthy Transitions program. She is an alum of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communications with a focus on both Public Administration and Nonprofit Management. From a young age Amanda knew she wanted to help people and as she grew up she also found a love for the arts through music, photography, journalism, fashion, painting and digital creation. “I think the key to happiness is combining your passions and talents and helping others! That is why what I do is so fulfilling and why I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to do what I do”. She also helps to host the Statewide Young Adult Leadership Council which meets every second Saturday of the month in which she collaborates with the youth council members on openly discussing topics related to leadership, mental health, advocacy and more!


If you or someone you know is in a medical or life-threatening crisis right now, get help quickly.

  • Call your doctor
  • Call 911 for emergency services
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (1.800.273.8255) TTY: 1.800.799.4TTY (4889)
  • Call Tennessee Statewide Crisis Line at 1.855.274.7471


If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Tennessee Healthy Transitions Initiative, please contact:

Tennessee Department of Mental Health And Substance Abuse Office of Children and Youth Mental Health

Phone: 615-878-0043