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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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Image: Manjit Thapp

The world can seem like a scary place at the very best of times, and when you’re someone who suffers from anxiety it’s amplified. Global warming, money problems, wondering if your friends who you have known for years are only pretending to like you. It’s tough. Feeling anxious or nervous about certain situations is perfectly normal, but when it starts to infringe on you leading a normal life it can become a problem.

I have always had an anxious disposition that has stuck with me from my primary school days even into my mid-twenties. From panic attacks about school projects to cancelling party plans because I was too nervous to go, anxiety has been a lurking presence in my life as far as I can remember. It caused me to miss out on fun things like nights out and sleepovers, and important things like job interviews I was too scared to attend. Imagined worst-case scenarios would play in my head before I went to sleep – car crashes, failing all my exams, being alone forever. It has been quite a time and continues to be something I have to deal with in some aspect every day.

The plus-side of this (yes, there is one) is that I’ve learned a lot from my own experiences with anxiety, from just living life and getting some golden professional advice. Here are a few tried-and-true tips and methods that have helped me in different ways.

So, what causes anxiety?

It’s sadly not as simple as one factor being the root cause for your anxious feelings. Causes can range from your upbringing or your genetic make up, to money problems and other related mental health issues like depression. A big change in your life like starting a new school or your parents splitting up can also trigger feelings of anxiety. If you have an anxiety disorder, you might feel feelings of fear about nothing in particular on a near-constant basis. There’s also a link between anxiety disorders and OCD – people often develop compulsive routines to cope with intrusive thoughts that can trigger them.

Take a breather

It might make you feel a bit silly at first but breathing exercises can be a life-saver when you start to feel panic setting in, especially if you’re in a public place. Regulating your breathing, and taking in deep breaths can help calm you down. To start off, inhale through your nose for four seconds, exhaling for four also out of your nose. It helps me to put my hand on my chest, feeling my lungs fill with air. There are a lot of different exercises to try if this one doesn’t quite work.

Go outside

Being in nature has a really calming effect. A 2015 study at Stanford University showed that a walk in nature near greenery or water can significantly reduce anxious thoughts. This phenomenon is called ‘soft fascination’, and being in nature can allow us to work through our worries while the trees and flowers provide gentle stimulation. Even a ten-minute stroll will go a long way.

Write a worry list

Designate 20 minutes of your day to sitting with paper and a pen, and write about every single worrying thought that comes into your head during that time – but only during that time. No worry is too small or insignificant during worry time. After the 20 minutes of scribbling, read through the list and rip it up. This helps me feel like I have gained some control over my own thoughts, and it can be really helpful.

Get creative

Whether you like to draw, write stories or make origami swans, doing something creative will help you concentrate on what you’re doing in the present. It’s also a good way to blow off steam and express your feelings of worry.

Talk to your younger self

A lot of the time when we feel anxious we end up getting angry and frustrated with ourselves. Why can’t I be normal? Why am I like this? I find it useful to deal with it as if I was talking to my childhood self. I immediately become more understanding and less impatient with myself and my feelings. You could also imagine your friend is talking to you about their worries. Would you dismiss them? Be a friend to yourself.

Self-care

A lot of articles about self-care are basically lists of stuff you can buy yourself to cheer yourself up. While bath bombs and chocolate are great, money can be the root of anxiety for a lot of people so it’s not always possible to treat yourself. Other forms of self-care like messaging a friend, taking a shower and eating good, nourishing meals are as important and won’t cost you a thing.

When to seek professional help

Of course there are times when you are too anxious to leave your room, let alone go for a walk or draw a picture. When your anxiety is paralysing you, a discussion with a counsellor or therapist can be really beneficial. You might feel nervous before the appointment and want to bail, but taking that first step is really brave. Some people feel that talk therapy is enough for them, while others will do better with a combination of counselling and medication.

How to be a good friend to someone with anxiety

Let them know they can talk to you without fear of judgement. If you feel like their worries are irrational, don’t dismiss them. They most likely know that they are, but the feelings of worries are totally real and overwhelming. If they tell you they might have a panic attack, remove them from the stressful situation and stay with them as they work through their feelings.

Sending them a voice message when they feel low is also a really easy and reassuring thing to do. It’s also handy to know if they have any triggers, and any routines or tips that help to calm them down when things get bad. Always ask first, and never assume. Just listen and that will be appreciated more than you ever know.

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Do you hear the words, “Oh my God you’re SO EXTRA!” more often than your name? Do you start each week vowing to control your OTT behaviour, only to get to Wednesday and turn back into a human meme? Well, my fellow drama queens, that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s downright fabulous.

You see, I might keep them under wraps 75% of the time, but I definitely have ‘so extra’ tendencies. Case in point: wearing a dress with my own face on it to my 21st birthday party – and the fun didn’t end there, oh no. I then changed into a black leotard and gold glove for a surprise solo performance of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies dance. Yep, I watched way too many episodes of My Super Sweet 16 growing up, but there’s no shame in that.

In fact, being extra could be the antidote to a world where we’re too often taught it’s cool to play it cool. In relationships (“don’t text back too quickly!”), fashion (“why does she always try so hard?”) or in social situations (“ugh, she’s just so LOUD!”), we’re always being told not to care too much or show our excitement too easily. Whether they realise it or not, unapologetically extra gals are actually paving the way for their fellow females to speak up for themselves, and to do, say or dress as they please without judgement.

Take Beyoncé, for example (can you tell I’m obsessed?). Whenever she has an important announcement to make, be it a tour or the birth of her twins, does she just send out a tweet or a statement from her spokesperson? Indeed she does not. There’s a full-blown Instagram photo shoot every time, with the first snap of her baby twins garnering over 10 million likes to date.

Sir Carter and Rumi 1 month today. 🙏🏽❤️👨🏽👩🏽👧🏽👶🏾👶🏾

A post shared by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

Not that it’s about the ‘likes’, of course; quite the opposite. Being truly extra means giving zero cares as to what others think of your decisions. It’s all about what YOU want to wear, say, do and project onto the world, without actually needing their approval. It’s about the dress code being casual, and you turning up in sweats with six-inch heels and stacks of jewellery. You’re not being rude, that’s just how you chose to interpret ‘casual’.

There’s a level of self-awareness that comes with being extra, too, which Rihanna demonstrates perfectly. “When you a plus 1 but squad wanna come,” she captioned a recent Instagram photo of her, hairstylist Yusef Williams, personal assistant Jenn Rosales and BFF/photographer Melissa Forde. Yes, RiRi was being extra with her entourage, but she owned it. “Spam,” is another of her favourite captions, for when she posts five frames of a red carpet or shoot instead of one – classic extra behaviour.

when you a plus 1 but squad wanna come

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on

Being in on the ‘extra’ joke is all part of the fun. While in my day-to-day life I’m generally limited to wearing head-to-toe sequins or using more superlatives than a Kardashian, I live for the moments when I can let out my inner Paris Hilton, the queen of extra behaviour. And Paris, like Rihanna, is 100% in on the lols. Heck, she’s even taken to reposting memes that use pictures of her as the punchline, so aware is she of her own OTT behaviour.

Yas Queen! 👸🏼

A post shared by Paris Hilton (@parishilton) on

So, next time someone calls you ‘extra’, embrace it. If it’s good enough for Queen Bey, Rih and Paris, it’s good enough for you.

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Image: Scream Queens

You haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself standing, baffled, in the middle of an inexplicable war between two close friends.

Each of them has a case, and each of them puts that case to you, over and over again, and you listen and nod and sympathise. You can’t help being confused, though. You can’t help thinking that they’re really fighting over nothing, and should get over it, so you can all go to next week’s party together and have a nice time.

So what do you do, when you’re caught between two beefing friends? Is it possible to soothe everyone’s feelings without anyone getting more upset than they already are?

The good news is, yes! It totally is. But once emotions are in turmoil it’s easy for them to spiral, so here are some tips for keeping the road smooth.

1. Listen

Amy Schumer listening

The first one seems easy. A lot of things seem easy, really, but very few things actually are, and listening is not one of them. It’s easy to listen when your goal is simply finding the next point in the conversation when you can talk. It’s easy to listen when someone is telling an interesting story, and all you have to do is react. But listening intently, and considering someone else’s feelings and point of view is harder than you think.

No matter how baffling the conflict in question is, and no matter who you think is more wrong or right in the situation, if you don’t start out by listening properly, you won’t get anywhere. You can’t help anyone if you don’t understand where they’re coming from.

2. Feel

New Girl hug gif

While the first step on the road to reconciling your battling friends takes only concentration, step two requires a little more. Namely: tact and empathy.

You will need both to figure out when each friend is talking about important things, like their feelings and when they’re basically just venting. Everyone needs a safe space to vent, on the understanding that the venting goes no further. Vent sessions are Vegas, and what happens there stays there – your role is just to accept the flow of rage and help release it into the ether. Feelings, however, need to be worked through and understood. People have been hurt, and hurt needs to be respected.

3. Mediate

Be quiet

This is the point when a really delicate touch is necessary. Here, you are trying to get two people, separated by presumably many angry words, and behind-the-back slaggings off, and horrible things that were never actually done or said but which each has imagined the other one doing or saying, back together. It is part of the human condition that, while we know that most of our own actions are haphazard, spontaneous and totally unconsidered, we still tend to assume that other people plan every move and every syllable – so if they hurt us, they must have meant to do it. But actually they are bumbling through as much as we are.

You, as the person who has heard both sides of the story, can reassure everyone how much stuff was said in the heat of the moment, how much regret each person is feeling, and (carefully) what they might have done that needs apologising for.

Btw, it is important here to note that none of the venting needs to be communicated. Venting is sacred, what you say when you vent is rarely what you actually feel, it is nothing more than the popping of the boil of emotion. And unless you are willing to carry around the fluid from that boil and bring it out at dinner parties, you should not be repeating vent talk.

4. Buffering

Chocolate

Now things can get a little more fun. Once the dust has settled, once some of the wounds have healed a bit, you can gently start pushing your two friends back into the shallow waters of generally hanging out. You don’t want to do anything too dramatic to start with, not a lavish party or a weekend in Majorca. A girls’ night in is a good idea, with hot chocolates and movies and enough snacks to feed Hagrid.

The film selection is key – you want something good enough that any awkward silences can be easily pushed past, and unimportant enough that no one will mind if you end up talking all the way through it.

5. Just keep swimming

High five

A strange truth is that the best way to get yourself out of an awkward social situation is to pretend it is not awkward, until it simply stops being so. It is time for jokes. Gentle teasings that show how affectionate you all are for each other, stories about what’s been going on in everyone’s lives that gently gloss over the old rift. Before you know it, all will be forgotten and, if you’re lucky, you’ll all be better friends than you were before.

Friends fight for all sorts of reasons, and it’s always the worst – whether you’re one of the battlers, or whether you’re stuck in the no man’s land in between. But nothing lasts forever, and working through a fight is almost always worth it.

@J9andlf

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