Category: Teen Girls

Taking the High Road To Tackle Poor Body Image

First things first. I’d like to wish all of our American followers and listeners a very Happy Thanksgiving today. As I celebrate with family, I have been reflecting on body image and our review of the latest podcast series 3. This week we have covered some of the later episodes of the series and in particular Episode 5. Here I spoke with Charlotte Aynsley about Internet Safety and in particular Body Image. The two go hand in hand.

I hardly know anyone who hasn’t faced problems with body image at one time or another. Of course, there are cases more extreme than others, which lead to eating disorders and other physical and mental health problems. No ifs, ands or buts, these are serious matters. Common body image issues that are less serious such as seeing oneself fat obsessively and consistently, however, are not to be dismissed lightly either, as they can also have a bearing on self-esteem and lead to health hazards.

Because body image and self-esteem are intrinsically linked, even those most confident hit lows about their body.

“I am fat; I’d like to lose a few pounds and then I’ll feel better; Only if my bum were bigger or smaller for that matter,” are just a few of the phrases that many women and some men use about their body on a regular basis. It’s all about perception and assumption that everyone else sees it that way, too.

According to a report by researcher Helen Gallivan, 53% of 13 year-old American girls are unhappy with their bodies. This number grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17.  And In another survey, carried out by Edelman Intelligence for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence Report, it emerged that only 46% of girls globally had high body esteem, while the figure was even lower in the UK (39%). Of the countries included, only China and Japan fared worse.

Over the years, I have been told often that I don’t see myself the way others do, particularly at retreats, leadership conferences and so on. While others tend to see me as a confident woman who is comfortable in her own skin (and I am most of the time), I have low moments too. This came home to roost while  having coffee with two longstanding friends during what I thought was a high point in my life.

You look great, Sonja, but you might be a little thin, one of them said and the other agreed. How is your work-life balance? Are you eating  right?

Excuse me, I am bigger now than I have ever been! If anything, I need to shift about three pounds.  Long silence, which plunked a pink elephant in the room.

Then you have a body image problem, one friend said. I’ve never known you to be happy with your body. Never! And the other chimed in:  She’s right! Maybe there is a self-esteem issue, too. Pink Elephant turns dark grey at this point and mist falls over the room!

I do not have a body image or self-esteem problem, thank you very much, I stress while refusing a pastry that might contribute to weight gain. I feel and look great, so how can I have a body image problem. End of conversation!

Actually, that conversation, though not recalled verbatim, did not end there. I recounted it in my mind’s eye repeatedly, until I decided to take a deeper look  at my obsession with body size and what was really going on. Though I’ve never been overweight, I’ve always referred to my thighs as thunder thighs and my bum as rather enhanced. Often when I am trying on clothes, I hear myself announcing: “I will never get into that,” and then slip right into it. Sometimes, of course, I don’t slide into a pair of jeans, for instance.

And when this happens, the key is knowing that the jeans are too little and that I am not too big. It has taken me awhile to get my head around the negative body image stuff, but with a heighten awareness I now know that when a few extra pounds drag me down, it has more to do with the consequences of eating and drinking unhealthily than anything else.  Thus, I get a grip on my diet and I don’t mean dieting, rather eating good foods that my body enjoys.

Make no mistake about it, the issues I have dealt with over the years don’t compare to some of the more serious matters that others contend with, but my problems are real and have often hung over me like a dark cloud from time to time. So nowadays on the odd occasion when I am told that I don’t see myself the way others do or that I have a body image problem, I don’t hit back defensively and go into a slump, I take the high road, if you will, taking a few tips from the ladies of UIO: You Inside Out.

  • Banish self-deprecating talk!

  • Focus on health!

  • Embrace genes, fanny and all!

  • Focus on likes and not on dislikes!

  • Make the most of the haves (that is what you have); ignore the have nots!

These tips can help with all poor body image problems. Though weight rates high amongst such issues, it is not the only culprit. For instance, as a girl, I do remember feeling unattractive as early as puberty, from disliking my wide, flat nose, mainly because peers teased me as such, and then later detesting my new breasts, which looked like mounds on my chest. And then as a young woman, I couldn’t understand why I had stick thin legs. It is a wonder I grew into a confident woman at all.

But I did and so can you with self-esteem in tow. When the low moments hit, and they will, just take the high road. You can find the links to the podcast here

you can subscribe to our podcast feed, or you can access the podcast on iTunes here.

Tuning Into Your Thoughts For A Good News Story

After more years than I care to admit to, I finally made the connection between food and physical health, though it took a few intolerances to convince me. Yet I still haven’t quite gotten my head around food for mental and emotional health, which has more to do with thinking than anything else. Of course, real food can muddle the mind, too.

But let’s face it, our thoughts do play a major role in our emotional and mental health. One article that I read years ago puts it like this: thoughts are stories that we tell ourselves or that someone else tells us about ourselves.

That’s all good as long as the stories are all good. But when it comes to emotional abuse, the stories can cause health hazards, even if they appear to be good stories. Radio personality, Jillian ‘JJ’ Simmons, guest in our latest podcast, On Emotional Bullying, says that sometimes emotional abuse masquerades as love.  When her emotionally abusive boyfriend would often ask her to stay home, preventing her from going out and seeing friends and loved ones, she told herself his request had to do with love.  Although he wasn’t going to be at home with her, he would tell her that he wanted her to be the first person he saw when he returned.

In a healthy mind, this logic breaks down rather quickly but in a mind that is under the spell of emotional abuse, it makes perfect sense, even if it is telling a bad news story. I can relate. Though I can’t say I have had a similar experience, I have had tricky situations that have consistently caused me emotional unrest, leading to wear and tear on my self-esteem and keeping a negative story alive.  This stuff is not in your face but it is in your mind, even if you can’t see it.

JJ points out that you have to be on your guard and recognise emotional abuse for what it is. Name calling, taunting, controlling and so on all fit the bill. One of her hot tips for self-protection is to take care of yourself at the core. This means working on your self-esteem and ultimately knowing who are. In addition, she says it is important to watch what you feed your mind. Easier said than done, right.

Actually, it is as simple or as complex as watching what you feed your body.  As much as I love croissants and cinnamon rolls and the list keeps going with pastries, I have been gluten intolerant for years now.  Admittedly, the first year or so I would remove all gluten from my diet for about three months at a time, most of the time before a holiday, and then on holiday I would eat whatever I jolly well pleased and pay for it later. 

Though the physical discomfort would come, it was tolerable and then one day, it just wasn’t anymore.  So now I don’t focus on the foods that I used to love, regardless of consequences, I focus on the ones that love me sincerely. And you know what, I am healthier and happier for it.

As for my food for my thoughts, I’m getting there.  Key to my journey is tuning into the narrative that I am feeding my mind directly or indirectly and also recognising what really is emotional bullying and what is not.   Of course, there are healthy disagreements and different ways of life between friends, acquaintances and family members that call for healthy resolutions. That’s a fact of life.

For more hot tips and tools on how to protect yourself against emotional bullying, listen to On Emotional Bullying with JJ Simmons on our website, iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you listen to podcasts. Meanwhile, tune into your thoughts to ensure your own good news story.

Keeping Anxiety At Bay

Anxiety has a way of getting up close and personal during the busiest of times. And let’s face it, the holiday season is ripe for the picking. With all the latest Christmas ads launching in the UK this week, including John Lewis’ Christmas ad, the pressure can start to rise be it from a financial perspective, or the pressure to host the best Christmas.

Here is a recap of such an incident that hit me hard in 2018. How the feeling that something was seriously up with my health but the reality was that I was experiencing anxiety.

Back to this place and time in 2018.

Most of my shopping had been done, plans had been made for the big cook off, I had a lovely champagne tea organised with two close writer friends to celebrate my birthday and of course, Christmas was a major success. All was going on track with UIO, too.

I was poised to deliver a blog  and plans were progressing on some exciting work to do with our website and the Wait Awhile campaign (this was back with the planning!)

 Somewhere in the folds of my mind, I must have been unsettled because little by little the symptoms of anxiety began to needle me—a prick here and there, all the regular stuff such as feeling tight and restricted on the oxygen flow that runs deep within. Try as I did to ignore it tossing and turning throughout the night, I sort of caved in upon rising Thursday morning.

Instead of leaping out of the bed and counting my blessings, I lay staring at the ceiling thinking what is wrong with me? I felt so tight muscular wise but also tight inside as if I was going to smother. All sorts of out of the periphery answers streamed into my head and caused the weight of my worries to get even heavier.

At last I dragged myself out of the bed and two hours later turned up at my training session rather weary. You see on the drive there, things got worse. Every time I coughed I felt a pain right behind my left breastbone but I persisted.

It was only after admitting the symptoms to my wonderful personal trainer, Laura Miles, that I begin to face my reality. Though what I was feeling felt like all sorts of other very serious conditions, it was anxiety, even if I didn’t think it had a right to be lurking around. Enough said personally.

The point is as we approach the end of the year, we are bound to feel more stressed than ever. And though this is meant to be a festive, fun and relaxing time of the year, in reality it can be quite the opposite. The body goes into the fight or flight mode—you know the one in which released hormones activate the nervous system to cope with a dangerous/threatening situation.

Sadly nowadays, we often find ourselves highly stressed, in fight or flight, unnecessarily, which can lead to panic attacks and so on. Our latest podcast episode Series 3: Episode 6 – On Social Anxiety which compliments another two podcasts around Mental Health  Series 1: Episode 6 – Your Mind Inside Out and Series 2: Episode 2 – On Undiagnosed Mental Illness offer excellent advice and hot tips on how to manage stress. Great listens gearing up for the holiday season and during it also.

In the meantime, here are some tips on keeping anxiety at bay.

1) Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Admittedly, I jammed too much in for one day. Had I spread the joy over a couple of days, I might have spared myself some anxiety. 

2) Limit drinking (avoid drinking for teen girls). Not a big drinker at all, but I like my champers, particularly during a special occasion. Surely a glass of champagne and a glass of wine in the evening couldn’t have contributed to the issue. It can and likely did as when the body is already stressed, alcohol, as a toxin can fuel the situation.

3) Breathe deeply. Shallow breathing has become a way of life, which is unsustainable, and it was only when Laura suggested some breathing exercises to takes breaths from my diaphragm that I started to feel my oxygen flow naturally again.

4) Turn off the chatterbox that is on continuous loop. When she says you need to go to the emergency room (A&E) for this and that, revert to point three, lying flat on your back and touching your stomach to feel your breath, if at all possible.

5) Catch a breath of fresh air. Go for a walk, a run if you fancy, that is if you are not on crutches. That can put you at a disadvantage for high impact activity but by all means, get outside if you can and again revert to point three if the sun is out and the grass is dry.

6) Eat whole foods and avoid foods that you cannot tolerate. I know, it’s cold and sometimes it’s easier but remember diet is so important.

But having a calm, out of fight or flight mode, holiday has to be worth it to both your body and your mind. It is to mine.

Take a listen to our latest podcast episode. Claire Eastham has some brilliant tips on social anxiety, remembering that it isn’t your fault, how she lives a normal life, even with anxiety disorder. She has some great tips on belly breathing, as well as a You Tube video too.

We’d love to know what you think of this episode and others!

Giving The Brain Its Props

It has been quite an insightful experience for me to do our podcast On Social Anxiety—such a common disorder but perhaps just as misunderstood or perhaps even more than health anxiety, which I could write a book about. But I won’t as this blog is not about being called a hypochondriac with a view that it is all delusional rather it is about being typecast as shy or eccentric and therefore being often begrudged any empathy or support for your condition.

Thankfully, I haven’t suffered with social anxiety but UIO guest Claire Eastham, best-selling author of We’re all Mad Here, has and  was able to shed some light on just how serious the matter is.

Too often we simply give the body a lot more respect than the brain, Claire explains, citing examples like not telling someone that they have to run in a race when they have a broken leg, as opposed to telling someone that they have to recite a presentation like everyone else; they are not different, no matter how much they are trembling at the notion. 

The instruction is often with good intent, which is why education about the disorder is so important. Unchecked, unmanaged social anxiety can lead to serious health problems, amongst them panic attacks, which I have had. Claire also gives insight into what a panic attack can feel like and believe you me, it can feel absolutely awful.  Amongst the whoppers that I have had was the one that sent me to the emergency room, totally convinced I was having cardiac arrest.  And though all checked out fine, the doctor sent me on to a cardiologist to be absolutely sure that I was well.

The point is, Claire stresses, your brain tricks the body to feeling that it is under threat and you either think you are going crazy or that you are going to die. But the good news is there are some great tips on our podcast on how to mitigate social anxiety and panic attacks.

In the meantime, as I reflect upon my teenage years, I can pinpoint a few situations where a fellow student most likely had social anxiety and was tagged as eccentric.  In one particular case, my friend was painfully quiet but not really shy when you got to know her, but she certainly struggled with socialising. During a major time in her life, she was visibly sweating and shaking to the point that everyone thought she would collapse. But even then, people said that she’s just weird and she should just get on with it.

To this day, though I don’t see much of her, she’s isolated from her peers because people see her as an outcast because she struggles in social situations. Seriously I am hoping that the word is getting out, particularly amongst teenagers, that social anxiety is real and left undiagnosed, can cause great harm to your mental and emotional health.

Though there aren’t any stats that I know of confirming that girls suffer social anxiety more than boys, girls do deal with related issues disproportionately such as questions with body image. To this end, they want to be perfect, look perfect, etc…. and can obsess about their body in any case and if suffering with social anxiety, the obsession can become worse, leading to even more harm.

For example, Claire talks about looking at her face several times before meeting a friend but knowing that once the moment is over, it is over, whereas on social media, the moment is never over because there is a selfie, a picture to remind you that you are not perfect, at least that is what your anxiety tells you.

Thus, the importance of getting the word out that social anxiety is real, it is not something that everyone has (something an acquaintance said to me) or a dislike of people as Claire points out.  It is a very serious irrational situation in which people struggle with socialising at high risk to their mental and emotional wellbeing. 

Key here is to give the brain its props. When it is unwell, it needs to heal equally as much as the body. Have a listen to On Social Anxiety on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or sign up for our RSS feed to ensure you never miss a UIO podcast, a great resources for teenage girls, their parents and guardians and teachers, too.

 

 

Playing It Safe On And Offline

Halloween has rolled around too fast for me, not enough time to get with the programme, at least that is my excuse. The truth be known I have never been a big Halloween fan but growing up, I loved a sweet or two now and again and a party or two as a teenager and then young woman, so I happily kitted myself out and went along with the gruelling fun.

But I could not do the haunted houses, the scary movies, etc… and still don’t. I just don’t find the pulse racing, adrenaline pumping, nerve jittering moments much fun.

And fun was always the key for me but as I get older, enjoying Halloween has become as much about staying safe as it is having fun. In the pre-Internet days, staying safe on Halloween and in general was a bit more local, if you will, but nowadays, staying safe goes far beyond stepping out of the front door, though the latter is no less important.

But with the accessibility of the Internet, there is no need to leave home to find yourself in an unsafe space on or off Halloween. In our podcast with E-safety Expert Charlotte Aynsley, we discuss some of the obvious unsafe spaces such as sharing explicit images and cyber bullying.

And there are many others.  For example, the space of glorifying self-harm and suicide. This week, Ian Russell, father of Molly Russell, who committed suicide at 14, continues his quest to ensure that self-harm propaganda is off the Net. And as Aynsley pointed out in On Internet Safety, the authorities continue to make progress in general in keeping the Internet Safe, but there is a long road to travel, as it is a not an easy task, dealing with a world which is not necessarily regulated.

Another troubling area on the Internet has to do with Body Image. In some instances, as pointed out by Leah in our podcast On Being A Teen Girl Now, some of the pressure to have a certain kind of body comes from advertisers stalking teenage girls, if you will.  Imagine a message or ad about being thin elusively cropping up on your page.  Inappropriate no matter how you look at it but that much more to target young vulnerable girls.

Again, the authorities are cracking down on this sort of thing. Still work has to be done on all sides—education being a big, big part of progress. The key here is that all unsafe spaces don’t look unsafe.

For example, issues around Body Image can come from the close connections–wanting to look and be a certain way because you believe that everyone else has the look, albeit some of the pressure comes from celebrities. Aynsley points out that this is one of biggest Internet safety issue for teen girls.

While such issues can impact physical health, they can also have a major influence on mental and emotional well-being, not always as detectable as a problem straight away, but equally as dangerous. 

So, if you are headed out for Halloween tonight or even staying in for that matter, stay body positive. If you want to check out what is online.  There are loads of wonderful body positive bloggers and podcasts too for a reality check. UIO has two: Your Body Inside Out with Judit Ressinka and Your Body Image Inside Out with Laura Miles.

And of course, our latest podcast On Internet Safety has loads of hot tips on body image and staying safe online.

Now about my Halloween. I am going to play it safe—curl up with a good book and I know just the one, We’re All Mad Here by Claire Eastham, guest on next week’s podcast On Social Anxiety. Stay tuned and yes, stay safe.

Everyone Is Responsible for Internet Safety

I can’t say enough about Internet Safety, but I am not the only one.  Our most recent podcast features Charlotte Aynsley, e-safety pioneer and expert, to shed some light on the topic. And just the other night I was at an inaugural lecture of a prestigious law professor at King’s College, London, who talked about the importance of Internet Regulation the world over.

But here is the thing, is the message really sinking in, particularly with our teenagers?

After all the Internet is the global hangout, full of wonderful opportunities. What could go wrong? Back in the summer this year, I actually heard a young boy say something to that nature—why would it be on the Internet if it is bad—and according to On Internet Safety guest Aynsley, this child is not the only one who thinks that way. There are many children growing up believing that everything on the Internet is true and right.

Though this might sound naïve, it makes a whole lot of sense to the young person whose internet experience is all positive until it isn’t. In the UK, the legal age for having a social media account is 13, though about 24% of children have accounts when they are 10 and twice as many when they turn 12.

A few years ago, a hysterical acquaintance shared that her underage daughter was asked to undress over the Internet.  But thankfully it was all curtailed before any damage was done. But what if it hadn’t been stopped.

Sadly, everyone’s story doesn’t have the same ending as my acquaintance’s daughter had, and mainly because few teenagers are aware of the emotional and mental impact that sharing sexually explicit images can have on them, their friends or others or that sexting, as it is called, is criminal if you are under the age of 18. 

Admittedly, this issue is not being policed as strictly as it could be, Aynsley points out, but all the same, consequences can lead to emotional and mental unrest and cause dire consequences for the future.

Another top issue that holds problems for teenagers online is body image, which impacts  girls disproportionately. The pressure on them to be perfect and happy all the time, as told to us by our two teen girls in On Being A Teen Girl Now, is magnified on social media.  Through polished selfies, this aim for perfection goes well beyond looks and enters how our teen girls are feeling about themselves.

Hence the rise in mental health issues amongst this age group. The key is education, Aynsley says and points out that transparency and honest and real life role models and experiences are of paramount importance.

And this honesty doesn’t just rest with the teenagers themselves, it has to live with parents and guardians, social media companies, the government, the police, everyone.

Staying safe on the internet, which can be a wonderful place, requires a joint effort to not only be aware of the problems stacked against us, particularly children and teenagers, but also be willing to tackle the issues.

The good news is that our podcast clears up the confusion around these tough topics and offers teenagers and their guardians practical tools and tips on the matters.  Listen to On Internet Safety on Apple podcasts and other platforms were podcasts are played.

Sleep Encounters

Most of us encounter sleep problems from time to time while others have constant problems sleeping. In UIO’s latest podcast On Sleep, guest Dr Nerina Ramlakhan gives three of the most common problems that people encounter with sleep. Also, she offers lots of tips on how to manage the problems.

First, there is sleep initiation, having a problem getting to sleep. This one, I am all too familiar with, particularly when I am wound up about something.  When I was a teen girl, however, it was more or less anticipation of something–whether dreadful or exciting –that kept me up at night. So often I would roll up at school, feeling a bit sleepy, a bit unwell.  In hindsight, I can now explain some of the niggles that I encountered over the years.

Make no mistake about it, I am not saying that sleep replaces medicine but as Dr Ramlakhan points out, we feel so much better when we have had good sleep, both mentally and physically. Not to mention the impact that sleep has on our confidence. It‘s a booster.

Next, there is sleep maintenance, waking up in the middle of the night and staying awake.  Argh!  I have experienced this one, too, probably equally as much as not being able to get off to sleep.

When I was writing novels, in particular, I would often collapse into a deep sleep at the beginning of the night, my brain so loaded with information, and surprise, surprise, after unloading in dreams and so on for a few hours, I would wake up abruptly.

One night I remember, bolting up to a sitting position and staring into space and repeating to myself, why do ghosts sit in chairs in the middle of the night and stare at us, and then there was the time when I was convinced that a conclave of dead writers, Shakespeare included, were trying to tear my door down.  Okay, so most people don’t have such disruption at night, but you get my point.

No wonder Dr. Ramlakhan stresses the importance of winding down such activity long before going to bed and reading something (writing in my case) nice and easy, like a feel good childhood book. The point is not to take all of our troubles, excitement, etc… to bed.

Finally, there is sleeping too much, otherwise known as hypersomnia. Occasionally, I sleep too much when travelling through time zones but according to Dr Ramlakhan, jet lag is not necessarily associated with hypersomnia. The latter is when someone needs to sleep a lot all the time.

All too often, I encounter parents who worry about how much their teenagers sleep. Not to worry, it is true that teenagers need more sleep than adults because of the growth and development they are encountering. It’s sort of an aid to getting it all integrated. But they can overdo it, putting a damper on health altogether, since sleeping too much is not good sleep either.

So whatever sleep issues you find yourself in, the key is to develop good sleep habits, ranging from what you eat, when you eat, how often you nap, when and for how long, and what you take to bed with you so to speak, including your device(s) or not,  and how you prepare your environment for sleep. Nothing wrong with creating a cosy, comfy room that smells good, too.

No wonder I’ve been off to a good slumber here lately. I have left the dead poets and writers out of my bedroom and the ghosts, too. For more tips on how to get your slumber, listen to UIO: On Sleep on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Sleep Matters

How exciting it is to be a part of the buzz around the importance of getting enough sleep. Yesterday we released our first ever podcast on the topic of sleep, UIO: On Sleep with Dr Nerina Ramlakhan.

While I am proud of all of our podcasts, I am especially excited about this one as it has the potential to help so many people, teenage girls and the rest of the family, too. It is brimming with hot tips and great advice on how to get good sleep, meaning sleep that refreshes and heals the body.

That’s right, though sleep might not be a cure-all, for all of our troubles, it is an important, natural resource, if you will, for prevention and intervention of physical and emotional health problems.

A few months ago, I tested this view for myself, though unintentionally. The night before I was due to appear as a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show, I did not get a wink of sleep.  Not a wink. An old pro, if you will, at media relations, I couldn’t understand what was going on and tried everything I knew to get a few winks in.  I read relaxing books, moved myself from the bed and then to the guest bed, meditated and prayed and all the rest. Still no sleep.

The next morning, I got out of bed as though I had slept. After happily showering and dressing, I made my way to the BBC’s studios and worked really hard to insert myself into the conversation about the rise in teenage girls and young woman having cosmetic procedures and in some instances surgery.  

After all, UIO had just released its Wait Awhile research, which agreed with the findings of so many other surveys. Thus, I wanted to get the word out. Not to mention the pressure I felt from having a publicist just outside of the studio doors.  Gulp! I succeeded.

Anyhow, after the show I met Paul for lunch to celebrate my achievements and shortly before lunch ended, I started to fade a bit, but I fobbed it off, thinking I will just get home and get in the bed. This can’t be that much different to jet lag.

Wrong answer.  By the time I made it home, I felt like I had been hit by a train, beyond feeling nauseated, and barely made it into the house and into to the toilet.  There I found myself in a pool of sweat, feeling deathly ill, though this feeling washed over in about ten minutes.

So glad I was able to get up from the floor and make my way into our bedroom, I thought I would just drop off to sleep.  Wrong answer and when I did get up, I had another problem—a bladder infection.  As I was in no shape to take myself to the doctor and Paul was not home, I made an appointment for the next day and commenced to hydrate myself, even if it meant pain.  Only then dd I realised that I needed to plan to ensure a good night’s sleep, as my body felt wired, like it was never going to sleep again.  Foolishly at lunch, I had a glass of wine—just one!

After deep thought, I decided to go for a run and afterwards come back and have a soothing bath and then read a favourite book. I have several stacked by my bed for times such as the one I was experiencing.

Anyhow, it worked. I relaxed and at last fell asleep and slept the night away.  When I awoke at 7 am, I felt like a new person.  And the bladder infection was history, too. Still I hightailed it to the doctor later that afternoon, just to be sure. Voila! I was well again and all it took was good sleep, having been deprived of a full night of it.

Every situation won’t be as extreme as mine thankfully, but the point is sleeping is integral to well-being. You don’t need to lose a full night’s sleep to feel sleep deprivation.

To this end, Dr Ramlakhan stresses that sleep preparation starts well before bedtime. Surprisingly, what you eat for breakfast could have an impact on whether you get a good night’s sleep or not, as well as what you eat throughout the day. Napping comes into the picture as well and of course, managing use of social devices.

If only I could wind back the hands of time to January to the day before I was due to be a guest on the Victoria Derbyshire Show—I would have been prepared.  Never mind, I am now and thanks to UIO: On Sleep, you can be prepared too.  Listen on Apple podcasts or where ever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

 

The Voice Of Teen Girls Matters

Having a voice matters throughout life and sometimes it matters more when you are a teenager. In our podcast On Being A Teen Girl Now, our two guests stress the importance of being heard and understood, not only in family life but also in politics and other places where decisions are made and life is shaped.

We take their point and continue to work hard to advocate on behalf of teenage girls and bring them resources that lift their individual and collective voice. To this end, we are gearing up for the final three podcasts in our third series, focusing on three hot topics that teenage girls face today.

One of them is sleep. Surprise, surprise, surprise!  I was anyhow until I did my homework and had a wonderful conversation with sleep expert, Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan. Listen to UIO: On Sleep on October 9th for the real deal on what sleep has to do with wellbeing.

Not only does Nerina give us the inside scoop on how a good night’s sleep can address physical health problems, but it can do a a thing or two for mental health too. The mother of a 15-year-old daughter, this expert talks about the importance or role modelling, negotiating and working together for a better night’s sleep.

Next up is UIO: On Internet Safety, out on October 23rd.  As experts ramp up on how to keep our children safe on the internet, we had a brilliant conversation with Charlotte Aynsley, a pioneer in internet safety.

Though the biggest safety issue on the internet has to do with body image for teenage girls, Charlotte underscores lots of other concerns and points out ways for teens and guardians to work together for the overall better experience.

And the last podcast in the series delves into a topic that plagues teenagers disproportionately, particularly girls due to the pressure on them to be perfect all the time, as pointed by our two teen girl guests in On Being a Teen Girl Now.  Yes,  you guessed it: social anxiety.

Though a very common disorder, social anxiety can go undiagnosed for years as it did with our guest, award winning mental health blogger, Claire Eastham, who points out that getting a diagnosis is so key to managing and overcoming. Yet, another opportunity to team up with parents and guardians to share concerns and get the necessary help. UIO: On Social Anxiety is out November 6th.

Stay tuned for exciting upcoming series, and in the meantime, check out On Being A Teen Girl Now wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

 

One Thing You Can Count on Facing in Life

With autumn in full force, we continue to highlight issues that play an important and sometimes forceful role in the lives of teen girls. Peer Pressure is our pick this week. Though a topic that lends itself to fresh content, it’s also one that has been unchangeable over the years.  To this end, I am republishing Six Ways to Handle Peer Pressure, all tips taken from UIO podcast.  So if you missed the blog last year, check it out now and for further tips, listen to UIO: Peer Pressure Inside Out where ever you listen to podcasts.  Happy listening and happy reading. 

The saying goes that only two things in life are certain—death and taxes. And the latter has become a rather grey area for some. Never mind. But here is the thing: the older I get the more I wonder if there is a third certainty that we all have to reckon with. Yep, you guessed it: peer pressure.

We all experience it throughout life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve known about it. Of course, as a child I might not have known its name or fully understood it, but when one of the kids of my youth encouraged me to hide underneath my great grandparents’ old house, though we had been warned of snakes and other dangers, I couldn’t resist the possibility of an adventure. Others had done it and lived to tell the tale. So did I but not without causing a lot of upset to a whole lot of people.

Fast forward, as a middle-aged woman (gulp) the pressure is still on daily, also known as keeping up with the Joneses, not something that I consciously engage in. While peer pressure can be far more elusive at this age, it’s there. For example, when considering strong encouragement from a peer on what outfit to wear for a celebrated occasion, for example, I find myself tempted to give in to what others are doing or to make comparisons that leave me feeling glum.

Make no mistake about it, I know all talk about grooming isn’t about peer pressure. I receive lots of handy advice with no pressure at all and have been known to give out some too, but when peers, people around us, pressure us to do things that make us uncomfortable that might have negative consequences mentally or physically, it is important to see it for what it is—peer pressure.

My examples are small things, don’t sweat them, but there are bigger ones that can be quite intense during the teen years such as pressure to stay out beyond a curfew, drink, smoke, cheat on an exam, get up to shenanigans online, engage in violence, have sex and so on.

Many of these big topics gain momentum in the name of youth or because they are billed as a rite of passage and/or because everybody else is doing it. And if given in to, the consequences can be life altering.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of wonderful advice out there to manage peer pressure. Hence, I have taken six top tips from UIO’s podcast series:

  • Keep self-confidence in tow – ‘Just like we put on coats and gloves when we go out into inclement weather, we need to put on self-confidence when we step out into the world.’

  • Show yourself some love and take care of yourself – ‘Your body serves you now. It really is your temple. Look after it.’

  • Don’t worry what everybody else is doing – ‘Try to avoid making comparisons, you are unique.’

  • Know yourself, what you really value and hang onto it – ‘The thing that you want to dull because you are not fitting in. That is your bit of uniqueness. Own it. It is your superpower.’

  • Dare to be different – ‘It takes a brave girl or woman to say wait a minute, I think I am worth more. I have infinite worth and value.’

  • Think about who you hang out with; who you choose to trust – ‘Those that matter won’t mind; those that mind won’t matter.’

All good stuff from the ladies of UIO. Now about that adventure; it was a hiding to nothing and hardly worth the admonishment I received from my father. As for bagging the right outfit for a special occasion, now is the time to dare to be different. Feeling less stressed already.