Puberty, Part 4
This episode about Emotions and Healthy Habits is part 4 of our Puberty series. Some kids and adults are hesitant to talk about puberty, so I hope these episodes help you feel more comfortable having conversations about it–that’s my goal. This isn’t meant to replace health and development education–I am not, nor do I claim to be, a medical professional–so I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. I will use medically accurate terms and link fact sources in my show notes.
Physical and hormonal changes introduce a whole new set of big emotions. You may notice you’re more sensitive to people’s comments, you get irritated easily by your parents, you feel self-conscious at school, you feel giddy texting your crush and jealous when you see your friend talk to them, or feel you might burst into tears and don’t know why. Inside you’re like, “What’s going on with me?!” but please know, this is part of puberty. There’s nothing wrong with you, and you’re not alone–everyone is changing, everyone’s awkward, everyone feels this at some point.
Write It Out
I say this a lot but writing out your feelings can help you process what’s going on. Our brains tend to ruminate or think about something again and again, which can make us more stressed and anxious. You’ve got to release the pressure somehow, and bottling up your feelings might result in an emotional explosion similar to opening a shaken bottle of soda. So get a journal or piece of paper and free-write your feelings–don’t worry about editing, just let it out. Writing gives your brain the opportunity to stop ruminating in circles and take different thought paths, like new ideas or solutions to what’s going on.
If you need help identifying your emotions, I recommend a feelings or emotions wheel–you can find one with a web search. Narrow down how you’re feeling by choosing your main emotion from the center circle, like sadness. Then move to the next circle and choose the emotion that fits, like hurt. Finally move to the outer circle and identify the most descriptive matching emotion, like wronged. Naming your emotions gives you clarity and helps you move through that tunnel.
Talk To Someone
Also, talking to someone–like a parent, counselor, or therapist–could help as you regulate these new emotions. Those adults were once your age, and even if their experiences were different, their emotions could be similar. At the very least, they could offer you empathy, compassion, and a listening ear so you don’t feel so alone. Some adults tend to switch into problem-solving mode because they want to help, so you could begin your conversation by saying, “I’m having a hard time, and I just want to feel understood before trying to fix it. Can I talk to you about what’s going on and how I’m feeling?” That should give them a heads up to save their solution suggestions for later when you’re ready for them.
If you happen to react at someone similar to a shaken soda bottle, it happens and it’s tough. Once you’re in a better mindstate, apologize. Back in episode 014 we identified the three parts of an apology:
- Own It – say what you did wrong.
- Feel and Empathize – express how you truly feel bad for what you did, and recognize the other person’s feelings.
- Make It Right – say what you’ll do differently, or think about/ask what you can do to help make it up to them — and mean it.
It’s best to apologize in-person, face to face. Next best option would be a video call, then a phone call, and if none of those options are possible, text with emojis. Apologizing and being accountable for your actions shows great maturity.
On the flipside, there’s a possibility that someone–even a close friend–may explode at you like a shaken soda bottle. And it might be messy and even hurt. So I’ll refer to episode 009 about forgiveness–the goal is to find peace within yourself. The first step in forgiveness is to be mindful about how you feel and identify your emotions. Then you need to recognize things that are in your control, like how you’ll respond to this situation. Boundaries are important and will give you space to heal. You can consider whether this friend/relationship is worth repairing–mend things if possible, or move on, whichever is best for your peace.
Nutrition + Food
Nutrition/food is often misrepresented and misunderstood, including by me for many years. Unless there’s a food allergy or medical reason, no foods should be off-limits. In other words, don’t rely on diets to tell you how to eat. Believing food is either good or bad might make you feel bad about yourself. Food should not cause guilt or shame. As Laura Cragun, an intuitive eating coach, shared in episode 40, “All food is equal, it doesn’t have moral value. It may have nutritional value that differs, you know, a Twinkie [versus] a head of broccoli, but really it’s the same as far as it’s morally concerned.” Food provides energy, nutrients, and pleasure. Enjoying a variety of foods and trying new things can be fun. There will be some foods you love, others you like, and ones you tolerate. And that’s okay! Also, water is necessary for survival, so hydrate!
Activity + Exercise
Activity/exercise are important for both physical AND mental health. Exercise is not a punishment to reach a number on a scale or size. Our bodies are designed to move, and they can do incredible things if we give them the opportunity. Try different activities, both structured (like a team sport) and unstructured, like a hike with friends. Aim for 60 minutes a day total, and be outdoors as much as you can. Limit the time you spend sitting, especially on screens. If you have to sit for a while doing a bunch of homework, set reminders to get up, stretch, and walk around.
If you ever wonder what to eat or how to move, just listen–your body already knows. In episode 029, guest Lizzy Cangro, author of Reclaim the Rebel, encouraged us to trust ourselves by listening to our bodies. Our bodies will give cues about what it wants and how much it needs. Like the principles of intuitive eating, the more in-tune you are with your body, the better you’ll be able to take care of it.
Sleep is the one that most often gets overlooked, even sacrificed, but needs to be prioritized. At your age, aim for 9-12 hours of sleep each night. Help yourself fall asleep faster by turning off screens one hour before bed, dimming lights, doing quiet activities, and only using your bed for sleeping (not doing homework). Getting enough sleep can improve your attention span, behavior, learning, memory, and of course, physical and mental health.
Mindfulness is something that sounds so simple that you might not do it, but when you do you realize how impactful it is. Given how very busy life can be, being mindful has to be done intentionally. Mindfulness is slowing down or pausing to be aware of and experience the present moment with your senses. Practicing mindfulness while outdoors is a neat experience, and it can also be done indoors. You can practice mindfulness while sitting quietly and focusing on the sound and sensations of your breath. You can practice mindfulness while eating and using all of your senses to experience the food–sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. You can practice mindfulness while taking a walk outside and focusing on the rhythm of your steps or the sounds of birds chirping or the smell of the crisp fall air. Mindfulness has a host of benefits, including decreased stress and sadness, improved sleep, enhanced creativity, clearer mind, improved focus, and more empathy and self-compassion.
Maintaining your physical and mental health are both essential for your well-being. They work in-tandem, so if one of them is struggling, the other will show it, too. Prioritizing your health is important as you continue growing through puberty and adulthood.
Throughout this series we’ve discussed a ton of puberty changes: What Puberty Is, Growth, Smell, Hair, and Skin in episode 043, Shape, Weight, Breast Development, and Body Hair in episode 044; Menstrual Cycles and Periods in episode 045; and Emotions and Healthy Habits in this episode, number 046. Puberty is going to happen to everyone at some point, so don’t make fun of people, okay? Have compassion for them as well as yourself. Puberty is a part of life, so accept it. It won’t last forever, and there are lots of people who can help you through it.
Again, I encourage you to further educate yourself through trusted sources like books, reputable websites, doctors, etc. You may also want to check out:
American Girl Books:
The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls
The Care and Keeping of You 2: The Body Book for Older Girls
Part 1 Episode 43: What Puberty Is, Growth, Smell, Hair, and Skin
Part 2 Episode 44: Shape, Weight, Breast Development, and Body Hair
Part 3 Episode 45: Menstrual Cycles and Periods
Part 4 Episode 46: Emotions and Healthy Habits
If you have questions about what we covered in this episode, or a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to hello@EmpowerfulGirls.com .
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