Mass General provides tips for beating stress as the return to work or school, or even just fewer hours of daylight, can leave people feeling more anxious.

With summer days behind us, the return to work or school, or even just fewer hours of daylight, can leave people feeling more anxious as autumn arrives. Here are some tips for beating stress and keeping a summer mindset all throughout the year.

What You Eat Impacts Your Mood.

From kale to quinoa, cashews to bananas, “comfort” foods rich in magnesium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B and probiotics can have a calming effect on your mind and body. Mass General psychiatrist Uma Naidoo, MD, suggests there are seven core principles for nutritional psychiatry. Follow these principles to help ease anxiety symptoms through foods.

You Have the Power to Overcome Negative Thoughts.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a powerful treatment for anxiety disorders. Mass General psychologist Susan Sprich, PhD, tells her patients to pause when they feel anxious. She tells them to take a deep breath and ask yourself the following questions: What is making you anxious? Is this thought realistic? Is this thought helpful? What is the worst thing that can happen? If that happens, can I cope with it? What would you say to a friend in this situation? These questions help patients learn how to recognize negative thoughts and come up with effective coping strategies to reduce their anxiety.

Trigger the “Relaxation Response.”

Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine study the impact of stress on health, as well as solutions to trigger the body’s “Relaxation Response” to counter stress. These solutions include yoga, meditation, deep breathing and other mindfulness practices.

The skills to reduce stress and reframe negative thinking are easy to learn.

This is especially important for teens, who are more stressed than ever and often don’t know how to deal with it. But Rana Chudnofsky, MEd, director of the Resilient Youth Program at Mass General says “[T]he skills to reduce stress and reframe negative thinking are easy to learn.” Research shows that teens who can trigger the relaxation response are calmer, more focused and productive. See the toolbox of techniques to manage stress for better health in teens.

Have a Successful School Year.

Going back to school can be a stressful time for kids, but also a great time to start implementing long-term strategies to improve our own and our kids’ ability to cope with stress. Parents and kids alike benefit from planning ahead, keeping a regular sleep schedule and setting realistic priorities for school and outside activities. If you have a parent-teacher conference, there are ways to make it productive for you and your child. Learn how to get your concerns and questions addressed and how to incorporate feedback into your child’s daily school life.

Help Children Cope with Special Challenges.

School can magnify the problems experienced by many children who have special challenges. If a child has a food allergy, it is important to closely monitor their lunches, as well as snacks that may be offered by other children, and teach them ways to eat safely when you aren’t around. If your child experiences anxiety over taking tests at school, here’s how you can identify the type of anxiety your child is experiencing and the corresponding treatment plan. In the case of a reading disability, MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s Department of Speech, Language, Reading Disabilities and Swallowing Disorders has identified general reading milestones for young children as a guide, and ways to help your child embrace reading.

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