Back-to-School Anxieties

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Whether we want to accept it or not, at some point the summer ends and school is back in.  Getting educated should be a priority on anyone's list, but that doesn't erase the anxieties that may come with it.  Below we're reposting an article from teenshealth.org that addresses these issues.  We want every student out there to have a safe and healthy school year.  We know that good feelings start with what's happening on the inside.

After a summer of sleeping in or doing things on your time, the alarm bell announcing that first day of school can be a rude awakening. Whether you're an anxious new freshman or a confident senior, heading back to school signals a time of transition: new classes, new teachers, new schedules, and a new social scene.

Dread it or love it, you gotta go to school. Here are some ways to make the transition from summer to school a little easier.

First-Day Mania

There's no escaping the fact that the first day of school can be crazy. New kids wander around in circles. Lockers won't open. The school nurse needs your medical records. You forgot your gym shorts. Freshmen are running in all directions, looking for their homerooms.

How can you combat first-day chaos? If you're headed to a new school, try to arrange a visit before classes begin. Explore any areas that are of particular interest, such as the gymnasium, library, or science labs. Some schools offer maps. Get one and give it a read before school starts — then keep it in your backpack until you're familiar with your new surroundings.

Your first day is also the time to bring in school supplies and paperwork. It can help to pack your backpack the night before school starts so you're not scrambling around at the last minute looking for what you need. In addition to packing basic supplies (such as notebooks, pens, pencils, and a calculator), hunt down any of the school forms that were mailed to your family over the summer: immunization (shot) records, permission slips, and class schedules.

Did you try on eight different outfits before deciding what to wear? Lots of people check out who's wearing what on the first day of school. The key is to wear what makes you feel good, whether it's a brand-new outfit or a comfy old sweater. If you plan to wear a new pair of shoes, break them in a few days beforehand or your feet may scream for relief long before last period.

Each school has a different opening-day drill. Some start with homeroom or an assembly, but others may jump right into the first-period class. You'll meet your new teachers, and they'll probably give you an overview of the course syllabus, class rules, what the semester will be like, what supplies you'll need, and expectations of your performance and behavior. Some teachers will jump right into their first lesson, while others may have non-coursework activities planned. It all depends on the class and teacher.

Emotions

Here's a simple equation: new place = new emotions. Lots of people feel anxious, scared, or excited about school. Although students who are coming back as seniors may be happy they're in their final year and can't wait to visit with friends, most freshmen or new kids are likely to be tense or worried.

It's perfectly normal to feel nervous on the first day of school. Getting back to the school routine and adjusting to new workloads takes some getting used to after a long summer break. If you're having a mental meltdown, think back to some previous "first days." Everything probably settled down pretty quickly once you got into the routine.

Meeting new people or getting reacquainted with classmates can feel overwhelming, especially if you're the shy or reserved type. Start small: If large groups make you nervous, try saying hello to one or two new people a day — the kid at the desk next to yours in homeroom is a good place to start. Or ask new people to sit with you in the cafeteria.

If you still feel uncomfortable after a few days, talk to the school guidance counselor, a favorite teacher, or someone else you trust about how you're feeling and what you can do. But give yourself time — most problems adjusting to school are only temporary.

Making Your Way Through the Lunchroom

What's everyone's favorite period? Lunch, what else? But with foods like tacos, pizza, or cheeseburgers staring you in the face when you're at your most hungry, it can be hard to make healthy choices.

Here are some tricks to choosing foods that will keep you focused and active throughout the day — as well as help you grow and develop throughout the school year:

  • Get a copy of the menu. If your cafeteria provides a weekly or monthly menu, check it out. Knowing what's on the menu puts you in control: You can pick and choose which days you want to buy lunch and when you want to bring your own.

  • Head for the salad bar. If your school offers a salad bar, take advantage. If you'd rather pack, consider adding carrot sticks, a piece of fresh fruit, or pretzels to your lunch bag.

  • Think energy. Some foods are better choices than others for maintaining energy during the day. Choose low-fat proteins, like chicken, beans, or low-fat yogurt and add lots of fruits and veggies to your meal. They'll provide the vitamins and minerals you need and the energy to get through the day. Foods that have a lot of simple carbohydrates, like sugary snacks, donuts, or french fries may give you a quick rush of energy but it's not sustainable — which means you'll be left wanting more soon after you eat. The same is true of drinks filled with caffeine or sugar. You don't have to cut these out entirely — just enjoy them in moderation.

  • Stop for a snack. You can't concentrate or absorb new knowledge without a well-fed mind and body. So take along a healthy snack, like carrot sticks or trail mix, to stave off hunger between classes (don't munch during class, though, or you may face a reprimand!). Not only will this keep you going, it will also help you avoid overeating when mealtime finally arrives.

Having a Brain Drain?

School seemed simple when you were younger. Everyone told you where to go, what classes to take, and how to finish your homework. Now things are different; there are so many choices and priorities competing for your time. Stretch yourself too thin and you may find yourself feeling stressed out.

Here are some things you can do to help regain control:

  • Plan ahead. Get a wall calendar or personal planner. Mark the dates of midterms, finals, and other tests. Note the due dates of term papers, essays, and other projects as they are assigned. List any other time commitments you have, like basketball practice or play rehearsals. When your calendar starts to fill, learn to say no to additional activities until things calm down.

  • Stay ahead. Try not to fall behind. If you feel yourself falling behind and starting to feel frustrated, let your teachers know. It's better to get help early on than to wait and think you can ace the final if you spend a few nights cramming. Almost everyone struggles with a particular subject or class. If you're having trouble with a particular subject or homework project, ask your teacher for extra help after class. Taking a few minutes to address the problem right away can save time later, and if your teacher knows that you're struggling with something, he or she is likely to be more understanding of the situation.

  • Listen up. Paying attention in class can actually pay off in the long run. Sure, it's often easier said than done, but actively listening and taking notes during lectures can make recalling information easier when it comes time to study and remember things.

  • Take notes. If you take notes and review them before class begins (or while studying for an exam), you can ask a teacher to go over anything you don't understand. It can also be helpful to go over notes with a friend after class — as long as you're confident your friend really grasps the material! Learning good note-taking skills in high school also helps put you ahead of the curve in college, when good lecture notes are key to studying and doing well.

Ahh-choo! What to Do?

Nearly everyone gets sick at one time or another. If you're out sick, ask friends to take notes and pick up your homework.

If you're out for more than a day or two, do a little work every day if you feel up to it to keep from falling behind. Some teachers post assignments and notes on the Internet — find out if they will accept faxed or emailed homework. If not, have your mom or dad drop your assignments off at school. Then be prepared to make up lab time and tests when you return.

If you're not feeling well enough to keep up with your classes, that's OK. It's more important that you take care of yourself. Again, establishing a good relationship with teachers helps them be more understanding and they'll be able to help you catch up when you make it back to school.

Survival Tips

Here are some more things that can help put you ahead in school:

  • The old saying "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" is never more true than when you're going to school. Students are more alert and perform better in class if they eat a good breakfast.

  • Get enough sleep. Studies show that teens need at least 8½ hours of sleep each night to feel rested. Sleep deprivation can lead students to fall asleep in class (embarrassing if you're caught!) and can also make it hard to concentrate. It can be more productive to get the sleep you need than it is to stay up late cramming: A recent study found that students who got adequate sleep before a math test were nearly three times more likely to figure out the problem than those who stayed up all night.

  • Do more at school and you'll have less to do at home. Take advantage of those times during the school day when you're not in class: Review notes, go to the library or computer lab, get a head-start on your homework, or research that big term paper. You'll be thankful later while you're at the mall or a concert and your classmates are stuck at home cramming!

  • One of the best ways to make friends and learn your way around is by joining school clubs, sports teams, and activities. Even if you can't kick a 30-yard field goal or sing a solo, getting involved in other ways — going to a school play, helping with a bake sale, or cheering on friends at a swim meet — can help you feel like a part of things.

School is a time to make friends and try new things, but it's also a place to learn skills like organization and decision making that will come in handy for the rest of your life.

 

Fatherless

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By Jonathan D. Grow 

As I have grown up year after year, I realize how not having a dad or functional family has really put me at a disadvantage. If I had been taught how to do things I would be in a different place with my relationships, emotionally and in life. There are so many essential things a Dad teaches a son. If a Dad isn’t present he can’t show his son how to be a man.

Why is a Dad being present so important?

Only a man can show a boy how to be a man. I know there are a lot of single mothers out there raising sons.  I’m not saying they are a doing a bad job, but for a son to be a fully realized man in society, he needs another man in his life to show him things.  I was at restaurant one day and this little boy was only with his mom.  He looked at me intently then looked at another table full of guys.  No, I can’t assume he’s completely fatherless, but something inside of me made me feel as if he was yearning to be with us guys.  I realized at that moment that whenever a young boy sees a man, there’s a desire to connect if he doesn’t have a dad at home.

Dads have abandoned their posts as leaders of the household. The ones who suffered first were the moms and then the sons. The really crazy part about this is the high probability that the son will follow in his father’s footsteps even though he promised himself he wouldn’t be like him.

How does a Dad help with relationships?

A dad is the first person that a baby will make a relationship with outside the womb. If he isn’t there to establish that relationship with the baby, there’s a huge possibility that the baby’s future relationships will most likely fail. The question I ask myself is would I have played all those girls if my dad was in my life. Would he have taught me how to be about one girl at a time? Maybe how to love them and care for them.  I probably could have been a better man if he was around.

Could he have helped me emotionally?

Would I be able to express myself in a healthier way?  Would my anger have gotten the best me of all the time? Maybe I could have understood it was okay to cry. That trusting others and loving them is okay. That understanding my emotions were still manly and part of being a human being. Maybe if I knew those things, I wouldn’t have repressed all my emotions all the time.

How could my dad have helped me establish myself?

For starters my dad would have validated me.  A son needs his dad’s validation or they seek this validation in uncommon ways because we don’t even know we are looking for validation. He could have taught me the things his dad taught him: like saving money for yourself.  He could have supported me in achieving my dreams, shown me how to follow them and not let them go. How to stand up for them even though I would be the only one.  How to make me wise in taking care of my name in this world because it’s important and represents who I am.

There’s so much more a dad is to his son.  He is his teacher, hero, supporter, critique, friend and also his dad.  Not being there causes young boys to look for men who can be that in their lives and eventually can look like outbursts in different ways.  This can also hurt your son.  So to all the men who are fathers, but absent:  be a different man and don’t abandon your son because chances are he is still looking for you in different ways.

I have my battle with growing up without a dad, but today I know I’m searching to be my own man.  However, I’m not going to lie, it put me at a disadvantage.  But now I’m bouncing back to realize that I can still change.  I’m not being the same man as my dad but a different one.  I have God guiding me.

To all the guys who grew up like I did or are growing up that way, you can also be different.  Just don’t forget what it feels like to not have had a dad and think would you want your son to feel the same way.  I know I wouldn’t.  So let’s be different and create a new legacy.  With God it’s possible.

To read more blogs from Jonathan, visit www.jonathandgrow.com

Unified Community

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By Allie T. Robison

    The Merriam-Webster definition of community is “a unified body of individuals.” The dictionary goes on to explain various examples of community, most of these examples involving location. Some of the great examples of community today revolve around things like a school, a sports team, a city, a culture, etc. Every community that we categorize as a functioning community has something in common: they all have something in common! Every member of a neighborhood community has location in common. Every member of a church has their faith in common. Every member of a scuba club has a love for a recreational activity in common. This is what makes said body “unified.”

     I think that Jesus calls us to be in a community that is more than that. First of all, we were created to be with people. We actually would die without social interaction. I’m not joking: science tells us that loneliness is becoming a bigger epidemic than obesity. But it’s even evident in the Bible. Characters featured in Biblical stories are surrounded by people all the time. Jesus formed meaningful relationships during his time on earth.  The first man ever created was given a woman because “it was not good for man to be alone.” (God said that!)

     Okay, so community is there so that people aren’t alone. Awesome. But, I have had many experiences of being a part of a community, but still feeling alone. I might not be the only one who thinks this. That’s why I think that a fully functional community is one that makes sure that no one is alone. How does this happen? Let’s look at the Bible.  

Hebrews 10:24-15: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Acts 4:32: All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

1 Corinthians 1:10: “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

      These passages seem to suggest the types of relationships that I am not used to making. I like to have friends to go drink coffee with or walk around a city with and take pretty pictures. I like to be able to share my problems and listen to theirs, and we share laughs. I think there is nothing wrong with that, but I think Jesus calls us to more. Words like spur one another on, encouraging one another, shared everything they had, agree with one another, no division among you, live in harmony, do not be proud…

     These words suggest a deeper type of relationship with people. Instead of coffee and catching up on the material things happening in your life, maybe what Jesus would have done is show up to my door at 11pm, when I’m in my pajamas and winding down, and ask me what the hardest thing in my life is. I’m not suggesting you show up at your friend’s door after dark and ask them about their deepest secrets, but I am suggesting that you don’t be afraid to. And the next time you hear a knock on your door right before you crawl in bed, praise God for great friends, and strive to be that friend for them, too. Spurring them on, encouraging, sharing, agreeing, no division, harmonious, and not proud. (PS. I included four verses. There are more than twenty thousand verses in the Bible. Go find them!) This is hard to do, but Jesus is calling us, and we better go!

     If you want proof that loneliness is actually a terrible epidemic and you should get yourself some soul sisters/bros for life: https://www.sciencealert.com/widespread-loneliness-is-killing-people-and-we-need-to-start-taking-this-seriously

If you want to learn more about what Jesus calls us to: The Bible.

#DouglasStrong: Blessed and Promised

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By Allie T. Robison

     The world gives us a multitude of things to mourn. Seriously, if we sit and think about it, it is enough to keep us discouraged, hopeless, and lost forever. And it has had this effect on many. In light of recent events (and yes, six weeks ago is still recent), mourning is a process we all have gone through. Everyone shows it differently, and everyone processes differently. But it is something that crosses some people’s mind, and consumes others’. To some, grief is a small thought or prayer in the morning and evening, and to others, grief is a monster against which there is no weapon, or a raging sea to which there is no lifeboat. It is an entire spectrum, and depends on the season of life one is in, for it is part of life. However much or however little one chooses to grieve is up to that person, and is not something that is easily explained to anyone else. This does not stop others from proclaiming their opinion on how others mourn. As Christians, the opinion we should really care about is God’s.

     The pastor at a church I attended on Sunday preached on how God holds those who are mourning. There is a special place in His heart for those who mourn and who are in the process of grief. Matthew 5:4 says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Jesus does not say “I am sorry if you are hurting. Get better soon.” Nor does he say, “There is no reason to be sad! Be happy!” He does not even push them away at all. He blesses them. And not only that, but he promises them comfort. He does not give a timeline, or say that “tomorrow, everything will be better!” But he promises comfort. And you know that when Jesus promises something, it comes true, and everyone feels it. Hold on to this promise. However hard it gets, there will be comfort.

Blessed are you who mourn. You will be comforted.

 

Shut Up and Listen!

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 By Allie T. Robison    

     Recently, NBA All-Star LeBron James was criticized by Laura Ingraham, a political commentator for FOX News.  After the release of an ESPN podcast featuring LeBron James and Kevin Durant giving their take on certain political issues, Ms. Ingraham voiced her opinion about what the players said.  She pointed out the fact that LeBron did choose to not graduate high school in order to join the NBA, and that what he gets paid for is not related to politics. She ended her statement with this: “So keep the political commentary to yourself or, as someone once said, shut up and dribble.”

     LeBron publicly replied on social media and during an interview at All-Star media day: “We will definitely not shut up and dribble. I’m definitely not going to do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to the kids who feel like they don’t have a way out and need somebody to lead them out of the situation they’re in.”

     I’m not much into politics, but I do believe that everyone has a right to voice their opinion. Of course, there are times that are fitting for the voicing of opinions, and times when it is better to keep silent. I also know that God has His hand in all things, the fact that LeBron stands on his NBA platform is not a mistake, and neither is the fact that Laura Ingraham has the platform of hosting her own segment on FOX News.  Each person is well-known and their opinions are heard by many.

     Times like these make me think of Jesus’ ministry. As I read through the Gospels, I can only imagine what those crowds were like who followed Jesus around. They must have been so helpless.  Many times, Jesus’ reaction to seeing these crowds of thousands just waiting for him to speak is that he has compassion on them. In Mark 6, Jesus felt for them, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” In Mark 8, Jesus has compassion, “because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.”

     Since Jesus’ time, crowds have been waiting for a leader and wandering around without hope or direction.  Often times, I feel like a part of these crowds. I don’t know who to believe, I don’t know what is true anymore, and I need a leader. This is why it is so easy to listen to things like this discourse between Laura Ingraham and LeBron James and decide who is right and who is wrong. I could very easily get behind LeBron and his words, and decide he is my political “leader” from now on.  Honestly, that is how desperate I am for someone to tell me what’s true.

     I think this is what’s happened in our country. Things get so confusing, issues get so out-of-hand, and people start sharing all their different opinions that the easy thing to do is to protect yourself by getting behind and supporting someone else’s opinion, just to get out of the line of fire.

     What if we did this with Jesus?  His truths are the ones that stand. He may not have explicitly declared his opinion on gun control or who is “qualified” to talk politics, but he tells us what is important, how to treat others, and who to run to. In Matthew 11, Jesus calls for us to run to him for something we all need: REST! Verse 28 says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

            In a time where I feel a part of a wandering crowd looking for truth, Jesus has compassion. He gives me something to eat, and he tells me to rest. Then he tells me what is true. These are things from a credible source and things that will change my life.  These are the real things I should run to.  Maybe, instead of “shutting up” and doing our “job,” we are called to “shut up” and listen to what Jesus is calling us to.

Learn more about what happened between LeBron and Laura here: https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2018/2/17/17023686/lebron-james-fox-news-host-shut-up-and-dribble-nba-all-star-game-2018