“OMG he’s so OCD,” is a phrase we’ve all heard, and probably used at one point or another to describe someone very clean, tidy, or scrupulous about a certain thing. Like writing their headings in a certain colour pen, for example, or being on time.

We say it without thinking, just as we say someone sad is ‘depressed’ — but like depression, OCD has this whole, big, messy OTHER meaning to it… which, if we knew more about it, might make us think twice before bandying it about the place like any old word.

What does OCD look like?

OCD is a disorder: specifically, an obsessive compulsive disorder, in which a particular pattern of thoughts and/or behaviours occur to you again and again. Imagine the repeat button on your iPod getting jammed on, say, Rebecca Black’s Friday, and you’ve pretty much got it – except of course, that is happening in your head, and there’s no way of pulling the plug.

So what are the symptoms?

‘Obsessions’ are distressing – even disgusting – thoughts or images which keep appearing in your mind, no matter how many times you try to think of something else. Sure, that can seem pretty common  (who doesn’t feel like they think of their crush every waking second of every day?) but this is next level repetition: it’s not obsessed as in ‘I am ob-SESSED with Grace and Frankie’, but upsetting, occasionally repulsive and often unlikely thoughts – your crush, friends and siblings all dying in a flood you’ve caused, for example – which arrive without invite, complete with a supersized dose of anxiety.

OCD UK has a really extensive (but by no means complete) description of the kind of thoughts an OCD sufferer might have.

‘Compulsions are the behavioural part of the deal – the actions someone takes to combat, control or relieve the unwelcome thoughts. They can be related to the thought (checking the taps constantly, for example, if it’s a flood scenario you’re obsessed with) but they can often appear irrational. They offer a relief from the anxiety, and that’s what results in an urge to perform them again and again – but like squeezing a spot, the relief they offer is usually pretty shortlived.

TL;DR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which means a distressing pattern of thoughts and/or behaviours occur to you again and again. And again. This DOESN’T always mean hand washing or tidying up – and nor does a tidy person who washes their hands a lot necessarily have OCD. We don’t know what causes OCD, but it’s thought to be triggered by trauma, stress, and/or a genetic predisposition to the condition. Treatment is easily accessible and, with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), really effective. If obsessive thoughts or behaviours are taking over your life, you should definitely talk to someone and seek help.

Cleaning and handwashing ARE common compulsions, but they are not the only ones – and someone who washes their hands a lot doesn’t necessarily have OCD. Ditto tidying, hoarding, checking things, arranging and rearranging things and other everyday behaviours (you can find out more on that here) which tbh mostly sound like habits your parents could do with scaling back on. Only if they occur repetitively and as a result of obsessive, upsetting thoughts could they potentially indicate a more serious issue.

So how do I know it’s OCD?

When it is taking over your life, at the expense of anything else you might need or care about. Let’s go back to the crush example, shall we? Dreaming about their dimples is delightful, and probably doesn’t make you late for school every day. You can dismiss the thought if you have to. and focus on the task in hand. We’re talking about a level of obsessive thinking and behaviour that consumes and distresses you and your loved ones in much the same way as a serious addiction: impacting your work, home and social life and taking up an excessive amount of time.

When I had Compulsive Skin Picking – a form of OCD that takes picking your spots to a whole new level – I was known to spend almost over an hour in front of the bathroom mirror, picking and peeling away. That, my friends, is obsessive compulsive disorder; not a 60-second pus fest.

What causes OCD?

Annoyingly no one has managed yet to pin it down to any one cause in particular. It’s believed to be down to one or more factors which kickstart the disease – you can read about these in detail here, but they can be genetic (often conditions like OCD and anxiety or depression can run in families), psychological (sometimes a previous mental health problem can lead to OCD) and environmental (the result of external stress or emotional trauma in childhood or later on).

OCD has no age-limit, and it isn’t confined to one gender in particular. There are still many questions to be answered about what brings it on.

Is it treatable?

Absolutely! CBT — another acronym, but a nice one — stands for cognitive behavioural therapy, and is your best friend here. At its most basic it means rewiring your brain, to help it avoid negative trains of thought and choose more positive ones instead. Don’t panic: it doesn’t involve actual wires – just talking to a CBT-trained therapist who will help to understand, challenge and avoid the obsessive thought processes.

You know how there are some routes you really should know by now, but somehow you always go wrong on? These guys will point out the signpost you’ve missed, and the garden with the gnomes which reminds you it’s the next road on the left. Metaphorically speaking. The most common problem with OCD is that people suffer for ages before seeking help. You can, and should, read more about treatments here.

@clare_finney

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Image: Getty

Erm, doesn’t it seem like only yesterday when you were happily whizzing around on your scooter in the park or playing hopscotch with your pals and your deepest thoughts consisted mainly of what Santa was going to bring you for crimbo? Sorry to break it to you, but those were the glory days. Now? Well, everything feels kinda different doesn’t it? Suddenly there’s big-deal stuff going on and you’re feeling all the emotions on the regular.

Mood swings are a legit part of going through puberty, starting your period, and dealing with the hefty package of hormones that come your way. There are changes going on in your body rn that are beyond your control, so if you’re questioning “AM I EVEN NORMAL?” as you slam your bedroom door so hard it almost comes off the hinges, cut yourself some slack. This is normal behaviour. And it won’t last forever.

Tbf, it’s pretty inconvenient to be permanently on the edge of a tantrum or teary moment though. So before you contemplate hibernating from the world and emerging when you’re 25, here are some of the major moods you might be feeling at the mo, and what you can do to help handle them.

You’re angry

Oh. The. Rage. We’ve all felt the anger-monster a million times over – when your blood is literally boiling and you feel like you’ve got a fire-breathing dragon living inside of you.

And here’s the kicker. Such dramatic feelings are probably the result of some teeny-weeny, innocent crime such as your bro nicking the TV remote or your mate blanking you on Whatsapp. Irrational? Yep. Controllable? Nope.

What to do?

Breathe. That’s all. You just need to breathe through your anger until you’ve calmed down. This can prevent an outburst that you might regret later when the trigger moment has passed. Close your eyes and inhale slowly for five seconds and exhale slowly for five seconds – with each breath you should feel the red mist start to lift. Another way you can deal is to harness those fierce emotions and direct them into exercise, or channel them into a creative project – some of the greatest artists, musicians and writers have made their best work when being in an angry place.

You’re reckless

If you’re often impulsive or have a habit of blurting stuff out without thinking, there’s actually a reason for it. Here’s a nugget to quote to your parents when you’ve been grounded (again) for doing something stupid. Studies have shown that the front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, isn’t fully developed until around the age of 20.

Because this area of the brain is responsible for sensible stuff like planning, anticipation, controlling and understanding emotions, it explains why teenagers are likely to do crazy, careless stuff sometimes.

What to do?

You’ve probably realised that just saying soz after doing something silly or potentially dangerous unfortunately doesn’t cut it as you’re getting older, so being able to asses a situ for its risk factor is an essential skill to learn. Take five seconds to ask yourself these simple questions before saying or doing something bonkers; “Is this *really* a good idea?”, “is it worth getting into trouble for?” and “will I look back on this as a major fail moment?”. Getting into this habit will help you to make better life decisions. The bonus is that the more you can show your ‘rents you’re considering your actions and can be responsible, the more they’ll trust you and not treat you like a kid. And the more you won’t get angry (see above).

You’re sad

Sometimes everything seems a bit bleak doesn’t it? And that’s ok. It would be weird if we were super-happy and smiley 24/7, that’s just not real life.

Feeling totes emosh – whether it’s experiencing hurt, disappointment, grief, overwhelm, or just a general low mood – is totally normal, even more so around the time when your period is due. Yep, there’s those pesky hormones at play again.

What to do?

There’s no need to deny your feelings or be ashamed of your sadness. Meaning, if you want to bawl your eyes out while you torture your soul watching sad movie after sad movie, do it. Having a big ugly cry is a natural, healthy way to relieve pent up, heavy emotions and it’s likely you’ll feel soooo much better for it afterwards. Here’s an idea though, why not try challenging your grey mood with a change of scenery and belly-laughter – being cooped up alone in your bedroom sure doesn’t help when you’re low. Hanging out and having mega-lolz with your mates, especially when you least feel like it, can be the best medicine for blasting sadness.

You’re anxious

So it’s standard to get stressed when you run into your crush and your hair is a disaster, or feel worried before taking an exam, but sometimes anxious feelings can strike when you’re doing totally normal, everyday stuff. And that sucks.

The right kind of anxiety can be a useful way of telling you that things are not quite what they should be, or that you need to get out of a situation you’re clearly not comfortable with, but if you regularly find yourself suffering with major stress, you’re massively worrying about the future and your jangly feelings are stopping you enjoying life and having fun, it might be time to go ninja on this sneaky emotion.

What to do?

Anxiety is often fuelled by a bunch of negative thoughts, so the key is to recognise your internal neggy voice and shut it down before it can run rampage – resulting in you feeling stressed, on edge, and all kinds of urgh. By over-analysing situations or worrying about the potential outcomes of something before it has *even* happened (we hear ya), it’s easy to feed the untruths going on in your brain ­– but they are just that, untruths. Working out the reality of a situ vs what your head is telling you is tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it you can push those negative thoughts to one side and not let them side-track your life.

One final thought. If you’re really struggling with your moods, or the lows don’t seem to lift, you should chat to someone about how you’re feeling – having a healthy mind is equally as important as having a healthy body and your parents, teachers and GP are there to help you navigate these difficult emotions.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Some people hate getting their period, but for others, it’s a sweet release after the traumatic week before. Sure, you might not be bleeding or even cramping, but PMS symptoms – from the grumps to all those chocolate cravings – are the actual worst.

So, next time you’re days away from your period’s visit, remind yourself that all these irritating little thoughts are totally normal. Then wait four weeks and repeat, because womanhood is the gift that just keeps on giving…

Why is nothing going my way?

Your teacher thinks you could try harder on your essay, your best mate can’t sleep over on Friday night and that boy you were finally getting daily texts from has basically fallen off the face of the Earth. It does not rain the week before your period; it pours.

Why are yesterday’s minor problems today’s massive issues?

That rain was already trickling on Monday, but you could deal with it, no biggie. By Tuesday, however, it’s like your world has been flooded and you’re struggling to tread water. Waaaah.

I’ve literally cried four times today

Whether your BFF looks at you the wrong way or your grandma is being super cute, EVERYTHING will reduce you to a teary wreck – the only cure for which is to watch a sad film and cry some more. We recommend Disney Pixar’s Inside Out, which might also help you realise why you’re feeling like this, before you drive yourself completely mad.

‘Why on Earth am I craving chocolate? I AM A CRISP PERSON’

Usually someone could leave you in charge of a year’s supply of Dairy Milk and you’d barely sniff it. This week, however, you’re a chocolate monster. Just go with it – some cravings can only be silenced by giving in.

Why am I fantasising about eating pasta on mashed potato on bread?

Carbs are not the enemy the week before your period; they are your bestest friend.

How can I still be tired after 12 hours sleep?

It just doesn’t make sense, does it? Maybe it’s a carb coma, maybe you’re in the middle of a growth spurt, OR MAYBE THERE’S AN ARMY OF CELLS PREPARING TO REMOVE THEMSELVES FROM YOUR BODY VIA YOUR VAGINA. Period prep is, quite frankly, exhausting.

Oh, wait, my period must be due next week

That lightbulb moment when you realise you’re not an irrational human being, you’re just hormonal, is truly one of the best feelings in the world. You have an excuse for all your junk food eating, crying and laziness every month until menopause, ladies. If that’s not reason enough to celebrate being a woman, then what is?

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

Ah, love. It’s a tricky bastard. Love means a million different things to a million different people, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if what you’re feeling is true love, intense like, a raging crush or just the first twinges of indigestion.

But sometimes, you just know. Shakespeare had his summer’s day, Jane Austen had her country dances… and we have the moment you decide to share your Netflix password. Here are some 2017 signs that you’re probably, definitely, in love.

1. You let them take the stamp for your coffee on their loyalty card.

2. You actually put your phone down when they talk to you.

3. You offer them the last slice of pizza.

4. …then they say, ‘No, you have it.’

5. You agree to see La La Land for a second time, even though musicals make you want to punch things.

6. Even Snapchat knows you’re together and puts two pink hearts next to their name.

7. You can share a tent at a festival in August for a whole four days and still be speaking to them at the end.

8. They let you practice everything you learned from Dr Pimple Popper on their chin.

9. You’ve felt a strange and overwhelming urge to give them your wifi code.

10. There are more strips of adorable photobooth pictures in your purse than actual cards or money.

11. Every meme they tag you in actually makes you laugh, not just like to be polite.

12. You have Instagram notifications turned on for them, even if they’re a six-nearly-identical-blurry-selfies-at-once person. Even then.

13. They are the very first person you WhatsApp “SNOW!!!!! ❄️☃️❄️☃️” to when it snows.

14. And sad faces to when it turns to rain three minutes later.

15. You know their exact Starbucks order, and recite it faithfully even when it’s embarrassingly long.

16. You look at them the way everyone looks at Beyoncé.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

Growing up, I was always a teensy bit jealous of the way my male friends handled their disagreements. They’d have an argument, sometimes a shouting match, sometimes even a bit of a scrap, and then that would be that. They’d move on; friends again, as if nothing had happened.

Now I’m not saying I wanted to go around putting my friends in headlocks (well… maybe it seemed tempting sometimes) but the boys’ method looked so simple compared to the way I tried to handle things. Brought up to always be ‘nice’, and scared my friends might ditch me if we argued, I avoided telling people that I disagreed with them, or that the face they had pulled at my new (totally awesome by the way) school bag had upset me.

Instead, I’d sit there feeling cross and upset until eventually the feelings faded away. But, looking back, I was probably pretty sulky and snappy in the meantime. No fun for anyone. And lot of girls I’ve spoken to have told me they feel the same.   

Emma Gleadhill is a speaker and coach who helps young people to manage their relationships. She says it’s not surprising that girls can struggle with conflict, especially given how we’re often raised and what we deal with in society.  

“Everyone is different, of course, but research shows that parents are more likely to stop girls who are getting a bit rough with each other than boys. So girls grow up less practised at dealing with conflict. Also, if you look for female role models in the media who are assertive and powerful but also kind, there aren’t very many. The media often portrays strong women as nasty – like with Hilary Clinton in the US election. Girls feel like they’re walking a really fine line: trying to speak up about their feelings and get what they need, but not come across as aggressive.”  

Emma also says that fear of friends ditching you is also very normal among girls. “When they’re going through puberty, girls tend to seek out very close best friendships, and those friendships are so important to them that they don’t want to rock the boat. So tensions underneath the surface bubble away and what started off as an honest friendship can become quite a fake one, where both people are actually pretty unhappy.” 

As I’ve grown up, I’ve gradually become more comfortable with conflict. Now I see it as something healthy and empowering. I stand up for myself and what I believe in. I even tell my friends if they’ve upset me. And guess what? Nobody’s ditched me yet. In fact, my strongest friendships are with the people I feel I can be totally honest with.  

But getting to this stage has taken a fair bit of practice. And man, do I wish I’d started earlier. It would have saved me a whole lot of upset (not to mention all the hours I wasted secretly fuming). 

So, just in case you fancy getting a bit better at it, too, Emma has shared her top tips for dealing with conflict in a healthy way. Go on, give it a go. You deserve to be heard. 

1. Practise being assertive

The skills we use in healthy conflict, like quick thinking, responding thoughtfully and speaking up, can be built up with practice. It’s a bit like exercising a muscle. Set yourself little targets that will develop your skills and confidence. You can start really small, like putting your hand up in class to answer a question.

2. Learn from the best

Conflict doesn’t always have to involve difficult conversations or emotions. Some people debate with others just for fun. Find those people and watch how they go about things. It could be your relatives having a passionate discussion about the best way to make the Christmas gravy, or the members of your school debate team arguing about a hot topic in the news. Take note. 

3. Stand up for yourself in the moment

If someone says or does something you don’t like, try saying ‘Ouch!’ or ‘Ooh – can I have that in writing?!’ It’s a small comment, so it probably won’t cause a huge fight, but it immediately shows the other person that you didn’t like their behaviour. This is a great way to start setting boundaries with your friends without being too heavy about it.

4. Don’t let things brew

Unless you can genuinely forgive and forget the comment, it’s best to talk to the other person about it sooner rather than later. Take some time to process how you’re feeling but don’t leave things for weeks on end. The longer you bottle up your emotions, the more likely you are to lash out at the other person, and the worse they’ll feel when you reveal how long you’ve been upset for. 

5. Have a plan

If you’re nervous about the conversation, it can help to really think through what you want out of it and how you’re going to make your points. If you have a good relationship with a parent or somebody older, share your plan and ask for their thoughts or advice.

6. Choose the perfect place

Try to talk to the other person face-to-face and somewhere relatively private. There’s no risk of either of you losing face in front of your classmates, which means you should have a more honest conversation, and you’re more likely to find a solution together if you’re just concentrating on each other.  

7. Be flexible

Once you get into the conversation, you probably won’t be able to stick exactly to your plan, and that’s ok. Healthy conflict is as much about listening to the other person as it is about getting your own points across. They might have a good explanation for their behaviour (maybe their family is going through a tough time) but you won’t get to hear it if you’re ranting at them. Try to think of the conversation as an opportunity to work the problem out together. *Try*.   

8. Be real

If you’re confronting a friend who you want to stay on good terms with, tell them you value their friendship and that you want to sort things out so you can stay friends. But don’t be afraid to let them know the consequences if they don’t change their ways. You could say something like: “I need you to understand how I feel because the future for our friendship isn’t looking great if this sort of stuff keeps happening.”

9. Stick to the facts

Focus on things that the other person can’t argue with, like an example of what they did and how it made you feel: “When you said my hair looked stupid this morning it made me feel self-conscious.” Try to avoid insults (“You were such a cow this morning”) and generalisations (“You’re always making fun of me”), as they’ll only get the other person fired up. Plus, they’re easier to deny than actual facts.

10. Stop things escalating

If you feel like a situation is about to get out of hand, take five deep, slow breaths. This will help to slow your heart rate down, meaning you’re less likely to lash out. Next, try to look at the situation from a different angle. Is it really about you? What’s going on with the other person? If you’re too overwhelmed by your emotions to act calmly, make your excuses and get out of there.

11. Stick to your guns

The other person might try to brush off the thing that you’re upset about, but it’s important to keep making your point until you feel you’ve been heard. Try something like, “You might have meant it as a joke but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it made me feel upset.”

12. Look to the future

Always try to end conflict with a plan for how you’ll move forward together, listening to each other’s needs and being good friends to each other in the future. Congratulations – you’re now a confrontation pro. 

@LucindaEverett

Emma Gleadhill runs workshops in schools helping young people to handle their relationships.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

If you had asked me as a teenager if I knew how to look after myself, I’d say sure. I shower, I wash my hair every other day, I brush my teeth twice a day, I eat my fruit and veg, I change my knickers, I exercise… ish. My body is pretty well looked after.

If you asked me now whether I looked after myself as a teenager, I’d say I could definitely have done better. I could have, and should have, looked after my brain. Not in the ‘revise, concentrate in class, have your Omega-3, drink eight glasses of water a day!!!’ kind of way, but in in the ‘self care’ way. 

Self care can sound like an odd term because caring for yourself sounds obvious, right? But sometimes it needs more conscious thought. Sometimes you need to step back and think:

‘Am I ok? How do I feel right now, how’s my body doing? Shall I chill a bit? How shall I chill a bit?’

The world is busy, stressful, and fast. Sometimes your brain can’t keep up no matter how hard you try and you might not even realise you’re struggling under the pressure and pace of life. So whether you struggle with your mental health or not, self care is a good practice to learn.

But how can you do it? The whole business is different for everyone, but here are some good places to start:

Have a day/night off

It can be easy to get trapped into thinking that you need to be productive and busy all the time, but don’t wear yourself out. Let yourself have a night or day for yourself. No homework, no revising, no coursework, no thinking about where you want to be in 10 years’ time. You’re allowed to live for today.

Have a bath!

Like we said, life is busy and showers often seem easier and quicker, but a good soak in the bath every now and then can do wonders for you. Get the bubbles in, choose a fancy bath bomb, grab a book and lie in the warmth until you go pruney.

Cleanse your space

No, we’re not nagging you to tidy your room, but… well, maybe we are. But a healthy space is a healthy mind! If you have more time then have a proper clear out of your wardrobes and drawers for a charity. You may be more inclined to use your bedroom to chill in if it’s clean, tidy, pretty, and how you want it to look.

Go outside

Nothing beats fresh air. However great it is to stay inside all day and chill, it could end up making you tetchy and foggy. Even if it’s just standing outside your back door, spending a little bit of time outside each day will freshen you up.

Get creative

Can’t draw? Can’t write? Can’t sing for sounding like a strangled cat? Who cares! Creativity is good for the soul and you don’t have to be good at it. Buy a mindfulness colouring book or steal your little sister’s violin and go wild.

Have a Netflix binge

Treat yo’self. You’ve got time for one more episode, go on. Just make sure you get outside afterwards…

Order a takeaway

Yes, yes, vegetables are great. But so is curry, and pizza, and Chinese. Persuade your parents to take advantage of a Two for Tuesday offer or get your friends round on a Friday for a pyjama and takeaway night. You’re allowed the comfort food around the vegetables.

Catch up with an old friend

It can be easy to scroll through Facebook and see what your friends are up to without actually speaking to them for months, or even years. If there’s a friend you haven’t checked in with for a while then give them a message. Social media is sometimes a barrier you need to break.

Exercise

Hear us out. We’re not talking P.E. cross country or hockey, promise. Exercise doesn’t have to be a horrible chore. It can be fun and the endorphins that are released during exercise are incredibly good for your brain. Go swimming with your friends or try running. You may get into it more than you think…

Do some yoga/pilates/meditation

There are tonnes of YouTube videos showing yoga tutorials. Spending just 10 minutes a day reconnecting with your body and mind can keep you super zen.

Say no

You’re allowed. You don’t have to do something if you don’t want to.

Say yes

You’re allowed. You can let yourself have fun. You deserve it.

@louisejonesetc

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Confidence. Everyone wants a little more, but there’s no magic way to acquire it. Most of us lack it, at one time or other. Sometimes it feels like everyone around us is oozing it, while we got forgotten at the end of the confidence queue.

But believe it or not, even celebs struggle with their self-esteem. From making ourselves heard to loving the skin we’re in, here are some of our favourite quotes to give us a little boost…

“Don’t be afraid to correct someone if they’re wrong. I think girls tend to be more polite. You don’t have to be mean about it, but you shouldn’t be afraid to correct someone if they’re wrong.”

When it comes to speaking up, Ellie Kemper wants us all to be a bit more Kimmy Schmidt.

“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”

Meanwhile Coco Chanel never lost any sleep over the haters.

“Don’t be afraid to have your own opinion. Don’t take no for an answer. Fight. Because people try to bring you down, and people try to get in the way of your dreams. But if you set your mind to something, you can accomplish that – and then some.”

Can you come round and recite this to us every morning please, Sarah Hyland?

“Never dull your shine for somebody else.”

Tyra Banks is rooting for us all.

“I think self-doubt is healthy. It pushes you, and humbles you… Sometimes I meet people who are too confident. I’m like, “I don’t even like being around you. You’re boring. Get a neurosis, and then we’ll talk.”

Anna Kendrick there, with a reminder that sometimes a little insecurity is better than a big ol’ head.

“I’m not going to apologise for who I am and I’m actually going to love the skin that I’m in.”

When it comes to self-love, Amy Schumer is sorrynotsorry.

“There’s always something you’re allowed to be thankful for, and if you remember that then the bad things become a lot smaller. I would say that that is probably the best way to feel confident about yourself – be grateful and happy for your lot.”

Fearne Cotton is so good at being happy, she literally wrote the book on it.

“When the demon starts to slither my way and say bad sh*t about me I turn around and say, ‘Hey. Cool it. Amy is my friend. Don’t talk about her like that.’ Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.”

Sometimes it’s hard to know where Amy Poehler ends and Leslie Knope begins. But either way, they’re awesome.

“Love who you are, embrace who you are. Love yourself. When you love yourself, people can kind of pick up on that: they can see confidence, they can see self-esteem, and naturally, people gravitate towards you.”

They don’t call Lilly Singh ‘Superwoman’ for nothing, right.

“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”

But Oprah, do you mean Khaleesi or Elizabeth II?

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

From queens to the badass Princess of Alderaan, who better to teach us about confidence than the late, great Carrie Fisher?

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Disclaimer: I have always loved (loved, LOVED) my grandparents. Blessed with an IRL Santa Claus and the working class answer to Mary Berry, I have never once suffered that foreboding sense of gloom some of my peers confess to feeling upon being told they’re off to the ageds for lunch.

From the age of 0 to an age well beyond what is deemed to be cool, our lives as grandchildren were a halcyon dream of homemade forts, homemade swords and homemade dolls houses interspersed with homemade millionaire’s shortbread. Yet while not everyone’s forefathers can be as legit as ours have been, there will always be some merit in hanging out with them — if only for the brownie points, and actual brownies.

For one thing there’s the food. Sure, it might not be home baking, but if your grandparents are anything like my grandparents, you’ll never go hungry. Set free from the burden of parental responsibility for your teeth/mind/waistline, they will quite happily cave to your various cravings and desires.

If they’re good cooks, you can learn from them: many a happy hour I’ve spent watching my grandmother crumble pastry, knead bread, whip up a meringue and reduce a chicken carcass to rich, hearty stock. All that I have learnt in the way of using (and reusing) leftovers or in successful cake baking, I have leant at her apron strings while sucking on chocolate eclairs, mint crumbles or some other exotic sweet to be found in Marks and Spencer’s.

Yet the lessons to be learnt from your elders can (and, in the case of those grandparents who prefer their meat cremated and their vegetables soggy) should extend far beyond the kitchen walls.

There’s the art of saving: of making and mending and other techniques which, in our post war age of consumerism, are at serious risk of dying out. Some work better than others: my grandma’s insistence on storing her money under a mattress has its flaws, for example, but if you can master some of the arts of darning, wiring, hemming, patchwork quilting and bargain hunting you’ll be literally quids in.

Not only are they well worth learning, they can prove a fairly entertaining bonding exercise. My cack handed attempts to darn moth holes in my jumpers may not make my grandma proud, but they certainly make her crease up. Next month, my grandad is teaching me how to make elderflower wine with his ancient wine making kit. Coming as they do from an age pre-internet – pre-mobile phone, even – our grandparents capacity for survival, self-sufficiency and entertainment is boundless in comparison to our own goldfish brains. Even if you don’t learn how to make your own lipstick from beetroot juice, those are some pretty solid life lessons right there.

Then of course there’s the stories: stories of childhood escapades, first jobs, first loves and — a classic — how your grandparents got together, pre-internet! How, Where, Why etc. In my case, my grandad’s father was a landlord, my grandma’s father was a drunk, and romance blossomed over many years of her rocking up at the pub to persuade him to come home. Bear that in mind next time you assume things were sweeter back then.

In all seriousness, though, your g’folks are a gold mine of tales just waiting for you to spare the time and the patience. Listen closely. They won’t always be in the mood to tell you — and you will, on occasion, have to suffer laments on Sainsbury’s price of washing powder while they warm up — but stay with them. Not only are these nuggets the footnotes of history, they are your own family glue.

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Image: Amber Griffin

I’ll be the first to admit that every now and again, when the scrolling of my *enter any social media platform here* feed becomes aimless and automatic, rather than actually interesting, I’ll have a clear-out.

Much like the annual clear-out of my underwear drawer, sometimes an online clear-out is just necessary. As the years go on you realise that you’re not actually bothered about what the girl-who-you-sat-next-to-in-Maths-in-Year-7-then-never-spoke-to-you-again is getting up to now, and you can’t actually deal with any more tweets about football from the boy-you-met-at-a-friend’s-party-once-and-followed-because-he-was-a-bit-fit anymore. So you unfriend/unfollow them. Done. Sorted. Easy.

But, what happens when you want to unfriend someone in real life? Like, an actual friend you speak to and hang out with? There’s no button for that. No easy way out. But it can be done…

Is it ok to unfriend someone, or am I instantly a bad person?

No, you’re not instantly a bad person. Sometimes friendships just fizzle out, and people change or want different things. Suddenly they’re into house music and you’re still pining for a Girls Aloud reunion, or they deleted their Pokémon Go app and you are 100% not ready to stop catching ‘em all. And that’s ok. In that case, you’ll probably both drift away from each other naturally with no hard feelings.

But sometimes the feeling isn’t mutual. I spoke to Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and writer on friendships, and she said to remember that, “Friendships are voluntary relationships and should be mutually satisfying.” Irene is so right. You shouldn’t have to force yourself through a friendship if you’re not feeling it. That’s not fair on either of you.

How do I unfriend someone who’s horrible to me, and I’m a bit scared of them?

If someone is intentionally nasty to you, either publicly or privately, then you are totally justified to unfriend them. 

Irene suggests that taking control and being direct with this person about your feelings and wishes may be best, but if you’re worried about being physically or verbally threatened then speak to a trusted adult about the situation first. If you definitely don’t want to be direct with this friend, then you can try to quietly distance yourself from them by hanging out with others. Irene emphasises that “you don’t owe that person a lengthy explanation” – and you really don’t. It’s ok to put your safety and feelings first.

How do I unfriend someone if there’s nothing wrong with them, but I just don’t really want to hang around with them anymore?

Have you started putting your bag next to you on the bench when you see them walking over? Or hear yourself wince when their name appears on your phone? Yeah, it might be a sign that this friendship isn’t all rainbows and smiles, and it’s best to nip it in the bud before you start being out-and-out horrible to them or act like you’re swatting away a fly.

Irene says, “Sometimes it’s best to gradually spend less time with the other person or see them for briefer periods or see them as part of a group. It’s also perfectly fine to tell a friend that you want to expand your circle of friends.”

You could get all hippy and ‘I want to find myself’ on them before running off to Thailand*, or continue to politely decline their invitations of hanging out until they get bored of asking (or you run out of excuses). Whether you’re direct or not, there isn’t really a nice way around it. Just remember that it’s healthy in the long run.

You might even find that by spending a little less time with them, you’re happy and don’t need to cut ties. Sometimes we all need a break from people. We have those friends we could be with 24/7, and other friends who are maybe a bit full on and your head can only deal with a few hours. And that’s fine!

*ok, the other side of the school

Are you sure I won’t hurt their feelings?

There’s no guarantee it’ll be plain sailing, but hopefully they’ll understand that friendships change and you’re not to blame. Then they’ll use a photo of your face as a dartboard.

JOKING.

Hopefully…

If they do take it really badly, then maybe it’s a sign that this was the right thing to do. But it’ll likely be fine and any awkwardness will settle. You’ll both hang out with other friends and, who knows, you might even be on the same path in a few years and be best buddies again.

Hold on, I’VE been unfriended. Why?! What did I do?!

“If you know you said or did something wrong, apologise as soon as possible,” Irene says. “Or, perhaps, it was something you didn’t do or say that you should have!” Basically, the best thing is to just ask. It might be easier said than done, but if you’re hurt and confused then you have a right to ask what’s going on. Hopefully you can have a good conversation about it, but if not then it may be best to just let it lie, at least for the time being.

And remember, people change. Try not to not jump to the easy conclusion of: OMG WHAT DID I DO, WHAT DID I SAY, AM I AWFUL?! Reflecting on Irene’s advice is great if you’re on either side of this often uncomfortable and awkward situation.

(I’m still holding out for that Girls Aloud reunion…)

You can find Irene on Twitter, @irenelevine, and at www.TheFriendshipBlog.com.

@louisejonesetc

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Ahh jealousy: the green-eyed monster – the “ulcer of the soul” according to Socrates, a philosopher, poet and all-round ancient wise guy.

The fact that Socrates was born in circa 470 BC in Athens gives you some idea of just how old and stubborn this monster is. It is universal. And when our old pal William Shakespeare first coined the phrase ‘the green-eyed monster’ in Othello, he added “it mocks the meat it feeds on” – that is: you. Ouch.

Basically, there are no winners in jealousy; nothing to be gained. The object of your envy continues to ace life/love/work/the whole shebang, while you just flail around and feel bad about yourself. 

So is there way to prevent it? Or, when that queasy green feeling hits the pit of your stomach, make it disappear? Well, one thing that’s really important to remember when it comes to envy is that you are not alone: we’ve all felt it, and lots of us have even lost friends over it. But, from the best of my experience and those whose brains I have picked, here’s my best advice for keeping the monster at bay.

Say your congrats immediately 

Celebrate with them, whatever it is you’re obsessing over. As with any task in life, the longer you leave it the harder it is. You’ll start to look bitter, then you’ll feel more bitter, fearing that people might think that you’re bitter – and so on and so on into a green hole of ill feeling and pain.

Go the extra mile

If you can bear to meet the new boyfriend/girlfriend you’re so jealous of, then do it – they might make a great mate. They might have great mates. Likewise, if a celebration’s in order, be the one to send a card, or organise a surprise party. You’ll feel good about yourself, and they’ll love you for it. You know that saying, fake it ’til you make it? It’s the same with emotions. Act like you’re thrilled for them and have no jealousy whatsoever and pretty soon you’ll start to feel that way, too.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em… 

One of the bestselling self-help books of all time is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It does exactly what it says on the cover, looking at everything from time management to ambition to healthy eating habits, and gives advice on how we can do them ourselves. Look beyond the success of the person you envy to the habits they have instead – and steal those habits. Maybe they’re early risers. Maybe they keep a to-do list. Look, listen and copy. Success rarely happens by chance. 

…or don’t join em. At all. 

Climb your own mountain! Whatever the object of your envy is doing – be it a sport, an instrument or an essay title – do something else. If it’s their wardrobe you’re loving so much, find your own style instead; open your eyes to other potential crushes; play a new tune. You won’t have time to worry about their victories if you’re working towards your ones, and your friendship will be stronger for it. Not everyone can be Serena and Venus Williams, so quit trying. 

Count your achievements

Actually don’t just count them – write them down, and reflect on each one. Yep, this is a bit immodest, but hey – no one’s looking, and the main source of jealousy is insecurity about your own worth. As any genuine interview with any celebrity will ever tell you, we all feel insecure now and again. If quietly listing your own successes is a way to fight that, then go for it: it’s only arrogance if you go trumpeting that list in people’s faces. Look at the list every morning until the envy is gone – and if you need to, listen to I Am What I Am while you do it and channel the fierceness of a five drag queens.

There you go. Better now?

@finney_clare 

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Look. We need to talk. I don’t really know how to say this so I’m just going to come out with it. Here goes… Summer is ending soon. I know it only feels like five minutes since term ended and you bought your new sandals but what can I say? Mother Nature doesn’t care about days at the beach and barbecues. She’s on a tight schedule.

Thanks to school, college and uni schedules, the end of summer always comes with a side order of existential dread. It feels like you’re on the clock, counting down the last of the sunny days until you have to buy loads of folders and put your uniform back on.

But we’re here armed with good news. It doesn’t have to be like this! It’s time to beat the end-of-summer blues once and for all and we have a plan…

Map out next summer’s road trip. Right now.

If the thought of autumn is killing your mood, just go ahead and skip straight to next summer! Forget rainy days and frozen mornings, grab your mates, a laptop and google maps and get working on next summer’s road trip. Think sandy beaches, camping spots by a lake and maybe a cool city for a dose of culture. Next summer will start to look pretty sweet, pretty soon and you’ll forget all about the (whisper it) three seasons in between now and then.

Start getting excited for Halloween

The thing about summer is that it’s kind of occasion-free. Sure, there’s sunshine and long days but autumn and winter are where it’s at when it comes to the big dates in the calendar and, as we all know, Halloween is the best one. It’s never too early to start planning your costume, so get on that ASAP because 1. It’s something major to look forward to and 2. It means you can claim the best one before anyone else tries to step on your costume territory.

Work on a new goal

Summer is the worst time to be productive or ambitious because going out and walking/sitting/running/lying/anything-ing in the sun is always the most attractive option compared with, well, literally anything else. (Thanks, people who decided to put exams in summer.) So when the temperatures start to drop and going outside looks a little less tempting, it’s the perfect time to set yourself a new goal. Learn a new language, go to a weekly yoga class, learn to cook a killer signature dish; whatever it is you’ll find it way easier to stay focused and, as an added bonus, you’ll be so distracted by your new skills that you won’t even think about that once-dreaded switch from August to September.

Try out a fresh look

Hot weather dressing is mostly about choosing the thing that makes you sweat the least. Autumn is when personal style can really kick in; choosing your outfit becomes less about ventilation and more about fashion. You can go to town with layers, colours and textures and mix up as many influences as you want, so use it as an excuse to style up a whole new look. I guarantee you won’t miss that summer dress one little bit.

Plan the best autumn ever

We all have a habit of making loads of plans over the summer holidays and then going into hibernation mode the second it’s over, so it kind of feels like our social lives end when summer does. The answer? Make more plans! In fact, you may as well go right ahead and plan the best autumn ever. Schedule in home cinema marathons, day trips, fun new exercise classes, volunteering, shopping trips and crafternoons with plenty of cake (probably more cake than crafting if we’re being honest here). You’ll have a whole host of stuff to look forward to and you’ll beat that ‘fun-ends-here’ feeling that comes around every year.

Pamper yourself

After a season of sun, salty sea and sun cream, your skin and hair can start feeling pretty tired out. UV rays might be good for the soul but they leave everything else in need of some end-of-season rehab. So treat yourself to a mammoth pamper session. A gentle exfoliant will do wonders for dry skin; a clay mask will help sort out those pesky oily patches (cheers, sun cream); a hair mask will sort dried ends right out and a nourishing, natural body lotion or body oil will leave you feeling like a silky smooth mermaid. You’ll be feeling blissed out in no time.

We can already feel those blues just melting away. And anyway, there are only, like, 270 days until next summer…

@SophieBenson_

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Image: Hailey Hamilton

My first panic attack was probably the scariest half hour of my life.

My tongue was so swollen that it was going to detach itself and fall down my throat; my heart was palpitating at such speed that it would surely explode right then and there in my chest; and my brain was so overwhelmed with the situation that it was only a matter of minutes before it cut out completely.

Of course, none of these things were actually happening. But the sensations of panic led me to believe that they were and that I was dying. I had only been getting ready for bed, about to sit and read another chapter of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. The catastrophic feelings would have made more sense if I was preparing for a big job interview or about to board an epic rollercoaster ride.

I experienced a few more similar attacks, thinking that each one was going to kill me. It quickly reached a point where I was so constantly worried about another imminent attack, that an omnipresent anxiety overshadowed me day and night.

What are anxiety, panic attacks and panic disorders?
  • Anxiety is a mix of emotional and physical sensations that we usually experience when we are worried, stressed or nervous about something. These sensations are usually our body’s reaction to feeling threatened, when it is preparing to ‘fight or flight’.
  • A panic attack is an intense feeling of this anxiety, usually lasting between 5-20 minutes. Here are just some of the symptoms:- sweating- shortness of breath- dizziness- a choking sensation
  • It can feel like something catastrophic is happening, but it’s important to try to remember that a panic attack will not cause you any serious harm.
  • A panic disorder is when you regularly experience recurring panic attacks for no known reason (like an argument, or an impending exam).

It was a vicious cycle that seriously started to affect my social life. I remember one time going out for a lovely meal with my friends and suppressing my feelings of absolute dread and dizziness throughout the whole thing. This would happen regularly, at work, at the dinner table and on the bus going to a pal’s for a catch up.

Moving to London made it worse: from irrationally fearing every single Tube or bus ride, to quickly entering a new relationship and new friendships that made me focus even more on my faults and failures, to the pressure of competing against a trillion other millennials all after the same career as me.
It was time to swallow my pride and take action for the sake of my sanity and self-esteem. I went to my GP who advised me to ring the local hospital and arrange for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

What is CBT?
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a talking therapy. It helps you to manage anxiety by focusing on how you think and behave.
  • It is based on the concept that negative thoughts can turn into a vicious cycle. Over a course of sessions, you are shown how to change these negative patterns.
  • Each session lasts between half an hour to an hour. In these sessions, you will speak with your therapist about the sensations and thoughts that you feel. Together, you will breakdown and analyse these to get a better understanding of your thought pattern.
  • You will also probably be asked to take part in simple exercises to test ways of controlling anxiety and panic. Hopefully, you will finish the therapy with new skills to use in daily life.

I’d heard about this type of therapy before but waved it off as being silly any time someone suggested it. ‘How much can it really help?’ I would reply, ‘I’d probably only waste their time with my trivial problems anyway.’ But after hearing other people’s positive experiences of it (turns out more people than you think are going through the same thing!), I decided to give it a shot.

I was nervous, dubious and – if I’m being completely honest – slightly embarrassed. But after a friendly phone consultation, I went along to meet my therapist. She was fantastic and put me at ease straight away. I’d even go as far to say that we had a laugh together from time to time.

She explained the cycle of panic to me and we did exercises to reconstruct the sensations I often felt. In one session, we went for a run around the local park to get my heart beat going. In another, we went to the supermarket together – a place where panic regularly caught me out.

After a few months of weekly sessions, I left with a better knowledge of my anxiety and panic disorder and how to control my thoughts to break the cycle. Although there have been a few moments where I’ve given in to panic, I haven’t had a full attack in over a year and I quickly bat down the sensations when they arise.

It was probably the most important action I’ve ever taken to help improve my mental health, and I urge anyone experiencing similar symptoms to go to their GP and discuss CBT. You might even have some fun while doing it!

Find more information on anxiety and panic attacks on the Mind website or through NHS Choices. You can also learn more about what happens in CBT sessions here.

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin