“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

Image: Getty

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 

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.

Image: Getty

When my mum and dad split up, it felt like there was a LOT for me to deal with. Where would I live? Where would I keep my things? Who would I see on weekends? What if I just wanted to hang out with my friends and forget about it all? Sure I knew it was tough for them… but it’s difficult not to get all me, me, me when stuff gets scary.

But, like everyone told me it would, a few months in and things started to feel more normal. I had a routine. Live with my mum, see my dad on Sundays. Keep all my things at my mum’s place, keep a few things at my dad’s. Feel ok to say “I don’t want to see either of you today” and go to the park or beach with friends instead. Simple. Who said this parents-getting-divorced-thingie was so hard..?!

But fast forward to a year later and my dad shook everything up again. He told me he was getting re-married. It hadn’t come as a huge surprise, he’d been seeing Linda for a few months as friends and I’d assumed they might be more. But it still didn’t seem quite right. The mixed feelings I had about it were confusing. Yes, I wanted him to be happy. But who was this new person? Did she really love him? What would our weekends together be like now? Would she get in the way? And what about Christmas? Would she be here at Christmas?

There were so many new challenges and questions to deal with, it felt like the worry and stress of the divorce all over again. But this time there was another person involved. A person I couldn’t help but feel I just didn’t like. A person who, let’s face it, was just getting in the way.

Whether your parents are separated, divorced or one of them has passed away, it can be really challenging when they start to go on dates, find a new boyfriend or girlfriend and, cringe, then even marry them further down the line. And you know what? It’s allowed to feel challenging. Or upsetting. Or just plain bloody weird. Yep, we said it. You don’t have to be happy and accepting of stuff all the time. Sometimes the best thing to do is say, “I feel sad about this”, own it, and then move on and figure out the best way to not feel sad anymore.

We spoke to some friends, experts and people who have dealt with a parent’s new partner in good (and bad) ways over the years to bring you some advice about how to deal with all the emotions, figure out how you really feel and then get over it so your mum or dad can be move on their lives with someone new — because as tough as that is to swallow, they want to be happy too. Just like you.

Talk about stuff (and then go ahead and talk some more)

Sarah told me that she was really wary about meeting her dad’s new partner when her mum passed away. She found it challenging, because it kept feeling like her mum was being replaced by someone new. In fact, when we spoke to a lot of people who’d lost a parent, they all said it felt like this when their mum or dad started dating again.

She got through it by talking really honestly with her dad. Telling him she was happy he had found someone, but the thought of forgetting her mum scared her.

“I made a point of sharing a lot,” she says. “It felt hard at first. Telling my dad when I felt scared or uncomfortable was really the key to us getting through it. I feel that if he’d just assumed I was okay, it would have felt like I was a bit trapped and couldn’t express myself.”

Of course, parents do somethings make mistakes too. And if there are any serious reasons (not just, like, their accent) for you to dislike their new partner, they’d want to know about it – which is another reason it’s important to keep talking.

Accept it feels sad and weird (especially when it gets really sad and weird)

We don’t want to get all doom and gloom, but sometimes it can all go really wrong. That’s because there are so many people involved when a new partner comes on the scene — and so many difficult, icky feelings to contend with.

I spoke to Alexa who told us that her mum had been struggling with her divorce, so quickly re-married. The problem? She hadn’t even told her new husband she had a daughter! Alexa says: “She asked me to meet Steve and I felt kinda excited about it — I just wanted my mum to be happy! It wasn’t until just before we were meant to meet she dropped the bombshell. She hadn’t told him about me. SHE HADN’T TOLD HIM ABOUT ME!”

“I’ve realised now my mum was just really sad and confused. She didn’t want to hurt anyone, but had really hurt me. I told her I felt angry, but we worked through things. It took some time, but we’ve learnt to trust each other a lot more now.”

Obviously this is quite an extreme case. But when things feel really bad, it’s important to take a deep breath. Accept that things feel bloody awful sometimes. Try not to get upset in the moment. And talk, talk, talk about how you’re feeling.

Think about what not liking someone might REALLY mean

It’s very easy to make quick judgements about who you do and don’t like. If you’re anything like me, you can decide someone is a bit annoying based on the way they wear their hair alone (I’m sorry, I’m only human).

I spoke to Dr Jane G. Goldberg, a psychoanalyst who recently published her eighth book called My Mother, My Daughter, Myself, and she told me sometimes it can be really good to think more when you say you don’t like someone:

“Actually, it’s probably more accurate that you don’t know whether you like him or her. It’s probably more true that you simply don’t like the role he or she is playing in your mother’s or your father’s life, and thus you don’t like the role that you are afraid he or she will be playing in your own life.”

When you think more about what “I don’t like them” means, it stops being this huge, annoying thing you can’t bear. Instead you can ask yourself what it is you don’t like. Like Jane says, you might find it’s not them you have a problem with at all – they, or the whole situation, just scare you a bit! 

Or maybe you do have a real problem, in which case it’s good to figure out what it is so you can talk about it properly.

Separate them from you, a little

We know, we know. You love your parents. You want them to be happy. They’re a huge part of your life and you’re a huge part of their life. But remember, you’re separate people. What you want right now isn’t what your mum or dad wants, and vice versa.

Molly Goldberg, daughter of Dr Jane G. Goldberg, shared some wisdom about what it was like when her mum found someone new:

“When your parent takes a partner that you don’t like, it’s important to remember it’s not your life, and if it were, you would hope that your friends and family would be supportive. Keep an open mind, be kind, be accepting, and be there for your parent regardless of the outcome of the relationship. What matters the most is your relationship with your parent, and you want to nourish it with lots of love.”

It can be hard to put your feelings aside. Especially when your mum or dad’s new partner drives you up the wall. But you know what? Maybe they’re really happy! Or maybe the relationship won’t last very long – either way, keeping your relationship with your mum or dad strong will only make things easier in the long run.

Feel your feelings! It’s ok to feel weird – like, REALLY weird

It’s important to put on a brave face when you’re meeting your parent’s new partner for the first time. But don’t worry if it feels weird — it’d probably be weird if it didn’t feel weird. Telling yourself you should feel certain things is only going to make you angry, resentful and a bit bitter, too.

For many of us that seems scary. We’re so used to ‘being good’ and ‘being brave’ that to feel angry or express sadness seems kinda, well, wrong. But Dr Goldberg thinks that getting all up close and personal with your feelings is really important. Just don’t let them run the show.

“I value feelings. I love feelings,” she says. “But I don’t make the mistake of thinking that they are facts. They are NOT facts. Feelings and emotions don’t define reality. They are not always accurate. They don’t always predict the future. In fact, feelings are usually fairly unreliable predictors of the future.”

“We can understand the nature of our feelings: that they are changeable … and that they are not meant to be held on to for too long.”

The dealing with icky new feelings checklist

1. It’s ok to feel weird, or sad or angry, or did we mention weird?

2. Talk about how you feel — even if the main thing you feel is really bloody scared.

3. Remember this is about your mum or dad, not you.

4. Try to avoid just saying “I don’t like him/her/them” and instead think about WHY.

5. You’re doing fine, promise. This is really tricky. But it won’t be forever.

@BeccaCaddy

Image: Manjit Thapp

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

Image: Manjit Thapp

Ugh, Mondays. And specifically ugggggh this Monday, AKA Blue Monday, which has earned a rep as officially the most depressing day of the year.

Now the first thing to say before we go any further is that Blue Monday isn’t actually true. Got that? Not. A real. Thing. The title was invented in 2005 by an advertising agency for a travel company campaign, and it’s based not on science but on a ‘maths equation’ of vague, gloomy factors, like how long it’s been since Christmas, how broke everyone is before payday, and, obvs, the weather. In fact it bears so little relation to fact that even the guy who originally dreamed up the formula is now campaigning to #StopBlueMonday. Don’t use it in an exam, is all we’re saying.

But… the thing is, Mondays do suck. Sometimes. Cold, dark January Mondays can suck especially hard. And even if Blue Monday is all just a cynical PR stunt, there’s nothing wrong with using it as a reminder to spend a little more time focusing on our happiness.

So here are some small, easy ways to make Mondays just a little bit less horrendous. Blue, who?

Get plenty of sleep

falling asleep

Yawn. It’s the oldest advice in the book, but that’s because it works. And teenagers need even more sleep than adults (seriously, that one is a scientific fact) so sacrifice more of your Sunday to getting an early night, and you’ll feel a bit less like death when the alarm goes on Monday morning. Or alternatively, skip your hairwash and hit the snooze button. That works too.

Plan a lovely breakfast

dancing puppet and cereal

Everyone knows it’s 100% easier to get out of bed if there is great food waiting for you, so make a bit more effort for Monday breakfasts than your usual bowl of whatever. Go to town on fancy porridge toppings. Make scrambled eggs with avo and chilli. Or try our fave overnight oats recipe – all the work is done the night before, so on Monday you can just grab it and go. Look how jealous Wednesday is now.

Same goes for lunch

sushi breakfast club

Our instinct is normally to have the favourite sandwich/the sausage roll/the best Muller Crunch Corner or whatever on Friday, the day of celebration. But Fridays are already great whereas Mondays need all the help they can get, so think about saving your best lunch treats for the start of the week.

Have a seriously great Sunday

Mr

“It’s not Sunday unless you totally waste it and then feel really sad around 8pm for no reason” goes the meme, and oh how it speaks the truth. But what did Sundays ever do to hurt you? Instead of frittering the day away and then getting furious when you remember Monday is just around the corner, try filling your Sunday ram-jam full of fun things. Go on a big walk. Make a roast. See great people. Embark on a craft project. Read a whole book. Go on a day trip. Do some competitive sport, get covered in mud, then have the longest, bubbliest bath that Lush/your boiler will allow.

Basically, head into Monday with a load of news and a full camera roll, and watch how much easier it is to drag yourself out the door.

Which leads us onto… don’t leave everything till Sunday night

Daria

We know, we know – you’re human, and when faced with a long weekend stretching out before us, the most human response is to leave that massive essay till 7pm on Sunday evening and then bash your way through it in an angry rage until midnight, while crying. Which then means on Monday morning, you’re a sleepy, grumpy subhuman (with, let’s face it, a pretty terrible essay).

But instead, imagine if you did a little tiny bit of it on Friday evening, or Saturday morning – even just an hour, even just scribbling down a few notes or writing the title in BIG LETTERS so that when you sit down on Sunday to do the rest, it doesn’t feel like starting from scratch. Or imagine if you did quite a lot of it on Saturday morning. Imagine if you did it all. You’d be basically superhuman.

Give yourself a badass theme tune

Beyonce You Ready

Turning your Monday frown upside down could be as easy as finding the right soundtrack. So make a playlist of songs that make you feel happy and energised, and let them pump you up while you’re getting dressed or walking to the bus stop. Sing along. Even better – dance. A little endorphin kick never hurt anybody.

Get (at least slightly) organised

Leslie Knope organised

Monday-You is trying her best, but sometimes Sunday-You won’t give her a chance. So get off your arse and find your PE kit. Iron your shirt. Pack your school bag. Do that thing you’re meant to do for form time, and find a pair of tights without a hole in them now. Minimise the amount of hassle you face on Monday morning so you can focus on your lovely breakfast, your pumped-up playlist, and not end up running late, creased and laddered with one trainer in your bag. You know how that’s going to end.

Make nice Monday plans

dance moms

Having something to look forward to at the end of the day will make the long, slow plod towards the final bell just a little bit easier. So plan something fun. It doesn’t need to be a punishing extra-curricular activity – just getting your BFFs round to ‘study’ (read: laugh until you pee) for a couple of hours should do the trick.

And if all else fails…

Remember: Blue Monday doesn’t exist. And regular Monday? Well, it’s already half over.

Image: Hailey Hamilton

I’m not a crier. I mean, sure I cry, I’m not a complete robot. But I’m not one of those people who cries every day. I probably cry, on average, once every two to three weeks.

I’m quite a specific crier: I don’t cry from pain, I don’t cry in movies that I’m supposed to (honestly, I’ve remained resolutely dry-eyed in The Notebook like, 10 times but I did openly weep in Cinderella) and I absolutely loathe crying in front of people.

Because of this, I’m quite good at delaying my crying. I know from experience that I can feel a cry coming on, sit in the tube for half an hour, walk the twenty minutes home, open the front door, shout hello to my housemates, scramble upstairs and the minute I cross over the threshold into my room – that’s when the tears will come.

This tactic means that I can generally stave off my tears until I’m in one of my trusty crying places:

In the shower

This is a practical option because a) no one can hear me, b) I don’t have to wash my face afterwards and c) for some reason, when I cry, I sweat a lot too. It’s like my sweat glands feel left out and want to get in on the action, so in addition to being snotty and teary, I also have the added benefit of looking like I’ve just been on a harder than average jog. The shower fixes all that in one.

In the bath

The reasons are all the same, but the bath has the added benefit of bubbles and candles and a John Mayer album if I want a nice romantic cry.

In my bed

Once every six months, when I can’t fall asleep I will let my imagination roam so far into the deep recesses of my brain that I will imagine how it would feel if someone in my family died. I know it’s morbid, but if I let my mind wander at night without any leash, this is where it ends up. The crying makes my eyes sleepy and the next day I’m always extra nice to my family. So, I guess that’s a silver lining?

To my dog, Bella

Bella is a 13-year-old border collie who has gone grey around her nose and her muzzle. She has arthritis so she can’t jump up on my bed like she used to, but I don’t mind sitting on the floor to talk to her because she’s still the best listener in the world. Bellsie is the most loyal of dogs, who only gets mildly annoyed when I throw my arms around her and tell her how much I love her.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-15-53-23

(This is Bella)

In the cinema

As previously mentioned, I don’t like crying in front of people, but I don’t mind crying near them so long as we are in a completely dark room and no one is looking at me. I cry in films all the time, sometimes for reasons I can’t explain. I am an expert at the discreet eye-dab, the subtle wiping of nose on the sleeve, the silent sort of weeping where your eyes just won’t stop leaking. Plus, the cinema always involves excellent snacks, so they’ll cheer you right up.

On the floor

I once knew a girl that would only talk about her feelings if she was sitting under the dining room table. This is kind of how I feel about crying. In my opinion, crying is best done on the floor, where you can wail and weep and be in the foetal position or child’s pose (the two best crying positions) in a matter of milliseconds.

To my mum

My mum is the only person in the world who has the ability to make me burst into tears by just saying ‘Hi darling, how are you?’ I am a terrible liar. I can’t lie to my dentist about how often I floss or even to street fundraisers (once I ended up actually cancelling my credit card rather than just coming up with a reason why I couldn’t donate to Greenpeace). But I especially can’t lie to my mum. She smells my lies. I’m be part way through saying, ‘Oh, things are fi-” and my voice will wobble involuntarily and before I know it I am sitting on the floor blubbering.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with have a good cry, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either a liar or has never seen any of the John Lewis Christmas ads. Embrace your cry.

After all, it’s what Weepy Girls’ Corner was made for.  

Image: Manjit Thapp

Same strop, different day. Not that we’re predictable, or anything…

1. The Ignition

Jelly wobble spoon gif

It might be something as small as not being allowed a packet of crisps before dinner (despite the fact you’ve been at school ALL DAY and need to get your energy levels back up for all that Instagram scrolling you need to catch up on), or something bigger like not being allowed to extend your curfew despite your friend’s parents allowing HER to be out until 10pm… but your parents have wronged you.

The heat inside you has begun to bubble…

2. The Decision

Kristen Wiig indecision

Now you have mere seconds to weigh up the situation and decide whether to implement Strop Central. Is it worth it? Can this be reasonably sorted out instead? Do you have the energy? You’ve been at school ALL DAY, remember…

3. The Storm

Little girl storming out gif

Of course it’s worth it! DING DING DING, off we go. You narrow your eyes, take a deep breath, dislocate your jaw for maximum impact and give an almighty HUFF before sassing your way out of the room.

If you’re going all-out, you choose a phrase to shout as you leave. Something like “THIS IS RIDICULOUS”, “YOU DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND” or the timeless, “UGGGHHHHH.”

4. The Stomp

Joey slamming a door on Friends

A strop must always involve stairs. That is the law. If the Ignition occurs downstairs then you’re set. You can stomp, stomp, stomp up to the bathroom or bedroom. If it occurs upstairs, you can stomp your way to… the garden shed? Just make sure you slam a door on your way out.

5. The RIGHT THAT’S IT

Angry little girl

Well, everybody in the immediate vicinity knows you are in a strop. Good. You’re fuming. You’ve had enough and this is the final straw. Nothing will ever be the same again for this family. They will regret their decision until the end of time itself.

6. The Reflection

Glowering girl gif

It’s been 10 minutes and you’re still sitting on your bedroom floor. The dust has settled, the bubbling anger has subsided. You realise that maybe this strop isn’t sustainable and maybe you could have tried to compromise and… NO. No, you must stick with the strop. You chose this path, you are entitled to the strop. Right?

7. The Hunger

How I Met Your Mother food gif

It’s been 45 minutes. You’re called for dinner. You hear your brother come out of his bedroom and run down the stairs. It does smell good and your stomach’s rumbling. You were at school ALL DAY, remember? There’s nothing in your room to eat… maybe this was a rookie error.

8. The Return

Beyonce strutting

Ok. You’ve built yourself up and will go downstairs for dinner. You realise that you can’t stay up here (or in the shed – too many spiders) forever and dinner really DOES smell good. You open the door, hold your head up high, and walk down those stairs with great confidence.

9. The Dignity

Dignified girl

You won’t mention the strop. You’re over it. But they must still know that you’re not happy with their parenting, so you’ll take on a silent protest. No eye contact. No conversation. You will sit and you will eat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Apart from asking for the ketchup.

10. The Pretending Like Nothing Happened

I'm Fine Ross gif

Screw it. You can’t be bothered to be quiet and you’re getting a headache from looking down so intently. The strop is over, the silent protest is over, and you just hope that no one mentions it…

“Stopped stropping now, have we?”

HOW DARE THEY.

See stage 1.

@louisejonesetc

Image: Hailey Hamilton

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.

I am what you’d call an enthusiastic person. It’s almost annoying. I’m the first in line when there’s someone doing free glitter lips makeovers, the one running towards the big scary rollercoaster in the theme park, the one pulling out a sewing machine when there’s a fancy dress party. I sing the loudest during “Happy Birthday” and do the lion’s share of organising the charity bake sales. I like being involved and I like being giggly and happy and celebrating things.

That being said, I hate Christmas.

Well, I don’t hate it. It’s more that I don’t get any enjoyment out of it whatsoever. I see people in festive jumpers sipping hot chocolate and unwrapping presents from friends and family with looks of festive joy on their faces and I know I should be in my element, but instead I’m left cold both literally and figuratively. While my friends watch the sky and cross their fingers for snow, I glare at every frosty day like it’s just insulted my mother and spat on my cat. The pressure of buying Christmas gifts for people far outweighs the makeup sets from Debenhams I get in return. I think most Christmas films are fine, but the only one I’d watch without simultaneously flicking through Snapchat is The Muppet Christmas Carol. 

I guess I feel about Christmas the same way I feel about getting my nails done or watching a football match. I know that some people love the experience and get really excited about it, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. It’s fine and I’ll tolerate it because I have no other choice, but it’s so far down the list of things I’d actually want to do with my time it’s only a few places above “listen to Nan talk about the time she met Shakin’ Stevens’ grandmother at the bakery for the 100th time”.

Hating Christmas wouldn’t be a problem for me if it wasn’t really lonely to feel like the only person in the world who isn’t celebrating something. When everyone around you is sharing plans, singing carols and ironically wearing ugly jumpers, it’s like they’re all having a brilliant party that you’ve not been invited to. The second Halloween ends and Christmas things start appearing in the shops, I start getting little twinges of dread about feeling like a freak for most of December.

It doesn’t help that people are constantly surprised at my lack of Christmas cheer, openly calling me weird or telling me I have no heart because I don’t understand the fun of eating weird things you’d never usually touch (Christmas pudding? Mince meat? Cheese footballs? WHY?!) until you feel sick and watching terrible Christmas ‘specials’ of TV shows that are usually brilliant (Doctor Who, I’m looking at you) while wearing hideous snowflake PJs from an auntie you haven’t seen in four years who couldn’t think what else to buy you.

If you’re similarly Scroogey, you’re not alone and you’re completely normal. I know how hard it is, and I’ve spent years figuring out the best ways to cope with the festive period when you’re feeling more like the Grinch than Good King Wenceslas. 

1. Always remember that Christmas will pass, and that by the New Year things will all be back to normal. TV will become sane, the food will be the lovely comforting stuff it always is, and you won’t have to listen to Fairytale Of New York 20 times a day any more.

2. Prepare your answers. When someone asks you what your favourite Christmas song, food or film is, make sure that you aren’t stuck mumbling “Um, well, I don’t really like Christmas”. If instead you can merrily trill “I love All I Want For Christmas/pigs in blankets/Love Actually! What about you?”, you don’t have to spend half an hour defending your perfectly valid dislike of all things festive.

3. Take some non-Christmassy time for yourself. Make an excuse – dodgy tummy, tired from all the festive fun, homework to finish, friends to FaceTime – and hide in your room with a book or your phone until you’re feeling strong enough to face the world again.

4. Get yourself a buddy. Find someone you love and trust – your mum, your best mate, that person on Instagram who always likes your selfies – and tell them that you get PMS, aka ‘Perpetual Merriment Strops’. Having someone who understands that you’re feeling rubbish and might need to unload will immediately make you feel less alone.

This Christmas, you’ll find me smiling on the outside whilst imagining I’m somewhere completely different on the inside. If I can do it, so can you. I hope you have a entirely manageable Christmas, and a totally tolerable New Year.  

Call me a Humbug, but I find Christmas a bit intense. The epitome of “organised fun”, extended family members are shoved together in a confined space for the best part of 24 hours, fed copious amounts of food and alcohol (if over 18, of course), and expected to get along like a house on fire.

Well, in my eyes, the house might as well be on fire. It’s like a pressure cooker and eventually someone is bound to explode.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my family. But for the other 360 days of the year, we’re apart more than we’re together. Friends, hobbies and even school or a Saturday job offers both parties space to B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Christmas on the other hand, offers no such respite. There is no escape.

But with your parents having pulled out all the stops to make Christmas special – cooking all the food and buying all the presents, most likely – there’s only one viable target left to take your festive frustrations out on: your sibling(s).

I have a little brother who is four years younger than me; a sizeable age gap that means growing up we never had much in common. For a large chunk of time, he was an energetic young boy and I was a terrible teen with an extremely short fuse. In fact, my so-called ‘teenage’ mood swings lasted longer than my teenagedom – starting at 10 and ending in my early 20s. A recipe for a decade of disaster.

So whether a full-blown barney or an unspoken Cold War, many Christmases have been peppered with feelings of animosity.

It’s the little things that are intensified over Christmas that usually led to a bust-up. Growing up my brother never helped cook or clean up and spent all of his time on his Playstation rather than speaking to family. The fact that my mother let him get away with doing nothing under the ‘boys will be boys’ excuse stoked my feminist fire early on, leading to resentment as I loaded the dishwasher for yet another year. For him, I must have seemed bossy and huffy as hell, while he prefers a far more chilled and relaxed existence.

Now, he spends most of the time staring down at his phone and still does very little to help. But there’s the added bonus of trying to coax me into talking about politics, which we couldn’t be more opposed on.

But our disagreements haven’t always been so ‘adult’. When I was about ten years old, two cousins and I opened the wrapping paper to find three Power Ranger costumes (pink for me, blue and black for the boys). We were ecstatic. My brother, being too small for the Power Ranger costumes, got a Batman one instead and I remember being LIVID about him insisting on playing with the rest of us, not to mention completely ruining the photos. I mean, since when did Power Rangers and Batman fight side-by-side?

I used to think I was alone in feeling like this about siblings, but growing up and talking about my feelings with friends, I’ve realised that it’s a pretty common feeling. Most of us have siblings, the average family has two children (give or take a few decimal points). So whether it’s a half or step sibling, older or younger – or (God forbid!) both – it can be hard to navigate a small space in an intense time period such as Christmas.

So here are my top tips on how to get over the Christmas sibling rage:

1. Walk away, literally… Go upstairs and sit on your bed. Take some deep breaths and count to ten. Count to 20 or 30 if you need you – however long it takes for you to calm down and realise it’s not very festive to hit someone round the head with a turkey leg.

2. Keep yourself busy… Nothing takes your mind off petty arguments like playing with the dog, a new baby cousin, or talking to your Grandad about the war. Suddenly everything has a bit of perspective.

3. See similarities in your differences… Realise that your sibling is probably also feeling the pressure to have a super fun awesome time.

4. Do it for someone else… If your parents are anything like mine, they’ll LOVE Christmas. Any excuse to dust off the fancy plates and get the boardgames out. If you have a full-blown barney over the Radio Times, you’ll ruin their Christmas, too. And you don’t want to do that.

5. Remember: it’s their Christmas, too… So if you grow irritated by the fact that they’d rather slob in their PJs playing on their new Playstation rather than talk to family, leave them to it. Christmas may mean a different thing to you than it does to someone else – even if you are related.

6. Know that it can get better… For all our differences, my brother and I have turned a corner. Looking back, we were both to blame for our clashes or disagreements. For the most part, growing up and reflecting allows you to work beyond your differences and realise what is more important in life: family and unity (and pigs-in-blankets).

@Brogan_Driscoll

Christmas is a matter of DAYS away. Food, school holidays and watching your Nan get giggly on the sherry awaits.

But it can be difficult to feel the warm glow of festive tidings when you’ve got a huge project due in January and the Christmas adverts have been on repeat since November. Sometimes too much glitter-dusted advertising and endless spins of Mariah Carey can leave you as cold as the weather outside… so here are 10 alternative ways to find your Christmas spirit this year:

1. Discover some different Christmas music

Even the biggest Christmas fan can be left exhausted by too many repeats of I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t season-appropriate music out there to get you in the mood.

Start with A Very She & Him Christmas, a collection of calm and contemplative covers of well-known Christmas songs by Zooey Deschanel and musician M Ward, before moving on to Surfjan Stevens’ beautiful Songs for Christmas or the gloriously retro A Motown Christmas. Or head to Spotify and search for [insert genre of your choice here] + Christmas: someone will already have done the hard playlist work for you.

2. Go fantasy party dress shopping

Yes, you have to go Christmas shopping, and yes, it will wipe out your allowance (unless you make your own). But while you’re there, take some friends and go and try on the most badass outfits you can find for parties – imaginary or otherwise – you’ve got ahead of you. Head to the fitting rooms and try on something you’d never normally buy. The shops are full of Christmas music and sparkles, so it would be positively rude not to (and if you really like it, well, you know what to look for in the sales).

3. Have a Christmas craft afternoon

Paper-chains, cutting out snowflakes and covering things in glitter; set aside an afternoon to decorate your bedroom like it’s 1975. You’ll be amazed at what you can make from stuff you’ve just got lying around your home. If you’re stuck for inspiration there’s loads of brilliant ideas on Instagram and Pinterest, but here are a few to start you off: cute toilet-roll reindeer, this awesome wrapping paper Christmas tree and these cute egg box flowers.

4. Bake something

It’s cold and gross outside, and the endless scroll of Instagram and Snapchat are making you feel sluggish. Get off the sofa and into the kitchen: baking is a great way to beat boredom or give yourself some screen-free time (floury fingers don’t work on a touchscreen).

Whether you get some mates round to ice biscuits or cook up some easy festive cookies to give away to your friends (they make bargainous Christmas presents), it’s a lovely way to pass an afternoon. Plus if you make something with cinnamon or orange in, the whole place will smell Christmassy. Bonus. 

5. Go for a wintery walk (and get cosy after)

The last of the autumn leaves might be falling, but there is still plenty of wintery wonder to be found in the great outdoors, especially with people putting up their Christmas lights. Go and find a bit of outside; whether that’s your local park, the posh bit of town or somewhere a little further afield. The best thing about shaking a leg? Heading somewhere cosy and comforting afterwards to warm up – even if it’s just your living room.

6. Get the lighting right

Whether you’ve subscribed to the Danish trend of hygge or not, low lighting can transform a room and conjure the right level of Christmassy cosiness. Whether you opt for some fairylights, light a few candles (make sure you’re always in the room when they’re lit, though, that’s candle 101) or both, you can create a sense of festive magic by placing a few twinkly things in the right corners of a room.

7. Do something for someone else

It’s a cliché but it’s true: sometimes the best thing you can do at Christmas is give back. Whether that’s as simple as helping out a friend or sibling with a problem or some homework, donating your time to a charitable cause – such as helping out at a charity Christmas fair – or spending some of your hard-earned cash on a donation to your supermarket’s food bank. That warm, fuzzy feeling inside? It’s not indigestion, it’s festive goodwill.

8. Have a Christmas film afternoon

Simple, but usually effective. Grab a mate or get your family together, pick a few of your favourite Christmas films or maybe a new one (although you can never go wrong with Elf), load up on snacks and switch your phone onto airplane mode. Don’t forget the blankets.

9. Help out with the Christmas feast

No, Father Christmas doesn’t arrive on Christmas morning and help the chef of the household – that’s a grown-up who has spent a ridiculous amount of time and money thinking about how to make everyone too full to move by 6pm on the 25th.

So surprise whoever’s in charge in the kitchen now by offering your help with the catering over Christmas (there’s that goodwill again) and, as the big day approaches, get involved with peeling potatoes or making pigs-in-blankets. You’ll be surprised by how much fun you can have – and it’ll make the finished product even tastier.

10. Plan something fun for the family to do over Christmas

Christmas takes a lot of thought and coordination from those that are running the show, so lighten the load and have something beyond presents to look forward to by planning a surprise for when the telly gets boring. Perhaps it could be a game of Just A Minute themed around family memories and in-jokes. You could suggest a film to watch that the others may not have thought of, or make your own crackers. You might even wind up starting a new Christmas tradition!

See, don’t you feel more festive already?

@alice_emily