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'We didn't recharge': Extra back-to-school anxiety this year blamed on stressful summer in the Maritimes


While there is often a lot of excitement surrounding back-to-school time, the transition from summer vacation mode to the classroom can also be a source of anxiety for students, parents, and teachers.

Registered psychologist Dr. Dayna Lee-Baggley says there are likely a lot of people in Nova Scotia who are starting the school year already feeling a little burnt out.

This summer has had its fair share of challenges, including weather events such as the deadly flash flooding in July that killed four Nova Scotians and the record wildfire season that burnt more land than any other on record.

Those events may have been anxiety-inducing for some, which is why Baggley says some Nova Scotians may not have had enough rest and relaxation this summer.

"We had fires, we had floods and I'm sure there's a hurricane brewing somewhere, all we need are the locusts," said Baggley.

"We finished the school year off burnt out and we didn't recharge over summer and we are starting the school year off burnt out and that's true for students as well as parents."

For post-secondary students in Halifax, housing and the lack thereof, is a major stressor. For years now, the housing vacancy rate has continued to sit below 1 per cent in the city.

"The lack of housing is pretty difficult," said Thomas Giffen, a first-year student at Saint Mary’s University.

"When you have to get forced to go into the residence, not myself but for most people, they rely on residence and it's not the most budget-friendly option."

International student Waleed Ghummen arrived in Halifax this summer from Pakistan to study law at Dalhousie University. He says housing was a major challenge for him.

"As an international student, accommodations was initially a problem we faced but I guess that's a problem everybody knows of," said Ghummen.

"Thank God the problem is resolved now."

Dr. Simon Sherry is a clinical psychologist and professor at Dalhousie University. He says anxiety tends to rear its head during times of transition and it's important to acknowledge the stress and to normalize it.

He says it is particularly important for this group of students known as "Gen Z," which includes those 25 and under, whom Sherry calls the "most anxious generation."

"We've got a generation of kids heading back to school that are using six to eight hours of their discretionary time per day immersed in social media, which makes them distracted and isolated and often feeds them content that provokes their anxiety," said Sherry.

In terms of stress management, Baggley says instead of getting upset over the things we can't control we should instead try the "of course" method.

"Of course there was no bus driver, of course the after-school program isn't starting today, of course, I forgot the lunch money.”

Baggley says the more people fight with the things they can't control, the more distressing it becomes and so people need to step back and go easy on themselves.

Both Sherry and Baggley say exercise and good sleep is an important part of managing stress and anxiety. They also suggest asking for help.

Anxiety Canada, a science-based anxiety relief organization, has developed a free online tool parents can use to help their children deal with anxiety and introduce new coping tools. Top Stories

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