Back to school doesn’t have to be all about your kids. Let the start of a new
school year inspire you. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has a grown-up
perspective on back to school that can help improve your emotional health.
I recently did an interview for Natural Health
Magazine’s article “Back to School for Grown Ups” about channeling
school day memories and fall’s energy to improve our lives as adults. Here’s
a quote from the article:
The weather, certain smells, certain tastes-all of these things can trigger
memories of earlier experiences,” says Julie Hanks LCSW, a psychotherapist
in Salt Lake City. “Come fall, some women feel the same type of
anticipation they did as kids and might even unconsciously find ways to
relive or improve upon the experience.”
I thought it would be fun to take inspiration from school days gone by and
put my own emotional health twist to it, to help inspire you to take care of
your emotional selves. Let’s reclaim some of the joy associated with the
beginning of a new school year!
1) If you loved recess…
Why we loved it – games, freedom, break from school work, fun, social
TIP: Bring back playfulness & joy to physical activity
Instead of exercising to lose weight or burn calories, focus on activities that
are fun, provide social interaction, and feel nurturing. Check out fun
activities at community recreation centers or adult recreational activities
and sports leagues. My friend and neighbor Andrya Lewis, recently brought
up her decision to exercise for fun and when she feels like it. “At this point
in my life, I deserve to do what I want to do.” Here’s Andrya at a Jazzercise
class that combines her love of dance, music, and socializing.
2) If you loved school lunch…
Why we loved – As a child we ate without guilt or concern for nutrition. My
elementary school favorite was pizza day with an ice cream sandwich for
TIP: Eat for pleasure
Take a break from counting calories, fat grams, etc. Splurge on your
favorites once in a while.
Earlier this week I went to lunch with some girlfriends and we ordered
turkey sandwiches with cheese (instead of without), dressing on the salad
(instead of on the side), and we ordered dessert.
3) If you loved making new friends…
Why we loved it – different students in class each year introduced us to a
variety of people and potential for new friends.
TIP: Shake up your social scene
Take the advice you tell your kids and extend yourself to someone outside
of your usual circle. Reach out to someone who may need a friend, who’s
new at work, or who recently moved into the neighborhood.
Build in activities that get you out of your comfort zone socially like joining
a mom’s club, hiking club, book club.
I recently helped a psychotherapy client with this very topic. She struggles
with depress and was feeling socially isolated. We came up with a list of her
interests, a list of clubs, church groups she could participate in. I
encouraged her to build new social interactions into her weekly schedule.
She joined a community theater production and attended a weekly church
group to expand her social network.
4) If you loved new subjects
Why we loved learning – variety of subjects, interactive learning, projects,
activities, adventure, willing to take risks and try something new.
TIP: Learn what you wished you’d learned in youth
“I wish I’d learned how to _______________________.”
It’s never too late to learn something new. Be willing to get out of your
comfort zone and to look foolish, at times. Local school district community
education programs for adults are an excellent resource for low cost
classes that range from cake decorating, to home buying, to parenting, to
salsa dancing, to guitar lessons, and so on.
For years I’ve been inspired by my friend and colleague psychologist Dr.
Kathryn Kair who started taking dance lessons in her 30’s and turned a
room in her home into a dance studio. She also started taking piano and
singing lessons at age 34. She didn’t have the opportunities to take lessons
in childhood so she decided to learn them as an adult. Her step-daughter
Nicole decided to join her and learn how to belly dance.
5) If you loved riding the school bus –
Why we loved it — Down-time, relax, visit with friends, trusted someone
else to get you where you needed to go, take the long way home.
TIP: Try public transportation
Let someone else be in charge of navigation so you can read, rest, or play
games on your phone. Try taking UTA Trax or bus to your next business
meeting, lunch date with friends, fun activities with the kids or for weekend
I asked my Facebook friends about their past school bus riding
experiences. While riding the bus was not a highlight for everyone, Lauren
said, “I loved it. I would meet my friends at the bus stop. We would play
cats cradle till the bus came, sit up front and talk to the bus driver and
On the topic of using public transportation as an adult, Bruce said that he
enjoys the “chill-out time on the bus and train so that when I get home I’ve
shook off most of the garbage from work and am ready to be human as I
walk through the door at home.” Other friends listed these benefits of
public transportation: getting work done, meditating or reading scripture,
journal writing, and sleep.
Back to school isn’t just for kids. Let this time of year inspire you to reclaim
the best parts of your youth.
Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is a therapist, self & relationship expert,
media contributor and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Visit
com for individual, couple, family, & group
counseling services designed to strengthen you and your family. We treat
mental health and relationship problems in children, adolescents, and
adults. Now open in Provo!
For additional emotional health & relationship resources connect with Julie