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Back-to-School Anxiety: A Guide for Teenage Girls with ADHD

by | Aug 25, 2023 | Anxiety, School, College & University | 0 comments

Are you suffering from Back-to-School Anxiety? This is the blog for you!

Today is GCSE results day here in the UK and so this means it’s almost the end of the summer holidays. The transition from carefree summer days to the structured routines of the school year can be a source of back-to-school anxiety for many teenagers.

This is especially true for teenage girls with ADHD, who may experience intensified feelings of apprehension as they navigate returning to school from the summer holidays.  In this blogpost we will delve into the nuances of back-to-school anxiety, exploring its underlying causes, its impact on girls with ADHD and some strategies to help manage it.

What is Back-to-School Anxiety?

Back-to-school anxiety is a natural response to change, particularly when it involves a shift from a relaxed holiday mode to the demands of school and college life.  It’s important to recognise that anxiety is a shared experience, and many teenagers, regardless of whether they have ADHD, grapple with similar feelings.  However, for girls with ADHD this anxiety can be heightened because of their neurodivergence.

Teenage girls with ADHD often have to contend with additional layers of stress.  The problems they have with executive function, working memory, hyperactive brain and emotional dysregulation can make the thoughts and tasks more demanding, intensifying the uncertainty and increasing the anxiety associated with returning to school.  Expectations from the teachers and school, social pressures from friends and peers and the need to establish routines can feel overwhelming.

Recognising these challenges is a crucial step towards addressing and managing the anxiety being experienced.

 

Several factors contribute to back-to-school anxiety for girls with ADHD.

Academic pressures

The prospect of new classes, new teachers, coursework, assessments and exams can be intimidating, triggering concerns about their ability to meet the expectations of their teachers and parents

Social dynamics

For many, social interactions can be challenging due to ADHD-related difficulties in social cues and impulse control. The desire to fit in and form friendships (which is heightened amongst teenagers in general) can lead to greater levels of social anxiety.

Time management and organisational skills

The need to establish effective time management and organisational skills can cause stress for girls with ADHD where executive function problems and time blindness are all part of their neurodivergent brains.

Transition stress

Moving to a new year group, moving school or starting at college can provoke anxiety about unfamiliar environments, routines and expectations.

Perfectionism

The pursuit of perfection and fear of failure can exacerbate anxiety, as girls with ADHD may set unrealistically high standards for themselves. This is usually done so as to hide the difficulties they are having due to their ADHD.

Effective strategies for managing back-to-school anxiety

Routine

ADHD brains hate routine, but a consistent daily routine can help reduce and lessen the impact that ADHD has on our lives.  Routine can include getting up at a regular time, going to bed at a regular time, when you get home from school making sure you make time to decompress from the pressures of the school day, etc.

Organisation techniques

Use tools that can help such as digital apps like google calendars, to keep track of what you have to do. Lots of people recommend diaries and planners. I love a planner, but my brain gets bored and stops using them.  Also out of sight out of mind, means you forget to check your planner.  So use what works for you.

Time management skills

Experiment with techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique to enhance focus and concentration. Tailor your homework times to fit with your attention span.  If you can only manage 10 minutes at a time, then do 10 minutes before you have a break and then return.

Movement

Any sort of movement will help you manage anxiety, this can be walking, dancing, running, yoga, fitness, whatever gets your body moving

Mindfulness and relaxation

Don’t expect to be an expert at mindfulness. Be kind to yourself when you find your brain wondering, but mindfulness and deep breather can help reduce levels of anxiety.

Support group

Make sure you have a group of people around you who are there to support you and will listen when you want to talk. This could be parents, teachers, friends or a community support group like Unstoppable Girls.  Create and find your tribe who will support you for you.

Self-care practices

Prioritise self care by engaging in activities that bring you joy and relaxation.  Make sure you get enough sleep, enough exercise and eat healthily as these all contribute to overall well-being.

Positive Self-talk

It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts, instead challenge those thoughts and cultivate a positive inner dialogue. Building self-esteem and celebrating achievements can combat anxiety-triggering self-doubt.

Embracing Strengths

Recognise your unique strengths associated with your ADHD, such as creativity and resourcefulness. Embracing your individuality can enhance your self-confidence and resilience.

Back-to-school anxiety is a valid and shared experience among teenagers, especially for those with ADHD. 

By understanding its underlying causes, acknowledging its impact and implementing effective strategies, you can better manage and deal with your anxiety.

With the strategies mentioned above, the transition from summer holidays to the start of the school year can become more manageable and less anxiety-inducing.  It’s important to remember that managing anxiety is an ongoing journey, and with dedication and practice, girls with ADHD can develop the skills to thrive both in school and emotionally.

If you would like our support with your ADHD journey, you can find some wonderful resources on our ADHD blog or join our free online support community.

Let’s get talking!

We’d love to hear what you have to say. All our articles are based on the day to day experiences of our unstoppable young women … so the more voices, the better!

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