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03 5977 2000

5 St. Catherines Ct, Mornington, Victoria 3931

Back to school ANXIETY - Nicole Topp - Naturopath
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Back to school ANXIETY

You can literally feel the tension in the air. 

Its less than a week to go and the conversation has been around school going back. 

Plastered on smiles, light hearted conversations around making new friends and positive words used about the new teacher. OMG its bloody exhausting. 

Who knows how next week is going to go down! It could swing from monumental train wreck to pure amazement, wonder and awe. Anxiety is like that, its a sneaky f%*#er. 

Clinically, I am doing all of the things, but if you are a parent of an anxious child, sometimes the problem is actually you. 

It is actually just as important for your child that YOU are calm, so while I will give you my top 3 tips for a smooth transition, know that I am talking to you too. 


Since our food is what fuels the body, it will be of utmost importance that it is the right combination. 

Lets think of this week as preparation for the main event, a little like how you would prepare an athlete before game day!

Watch the sugar content and especially watch the additives, preservatives, flavourings and colours. 


Many of these foods are super stimulating for the brain (neuro excitatory). 

When we are talking about anxiety, if we load the body with neuro excitatory foods, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Certain foods have such a huge impact on our brain function that we are simply best to avoid them. How can we possibly expect our kids to work with a mind that feels like it has been scrambled. 

Have you ever seen a squirrel hop from tree to tree, jumping and scrambling. They are fast, they are erratic and they barely stop. Well, that is how our children’s little minds feel when they have consumed a substance that is neuro excitatory. 


Check the nutritional panel on every packet. 

Watch for the numbers, these can be pre MSG flavourings (super common) as well as the colours, additives and preservatives. Anything starting with E or has a 6 at the front, is best avoided, avoiding all of them is even better and actually totally doable. 

The rule in our house is that if you can not pronounce it or tell me where the ingredient has come from, you may not consume it. 


You have a week to get this back on track!

Start practicing getting up earlier again if this has slipped out and practise going to bed at the usual school night time. 

Sleep is INCREDIBLY important and not to be overlooked. When we sleep, our body uses this time to regulate. Sleep is like the bodies natural anti inflammatory and for those of us with a predisposed anxious brain, inflammation is a key driver. 

Generally one of the first steps in clinic, to assist with the symptoms of anxiety, are in fact to reduce inflammation within the body. This can be done in many different ways depending entirely from where the cause of the problem. With kids, I often start in the gut. 

The gut brain connection has definitely become much more mainstream these days, which makes my job a whole lot easier. When we simply remove foods that may be causing some disturbance in the gut, we make the neurotransmitters job SO much easier. You see, over 95% of our neurotransmitters hang out in our gut, so if this is not functioning at optimum levels, it is a little like trying to push s$&% up a hill. (Pardon the poo joke!)

Our neurotransmitters, like most of us, would prefer to live in a home that is comfortable. These brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine are responsible for making us feel calm, relaxed and happy, so we should be treating them like rock stars! 


We talk in our house. 

We use a lot of language around feelings, understanding how the body works and WHY we make the choices that we do.

There are two ways that we can approach making changes to our food and lifestyle. 

One is power over!

Power over is when we use our authority as a parent to simply tell our children what they will do. Now I’m not ready to launch into a parenting debate here, we each do what works for us, please do not send me hate mail. 

We see “power over” in work places and companies, its a do as I say situation. 

The other way we can approach this is by EMpowering. Motivating them to understand WHY. When they know why they are making a change. (Earlier nights mean that your body gets more time to rest and repair. “See honey, even a computer works better when we switch it off once in a while.” OR “I know you like those chips, but this brand doesn’t have those numbers in them that we are trying to avoid so that your brain feels happy.”) 

While I am not really saying that your child should have a choice in the changes that we create, I do suggest that you get them on board with WHY!

In our house we talk a lot about how anxiety is a feeling and quite a normal one at that. 

We all experience it, just to varying degrees. (I often discuss my experiences, even recent times that I could have spiralled into an anxious moment but i caught it.) 

I go a step further to discuss the role of the pre frontal cortex, the amygdala and the hippocampus and how each of these work together to check that you are safe. Our bodies are incredible and they can FEEL anxious before our mind has had a chance to catch up with it. 

We talk about them checking in with themselves and reminding them that once they did feel scared and their body is simply reminding them of that time. Simply by saying to themselves “thank you, I am safe” while taking 3 deep breaths can reset the vagus nerve and create a pivot. Simply recognising and understanding that their body is simply protecting them can be useful. It also helps that they know there are others in the classroom who feel like this. 

One last tip, if your child is having more extreme symptoms, shoot an email to their teacher. 

A BRIEF heads up with what works and what does not work, may just be a game changer. This teacher is now an extended part of your family, work with them. They are some of the most valuable members of our community.

I am just about to send an email now with a picture of my youngest, a few dot points on what we have found to be useful and what is not useful. 

Please do not overwhelm the teacher with the whole story, no one wants that, there are many kids in the classroom! A short introduction is all that is needed so that there are no major surprises on the first day back where everyones anxiety is on over drive. 

Should you have any questions, please book a free chat. I would love to support you in any way that I can.



  • Corinne
    January 26, 2020 at 4:27 pm

    That is so helpful Nicole. I can absolutely see the impact of non-nutritious food and lack of sleep on my little ones. This is definitely a focus for our family moving forward as it is not their fault they act in the ways they do after eating rubbish, preservative laden foods! Back to basics I say 🙂 Thanks for the advice.

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