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  • Writer's pictureEmma Tanti

Staying Afloat: Navigating Back-to-School Stress as a Parent and Swimmer

The back-to-school period can be an overwhelming time for parents. As you juggle the responsibilities of getting your kids ready for a new academic year, you may often find yourself struggling to maintain your own mental well-being, as well as keeping yourself or your children motivated to continue the sport. In this blog post, we'll explore some strategies to help you stay sane during this hectic period.

1. Time Management: As a parent and a swimmer, your schedule is undoubtedly packed. Balancing school routines, extracurricular activities, work, and personal commitments can leave you feeling like you are drowning in responsibilities. To stay afloat, effective time management is crucial.

  • Prioritise and Schedule: Make use of a planner or digital calendar to schedule and prioritise your daily tasks. Ensure there's dedicated time for your children, your swim sessions, and most importantly, time for self-care. Develop a weekly or monthly schedule that outlines your training sessions, school classes, study time, and other important commitments.

  • Turn your goals into habits: To develop a habit, repeat the same tasks every day, at the same time in and the same place. For example, if you want to improve your writing skills, set yourself the goal of reading every night before going to bed and writing for 30 minutes at lunchtime.

  • Include time for meals, rest, and relaxation to ensure you're taking care of your physical and mental health.

  • Use the Eisenhower matrix to categorise your tasks according to degree of urgency and importance; as referenced here:

Important and urgent tasks: do right away.

Important but non-urgent tasks: see if you can push them back or delegate them.

Unimportant and urgent tasks: do them or delegate them right away.

Useless and non-urgent tasks: forget about them.

  • Set Realistic Expectations: Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish each day. Don't hesitate to delegate or ask for help when needed.

  • Learn to Say No: It's essential to say "no" when your plate is too full. Overcommitting can lead to burnout and negatively impact your mental health.

  • Learn effective time management skills to maximize your productivity during study sessions. Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, time blocking, or using productivity apps can be helpful.

  • Avoid procrastination by breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks and setting realistic goals.

2. Healthy Outlet for Stress Relief: Swimming can be a fantastic outlet for stress relief, but it's not the only option. It's essential to find a balance between your responsibilities and personal well-being.

  • Dance Like Nobody's Watching: Just like you, I have my own outlet for stress relief – dancing like an idiot! Whether it's a solo dance party in your living room or dancing with your kids, letting loose and having fun can be remarkably therapeutic.

  • Explore New Hobbies: Don't be afraid to experiment with other hobbies or activities that bring you joy. Whether it's painting, yoga, or even journaling, find what makes you feel alive and relaxed.

3. The 2-Minute Rule: Life can throw curveballs your way, causing stress and frustration. When these moments arise, consider implementing the "2-minute rule."

  • Release Your Emotions: Give yourself two minutes to let out all your feelings – whether it's through crying, yelling into a pillow, or simply venting to a friend. Expressing your emotions can be cathartic.

  • Brainstorm Solutions: After your two-minute release, shift your focus towards finding solutions. Analyse the issue at hand and think about practical steps to address it. This will help you regain control over your situation.

4. Effective Learning Techniques: As a swimmer, you may find that traditional study methods don't suit you. Discover your own personalized learning techniques.

  • Active Learning: Walking and talking out loud can be a highly effective method for information retention. If sitting still isn't your thing, try walking through your study material while verbalising the key points. I also find writing material into one sentence phrases on flashcards very helpful.

  • Break It Down: Divide your study material into smaller, manageable segments. This makes the learning process less daunting and more achievable.

5. Open Communication:

  • Maintain open communication with your coaches, teachers, and parents. Let them know your schedule and any potential conflicts in advance so they can offer support and understanding.

  • Talk to teachers about assignments and tests that might coincide with swim meets or important training sessions, if possible.

6. Healthy Eating and Hydration:

  • Proper nutrition is crucial for swimmers. Fuel your body with balanced meals that provide the energy and nutrients needed for both school and swimming.

  • Stay hydrated, as dehydration can affect your concentration and athletic performance.

7. Rest and Recovery:

  • Ensure you get enough sleep to recover from your swim workouts and to stay alert in school. A well-rested mind and body perform better academically and athletically.

  • Incorporate active recovery, such as light stretching or yoga, to prevent muscle soreness and stiffness.

8. Stay Organised:

  • Use planners, calendars, or digital apps to stay organized. Record assignments, deadlines, and swim meet dates to avoid last-minute surprises.

  • Keep your swim gear and school materials well-organized for easy access.

9. Flexibility and Adaptability:

  • Be prepared for the unexpected. Sometimes, you may need to adjust your plans due to unforeseen circumstances, like a school event or swim competition, so be adaptable.

In conclusion, the back-to-school period can be stressful, especially for parents and swimmers. Balancing swimming and school is a skill that can be developed over time. It's essential to maintain a healthy perspective, prioritise your well-being, and make adjustments as needed to ensure you can excel both in the pool and the classroom.

Remember, you're not alone in this journey, and taking care of your mental health is a crucial part of maintaining a balanced and fulfilling life.

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