Beating Back to School Jitters
By Sarah Axtell, ND • September 6, 2018
Returning back to school after summer vacation can be exciting but also stressful. A change in the routine from Summer to Fall can trigger anxiety, difficulty focusing, and behavioral challenges for some. Here are some ways to beat the back-to-school jitters and optimize your child’s brain function:
- Emphasize routine. Children thrive on routine, especially when it comes to meal times and bedtimes. Start an earlier bedtime 1-2 weeks before school starts. School-aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
- Quality sleep. Enhance your child’s sleep quality by avoiding screen time 60mins prior to bedtime, darken the bedroom (no night lights!) and consider melatonin supplementation. Typical dose of melatonin for children is between 0.5-2 mg at bedtime. Magnesium at bedtime also helps ease tension and promote restful sleep. Typical dose of magnesium for children is 100-200 mg at bedtime.
- Start the day with protein. Forgo breakfast cereals, bagels andpastries, all of which will lead to a sugar spike and then crash. This roller-coaster ride of blood sugar can lead to poor focus, anxiety and irritability. Starting the day with protein stabilizes blood sugar, translating to a stable mood. Healthy protein-packed breakfasts include eggs, oatmeal with nuts, smoothies with chia seeds and hemp seeds, almond flour pancakes, and plain yogurt topped with nuts, chia seeds, berries and drizzled with honey.
- Utilize calming supplements, such as L-theanine. L-theanine is the calming amino acid found in green tea. Many studies have shown that L-theanine can promote relaxation without drowsiness or sedation. This study published in 2011 revealed that L-theanine helped improve sleep quality in young boys age 8 to 12 who had difficulty concentrating (previously diagnosed with ADHD). Typical dose for children is 200 mg 2x/day, last dose before bed.
- Optimize zinc and B12. Zinc and B12 are essential nutrients for a healthy brain. Zinc and B12 deficiencies can lead to anxiety, depression, irritability, and poor focus. Food sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, oysters, and meat. Food sources of B12 are eggs, yogurt, meat, poultry, fish, and nutritional yeast. Consider having your child’s zinc and B12 levels tested and supplementing if indicated.
- Supplement with fish oil. Fish oil supplementation is a must for your child’s developing brain. Fish oil is full of omega 3 fatty acids, notably DHA, which is like food for the brain. Food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds. Here is more information on choosing a quality fish oil.
- Reduce stress and promote focus with phosphorylated serine. Phosphorylated serine prevents surges in cortisol, our stress hormone. When taken in the evening, it can improve sleeping patterns and when taken during the day, it improves memory and focus. Therefore phosphorylated serine is a safe and natural option for ADHD.
- Deep breathing. Encourage mindfulness with deep conscious breaths. Encourage your child to take 10 deep conscious breaths daily- breathing in through their nose like they are smelling the roses and breathing out through their mouth like they are blowing out birthday candles. A “breathing ball” can help your child focus on these deep breaths, diverting the attention away from the stressor.
- Reassurance. Reassure your child that worries about schoolwork, schedules and socialization can be normal. Experts from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center recommend acknowledging the child’s worry and then reassuring them that it will soon get easier and they will soon be having fun.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.