Normalizing Back to School Anxiety

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, August 18, 2021
By Gabriela Reyes, MFT

BACK TO SCHOOL *cue instant anxiety*

Whether you’re 5, 12, 18, or 24 years old, that week before school starts always makes most of us at least a little nervous. Stepping into the unknown, taking classes you heard were tough, seeing teachers you’ve struggled with, seeing other students you may have had issues with, seeing an ex, etc. The list goes on and on. The possibilities are endless. Our anxious brains LOVE the potential to make up a negative story that starts with a simple “What if…”

Unfortunately and fortunately, anxiety is not a foreign concept to very many people. It’s spoken about openly and pretty widely in today’s society. Unfortunately, that means many people struggle with this. Fortunately, there is a ton of information and help readily available. By definition, in its simplest terms, anxiety is an irrational fear.

For example, it’s normal for your son or daughter to feel scared or worried,

  • seeing that calendar on your fridge with the first day of school near
  • seeing back-to-school commercials
  • seeing you scheduling times to go back-to-school shopping

When someone expresses fear, a commonly used response by most is “don’t be scared.” This is an automatic afterthought, similar to saying “good,” anytime someone asks us how we are, despite sometimes not feeling very good at all. The bad thing about this automatic response when someone tells us they’re scared is that this fear now becomes something they want to get rid of. The thought becomes, “If I’m not scared, I can do this.” or “If I’m scared, I won’t be able to do this.”

I invite you all to shift your response to fear. There will always be something scary out there. Some of the greatest things in life are terrifying! Feeling scared is not something we need to shy away from. What if our response to fear was more along the lines of, “That’s ok! It’s normal to be scared. The good news is that you can do it anyway and eventually, you won’t feel scared anymore.”

Fear doesn’t have to be debilitating. Let’s normalize feeling afraid or anxious and doing the thing anyway.


“Fear is temporary. Regret is forever.” Unknown