How to handle puberty in a few simple steps
Dealing with the feelings
Those times when you don’t know if you’re lonely, angry, tired or sad can be tough. One thing that could help is a naming exercise. If writing actual words down is too much, try drawing, or play a song that expresses how you’re feeling. Hopefully, it’ll help you focus and make you better at managing your emotions because they’ll be out in the open, and not confined to your mind.
Try not to think of your feelings as either good or bad. Instead, treat them as normal parts of life that everyone experiences from time to time.
It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how easily you can forget to take care of the everyday stuff, especially when you’re tired. Sleep patterns change during puberty for lots of reasons.
Stress, caused by exams or a fallout with a friend or family member might be to blame. Or it could be the physical changes going on, that make you more likely to want to go to bed – and get up – later (which sucks when you have to wake early for school.) Whatever the reason, it’s a scientific fact that teens need more sleep than younger children .
If you’re lacking ZZZs don’t beat yourself up. Experiment with what works for you, though aiming for the same sleeping and waking times can make you feel like a new person. Try something relaxing before hitting the pillow, like taking a bath, reading a book or watching TV with your family. Keeping screens off your bedside table will help your brain shut down for the night, and although it can be tricky if you fear you’re missing out, think of sleep as a gift to yourself.
Does that craving for a burger at midnight have something to do with your hormones, or is it because you’ve grown an inch in a couple of months? No-one can really say.
All we know is you need to feed your body well during puberty so your body’s strong and your brain’s sharp when you need them to be.
Like sleep-times, stick to regular mealtimes. And don’t be shy about mixing things up. Chicken and chips might be the taste king, but stir-fry, fajitas and noodles are a great way to get that dose of veggies without making mealtimes boring.
Of course, during different days in your cycle, your hunger levels will change. So go with your gut. Eat a little more when you’re ravenous, but don’t force yourself to finish everything on your plate if you feel full up. Drink water regularly, too. Sometimes we think we’re hungry, but we’re actually dehydrated.
You don’t have to be a gym fiend to indulge in a bit of sweating and stretching every now and then. A stroll around the park, swim in your local pool, or a dance around your bedroom can be just the thing if you’re lacking in energy or feeling low. And on the days you’re full of beans, it’ll help to burn up some of your buzz.
You might have heard that exercising during your period is a bad idea. Actually, the opposite is true. It’s been scientifically proven to do you good.
Try different things, so you find what’s right for you – it’s always nice to know you’re strengthening your body and clearing the cobwebs from your mind at the same time.
What’s that smell?
Puberty can change your scent, especially under your arms and around your groin. These smells can vary in intensity but they’re nothing to be ashamed of. You might want to shower more regularly during certain points in your cycle, especially if you’re doing lots of exercise.
Puberty’s a good time to establish a simple hygiene routine (just as we brush our teeth twice daily, usually without even thinking about it). Look at this article for the best way to wash around your vagina.
I feel dirty when I’m on my period. Why?
Just because you’re bleeding doesn’t mean you’re unclean. Yes, the blood can be unpredictable and stain pants and bedsheets. And yes, the blood can be black, brown, red or clotty. But don’t listen to anyone who tells you that blood is gross. Periods are natural and normal and no one would be on this planet without them.
Sanitary towels make me feel like I’m wearing a nappy.
There are ways to make periods feel as comfortable for you as possible – and it’s partly down to experimenting with the sanitary products that are right for you. Tampons or pads should give you the freedom to do what you want to do, even if you’re on full red-alert due to a super-heavy period.
If you’re not happy with the products in your bathroom cabinet, talk to you friends or your mum about what they use. You could be missing a trick! It can take a bit of trial and error (and stained underwear) to find out what works for you.
Certain femcare products can be used if discharge is heavy on non-period days in your cycle. And, if your periods are irregular (as they often are during puberty) a liner will help to prevent leaks when you start to bleed without warning, giving you the time to find a more absorbent pad.
Keep the people (and things) you love close by
Music, your favourite food, your most comfortable pillow, a familiar book. Life’s little comforts can give you an instantly good feeling, so write down the things that make you happy. And, when you need a pick me up, choose something from your list.
• You never regret buying an ice cream in summer, just as you never regret talking about something that’s on your mind with someone you’re close to.
• Your mum might be the obvious choice. She’s been where you are, and almost certainly had similar feelings to yours. A ride in the car together, a catch up of Eastenders, or a walk where it’s just the two of you will give you the opportunity to open up about things you find embarrassing.
• Write things down beforehand in case you get emotional and forget what you want to say. If you have ideas about how you want to be supported, help your mum out by telling her what it is that you need.
• If she’s not around speak to someone you fully trust, like a sibling, dad, good friend, or the school nurse or counsellor. Sometimes it won’t be advice you’re after, but just someone who’ll listen.
• And remember, your friends and family will ask for your support over time, so don’t ever worry that they’ll be too busy for you.