trans ally

A trans ally is someone who is cisgender but fights alongside the trans community to tackle prejudice and promote equality.

Here at Ditch the Label, we definitely think this day is a pretty important one, as loads of people all over the world still get targeted daily for being gay, bi and trans. We want to focus on tackling transphobia, and so put together this quick guide to being the best trans ally you possibly can!

So, whether you’re already clued up about transgender issues, or you’re not so sure and are always worrying that you’ll say the wrong thing – we’re here to help…

1) Backhanded compliments suck and need to stop…

“I never would have known you were trans…”- translates as “well done on passing as ‘normal.'” Newsflash: there is no normal!

Also, this insinuates that if you had known, you might have treated them differently. Even if you meant it in the best way possible, just steer clear of things like this…

There are unfortunately many, many more of these so-called ‘backhanded compliments’ which most trans people will probably be familiar with. Steer clear of stuff like this, they have probably heard it all a lot and it certainly isn’t very complimentary – it usually comes from being uninformed or prejudiced. If you hear ‘compliments’ like this, try to challenge it by asking why they have said that.

2) See the person

Do you regularly ask everyone about what’s going on in their pants? The size, shape and history of their genitals? Didn’t think so! Please, pretty please don’t ask trans folks about it either! It’s deeply disrespectful and not ok…EVER!

See the person, get to know them for who they are, being trans is only one small part of a person’s story and not their entire identity.

3) Don’t make assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation

Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Sexuality is about who we are attracted to, whereas gender identity is own personal sense of being male, female or outside the gender binary. Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual or heterosexual.

Something else to remember is that it’s really none of your business what sexual orientation someone is until they decide to reveal it to you.

4) Ask questions rather than assume

If there is something you’re not clear about, most people will be open to answering your questions as long as they are polite, respectful and not too intrusive.

So for example, asking someone which pronouns they use is usually fine (she/he/they). If you have anything else you want to ask, try having an open honest conversation in a safe space, and let them know that you have some questions, but they do not have to answer them if they don’t want to and that you mean no harm in asking them.

Are you looking to come out or know someone who is?


5) Shut transphobia down

When you see transphobic abuse, report it. Stand up for your friends and stand up for strangers when it feels safe to do so. No one deserves to be abused because of who they are and/or how they identify. By not saying anything, you are effectively justifying their prejudice and betraying your own beliefs in equality – standing shoulder to shoulder with the trans community to overcome hate and ignorance is the best thing you can do.

6) Do your research

Know about trans issues and current affairs. All you have to do is go online to see what’s going on in the world. Simply being in the know is a good place to start. Form your own opinion and go from there.

7) Be Yourself

You don’t need to be anything other than yourself. If you are a true ally, you believe in equality and overcoming prejudice, then that’s all you need to do: stand up for what you believe in and support others in the face of adversity.

There you have it! Seven quick tips on how to be the best ally to the trans community as you possibly can!

If you need support from a digital mentor or are dealing with transphobia or related issues, join the DTL community. There are a whole bunch of people who can help you today!

When a friend comes out to you, it can be difficult for both of you. Knowing how to react so as not to hurt their feelings can be a difficult task, and so can knowing how to support them going forward with their journey. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you understand how you can do this.

Don’t minimise 

When someone comes out to you, it can feel like you are doing the right thing by saying that it isn’t a big deal. The thing is, this can make the person coming out to you feel like their journey isn’t important or give them unrealistic expectations for coming out going forward. Instead, you’re better off sticking to other supportive phrases such as “I appreciate you telling me” and “I am here for support whenever you need it”. 

Don’t tell anyone else 

It’s really important for you to understand that no matter who this person is to you, it is not your job or place to tell anyone else at all about them. Even if you feel like it is coming from the right place, to prepare a family member or someone else for the news, by doing so you are taking away their power to control their own journey. 

Offer support where it’s needed, but don’t insert yourself into their journey 

There is a fine line between being there for someone and inserting yourself into their life. Making it about you or how your relationship with them might change is not the goal here, and even the most well-meaning support can become a bit much for some people. Instead, just make yourself available to them. You don’t need to throw someone a coming out party to let them know you care. 

Be normal! 

Remember, nothing about this person has changed. They are still exactly the same person as you have always known. Just like sexuality, a feeling of gender identity is something that someone is born with. So whether someone has come out to you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, transgender or non-binary, they are still the same person you always knew. Just because you have a new piece of information about them, doesn’t mean that your relationship with that person has to change in any way. 

For more information on coming out, click here to read our other information on this.

If you are currently feeling suicidal, find out where you can support here.

As a counsellor, I have had many clients over the years describe their depression to me as a deep, dark fog. 

Many feel like there is no escape and that they are stuck in this darkness with so little energy to do anything. When feeling like this, it is very common to find it impossible to imagine that you might be able to feel well again. 

You might be reading this feeling utterly exhausted, as you have struggled to sleep night after night, week after week. Perhaps you have struggled with food; maybe you have been eating too much or restricting your eating as a way to cope with these difficult emotions. 

It can be common to feel tearful and on edge, and perhaps everything just feels too much. You might have lost interest in your usual hobbies and things you love, making it difficult for you to find joy in life. You might have distanced yourself from your friends and lost interest in making your relationship work or finding a partner. Perhaps you have lost your sex drive, have unexplained headaches or just can’t stop sleeping.

These are just some of the symptoms that people can experience when they have depression. It is different for different people.

Importantly, we need to recognise that depression is serious and real. When we are depressed, we can’t just put on a smile and magically everything will be OK. Encouragement like this, while well meant, is not OK and doesn’t help.

For some more tips on coping with low mood, read this.

Often professionals determine the difference between feeling a bit low and having clinical depression by the length of time these feelings persist. The NHS states that when these symptoms continue for most of the day, every day, for more than 2 weeks and are starting to negatively affect your social life, family life and work, that this is when you may be experiencing clinical depression.

If you are currently struggling

You can find support here.

Doctors often categorise depression as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much of an impact it is having on your day-to-day life. 

You might be wondering why you are feeling this way and what you did wrong. But it is very important to recognise that you are not at fault. Self-blame is not helpful; in fact it is likely to make you feel worse. Instead, it may be helpful to think about what is going on in your life and see if you can think if there is anything that might have triggered your depression. 

Some common triggers of depression are a relationship breakdown, death of a loved one and loneliness. However, there is not always a trigger, as many people have genetically inherited depression.

It is important that you keep yourself safe by sharing how you are feeling with someone you trust and getting some help from a professional. You might want to talk to your GP or a counsellor for help and support.

You can find more from our psychotherapeutic counsellor in residence Chloe here.

Image of the author, Chloe Foster

Chloe Foster has a background in working in mental health and youth work. Today she runs Sussex Rainbow Counselling where she specialises in counselling LGBTQ clients online.

Chloe holds a postgraduate diploma in psychotherapeutic humanistic counselling from The University of Brighton. She is also an approved accredited registrant member of the National Counselling Society, and an accredited gender, sexuality and relationship diversities therapist with Pink Therapy.
Website: www.sussexrainbowcounselling.com

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses, characterised by disordered eating behaviour that might include restricting the amount of food eaten, eating very large quantities of food all at once, countering food eaten through purging or excessive exercise, or a combination of these.

It’s important to remember that they’re not really about the physical behaviour, but rather about the thoughts and feelings behind the behaviour – eating disorders may be a way to cope or to feel in control. Anyone can have an eating disorder, no matter what their age, gender, or background.

Perhaps you’ve noticed something about your eating behaviour that worries you, or perhaps someone else has. Regardless of how you came to consider the possibility that you might have an eating disorder, realising that there’s a problem is a really important step. But what about the steps after it? Here are some things that you can do or just keep in mind:

1. Speak to someone that you trust about your concerns

Breaking the silence around eating disorders is vital, because these illnesses thrive on secrecy. You might want to talk to a close friend or family member, a teacher or a therapist. Try noting down beforehand some of what is worrying you, whether that’s your actions or the thoughts you’re having, so that you have some things to centre the conversation around. If there’s information somewhere, such as a list of symptoms, that has caused you to worry, you could show them this so that they understand why you’re concerned. It may be that they have noticed the same things you have and will be very glad that you’ve spoken up.

“Breaking the silence around eating disorders is vital, because these illnesses thrive on secrecy”

If the person you speak to doesn’t react as sensitively as you’d hope, don’t be disheartened. If they don’t understand or are dismissive, that doesn’t mean that your concerns aren’t valid. You deserve support, and you’ve taken the brave and positive step of reaching out, so try speaking to someone else.

Need some tips on how to open up to someone about this? You can download a quick guide here or read the full article here.

2. Seek treatment as soon as possible

Research is very clear that the sooner someone gets treatment for an eating disorder, the greater their chance of a full and sustained recovery. Speak to your GP about your symptoms, and write down some thoughts and questions beforehand so you have something to refer to if you forget anything. You could ask someone you trust to go with you to your appointment to support you. Your GP should be sensitive to your needs, but if you don’t feel that you’re getting the help you need, you can ask to see a different GP.

3. Don’t feel that you have to tick every box on a list of criteria for your illness to be real

Eating disorders are very complex, and while there are lots of symptoms that might be associated with specific eating disorders, not everyone with an eating disorder will have all of them. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are not the only diagnoses – a high percentage of diagnosed eating disorder cases are “other specified feeding or eating disorder” or “OSFED”. These are every bit as serious as any other eating disorder, and it is just as important that you get the treatment and support you need.

“Don’t feel that you have to tick every box on a list of criteria for your illness to be real”

4. Don’t feel that you have to figure out the cause of your illness or an exact reason to be feeling the way that you do.

It’s thought that eating disorders are a combination of a biological predisposition and a social or environmental trigger, and sometimes people can point to an exact moment that their eating disorder started. But sometimes they can’t, and that’s okay.

Remember, eating disorders are very complex illnesses, and anyone can have one, regardless of their background. If you can’t explain it, or if the cause of your eating disorder doesn’t seem as “serious” to you as the cause of someone else’s, that doesn’t mean that it’s not just as real. You should still seek the support you deserve.

5. Consider keeping a journal to keep track of your thoughts and feelings

This is something that you can share with your doctor or therapist depending on your treatment, as well as use to identify any patterns and potentially learn about what things might help or hinder your recovery.

“No two people with an eating disorder are the same, except for one thing – they are all absolutely deserving of help and support”

6. You could also keep a “go-to box”

This is a collection of things that can provide a distraction from negative thoughts and feelings or help calm you if you’re feeling anxious.

It could be a physical box with activities in it, or something like a collection of apps on your phone. You might be someone who prefers to read your favourite book when you’re struggling, or have a particular game that you find takes your mind off things. No matter how you cope best, the important thing is that you never have to look too far for things that you know will be helpful.

No two people with an eating disorder are the same, except for one thing – they are all absolutely deserving of help and support, and the sooner they get it, the better.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone about eating disorders, or anything that might be bothering you, reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.

For more information about eating disorders and what to do if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know, go to www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/

So you’re completely new to the world of meditation? Don’t sweat it, we’ve got you covered with this super easy guide which will walk you through the basics… the benefits of meditation are endless, but don’t take our word for it, try it out for yourself!

1. Just sit down

When beginning to learn to meditate, keeping it simple is key. Start with just two minutes at a time for a week, a fortnight or even a month. Then, once you get the hang of it, build up from there. The point is, when you set an unrealistic goal for yourselves the frustration you feel in not doing it leaves you feeling guilty. That guilt and frustration then builds every day which adds to a growing feeling of failure and no one needs that!

2. Do it at the same time every day

This has been proven to be an effective way to build a new habit and stops us putting it off. Meditating regularly will quickly become a daily habit and part of a healthy routine.

3. Just do

Most people spend far too long worrying and overthinking the details of how to get it right. The time you spend thinking about it could be the time spent doing it. Find somewhere quiet. Set a two minute alarm on your phone. Sit down; chair, floor, sofa, on a cushion. A relaxed yet upright posture. Palms up down, on lap or knees, whatever you prefer. Close your eyes. Then begin.

4. Check in with yourself

Begin with some deep breaths. Check in with the mood of your body as well as the mood of your mind. See whatever you are bringing to the mediation as completely OK.

5. Count your breaths

Now turn your attention to your breath. Feel the inhale and the exhale, pay attention to where you feel the breath, is it in your chest your lungs, your shoulders. Just notice where you feel it in your body. Then begin counting one as you take the first breath, then two as you breathe out again. Repeat this count of 10, then start again at one.

6. Notice

When your mind wonders from counting your breaths (because it will, that is guaranteed) all you ever need to do is notice it. Notice your mind has wondered onto a thought or a couple or loads. The noticing is what’s crucial, not the wandering off.

7. Come back

Then, all you do is come back to your breath.

8. Begin again!

…Aaaand begin again with your counting of each breath and when your mind wonders again, notice it. Then go back to breathing and begin again, again – you got this 🙃

9. Let go

When the alarm goes off, give yourself a few extra minutes still with your eyes closed and let go of any counting or noticing. Let your mind go wherever it wants to – this requires no control or effort.

10. Then, when you are ready gently move your fingers and toes…

Give yourself a few seconds to come back into your body and then open your eyes. How do you feel now, compared with how you felt when you began?

Sound too easy? You are only going to know if you give it ago! Mediation has some truly mind blowing benefits that are all yours for the taking from stress relief, to a healthier heart and a bigger smile … you can thank us later 😉

If you’re still not sure, read our 5 reasons why we should all be meditating!

Friendship can be complicated, and sometimes, those close friends that we invest in can do things that hurt us. Whether they do it directly or indirectly, whether they mean to upset you or not, it is always difficult to know how to deal with this kind of situation. That’s why we’ve got a quick guide to how you can manage it when a friend betrays your trust. 

Want to know more about this? Read this article on if they are REALLY your friend.

Sort the fact from the fiction

Whatever has happened between you and your friend, there is likely to be a lot of rumours about what is going on. In fact, we’d put money on you hearing about all of this from someone who knows someone who knows your friend’s cousin. Stories get twisted, and gossip often runs the show when we fall out with friends. But sorting the fact from the fiction is the only way you will be able to figure out what really happened. And even if you don’t like the idea of talking to them about it, it should be your first port of call. 

Give them a chance to explain themselves

Unfortunately, when a friend betrays your trust you are not likely to get the truth from everyone around you, as they are much more likely to relay rumours, or just tell you what they think you want to hear. Often, this comes with the best of intentions, but it still means you should probably hear what the other person has to say directly from them. Choose a time when you can have the conversation in private, in person or over the phone. 

When you talk to them, try to manage your emotions

If you do decide to speak to them, it’s important that you try to manage your emotions. Getting angry or upset is not going to be very productive, especially if you think that you would like to carry on being with friends with them when all of this is in the past. Let them talk about why they did what they did, and give them the space to own up to everything. It’s only when you have all the facts that you can decide what to do next, and you are not going to get them by calling them names, spreading rumours about them or retaliating. 

Consider if you think they are being truthful with you 

It can be hard to figure out if someone is lying to you, especially if they are your friend and you hope they would be better than that, or if emotions are running high. So listen to what they have to say and think about if their version of events makes sense to you. It might be a genuine misunderstanding, and they apologise straight away. If not, or they refuse to give you their version of events, it might be worth considering if the friendship is worth investing more of your energy in.

Think about their behaviour before this incident 

Ask yourself:

  • How were they as a friend before this happened?
  • Were they honest with you?
  • Did they always make you feel included?
  • Have they supported you through tough times, without hoping for something in return?
  • Did they ever spread rumours about you, or tell your secrets to others? 
  • Did they put you down, or make you feel bad about yourself?
  • How did they treat you in front of others? 
  • Do you have more bad memories with them than good ones?

And evaluate if you think you can keep their energy in your life

Think about your answers to some of the questions above. Write down the answers if you have to. Then think about if the energy they bring to your life is positive or negative. If you find it is overwhelmingly negative, then it might be time to move away from their friendship. We know this can be scary, especially if you feel like you might be isolating yourself. But the world is a big place full of wonderful people, and you will find friends that will back you no matter what, and will do so without thinking about what they can get in return. They are out there, we promise. 

If you decide to forgive, do so fully and move on

If you do decide that you want to forgive them, know that you must do so completely. Holding on to a grudge after you’ve said the words “I forgive you” is not only going to hurt you, but it will hurt your friendship in the future. If every time a little tiff over something small comes up and all you do is think about that one time they betrayed your trust, then neither of you have any hope of growing or moving on. 

Remember, it doesn’t have to be fixed straight away.

If you don’t think you can forgive them, then take some more time. Time and space from the situation will give you both a chance to reevaluate your friendship and your feelings towards each other and to this situation. It will mean that you are much less likely to say something that you regret, and give you both a better chance at moving forward instead of repeating the same patterns of behaviour.  

black and white illustrated eye with illustrated hair down the sides

People find different things relaxing so we’ve constructed a list of our fave chilling out tips and urge you to give them a try to see which ones work for you! It’s time to say bye felicia to all that stress during lockdown.

Small amounts of stress are healthy and can help you get stuff done. But high levels of stress can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health so it’s important that you find ways to manage this during the coronavirus crisis when stress is inevitably ramped up.

It took us a bloody long time but we did it, we really did it. Here are 101 different things you can do to chill out and reduce stress.

Take a deep breath, here goes…

1. Watch something funny. Laughter really is the best medicine. It relieves physical tension, reduces stress and increases immunity…so watch your fave comedy and laugh your way to tranquillity.

2. Body Clench. This relaxation exercise may make you look a bit constipated but give it a go! Starting with your toes, go up through your body, gradually clenching each of your muscles right through to the tiny ones in your face, keep your whole body clenched, hold and then release to let go of all the tension. Feels good, right?

3. Try the Naam Yoga Hand Trick. Using your fingertips, apply pressure to the space between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers. This creates a sense of immediate relaxation by activating a nerve that loosens the area around your heart (don’t worry, it’s not as life-threatening as it sounds).

4. Stop multitasking. No wonder we’re all mega-stressed when we’re replying to text messages, whilst watching TV and speaking on the phone simultaneously! Not only is multitasking totally inefficient, but it’s also linked to the increased production of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that can send your body into panic mode! So chill out and take things one step at a time.

5. Get a Colouring Book. They’ve exploded in popularity recently and for good reason – colouring in helps you chill out because it’s very difficult to focus on other things when you’re doing it.

6. Have a banana. When we’re stressed out our blood pressure tends to rise but the potassium found in bananas can help to regulate this. Stress can also leave us feeling depleted but bananas give you a replenishing energy boost.

7. Organise ‘worry time’. (Worryingly) worry can counterproductively occur at any point in the day and release stress hormones into the body that can cause anxiety and lower our immune systems. So schedule a 15 minute worry window in your day, where you can write down your worries and work through them. You can use DTL’s stress reprogrammer to help.

8. Do some baking. The smell of baking can make people feel calm and comforted. Many people find baking stress relieving and adding decorative touches to your creation can give you a sense of pride, enhance how you’re feeling and therefore boost your self-esteem…so what better excuse to eat cake?

9. Cook up a facemask. Yep, that’s right, we are suggesting you mix up half an avocado, a teaspoon of honey, 2 tablespoons of hot water and smear it all over your face so that you vaguely resemble the Wicked Witch of the West. Relax for 10 to look and feel rejuvenated.

10. Stay silly. Don’t leave playtime at the primary school gates. Studies have consistently highlighted the importance of play for helping manage stress throughout our lives. Goofing around is good for us so bring out the lego, pull ugly faces and dance in your pants shamelessly!

11. Keep calm and kiss. Kissing increases levels of the love hormone, oxytocin, which relaxes us whilst decreasing the stress hormone, cortisol. It’s been shown that kissing can lower anxiety in a similar way to meditation as well as generally improving your mood through an increase of serotonin and endorphins in the brain…so if you’re staying home with your significant other, grab ‘em for a smooch!

12. Stay inside and listen to the rain. Want a good excuse to stay in your PJ’s? White noise may make you wanna tear your hair out when it’s blaring out of the TV, but this sound of nature shares similar wavelengths to the frequencies produced by white noise and actually has relaxing effects on the brain. So curl up with a hot choc and let your brainwaves do the work.

13. Watch a nature documentary. Not only are David Attenborough’s dulcet tones particularly soothing, nature documentaries can also sprinkle our minds with mood-lifting wanderlust and highlight the sheer scale of life which can in turn help us gain perspective of our own lives.

14. Meditate. Create a little zen den in your room where you can meditate (e.g. light candles and incense, play calming music). Reaching a meditative state takes practice but there are some great tips for beginners online. Meditation can help ease anxiety and improve concentration, so peace out.

15. Breathe ‘Pranayama’ style. This yoga method requires you to breathe through one nostril at a time (inhale through the left by blocking the right, exhale through the right by blocking the left, repeat for 3 minutes) to relieve stress. Weird but wonderful!

16. A spoonful of honey. Mother nature’s delicious treat has compounds that reduce inflammation in the brain which can help improve a low mood. Bee happy… (sorry, couldn’t resist).

17. Turn up the music and dance. Combining music and dance can help build self-esteem, lift your mood and reduce anxiety. Dancing may also help express emotions and experiences that are difficult to communicate in words alone…so dance like no one’s watching!

18. Watch a tearjerker. Okay, so you’re only on the first scene of ‘Up’ and you’re already in floods…don’t panic! The teary-eyed may experience a slight dip in their mood following the film but not long after you’ll notice your mood improves considerably from its original state and crying is an excellent way to relieve stress too so get the tissues out!

19. Try self-hypnosis. Okay so forget dangling pendants and special powers, self-hypnosis can really work! There’s loads of mp3’s you can download online to help reprogramme your subconscious to relieve stress and anxiety so have a listen.

20. Doodle. You may associate doodling with being bored in class but doing it in your spare time can be a great way to relax. When we’re stressed we can get caught in our thoughts but by doodling you’re engaging the creative upper right side of your brain which will give you the space you need to calm down and find a fresh perspective.

21. Play games. Board games, cards and even online/video games (in moderation!) can be a really effective way of relaxing. Fun games can trigger the release of endorphins and can help shift your attention away from stress. Interacting with friends and families through games can help ease stressful dynamics too so organise a pub quiz or games night over Skype if you’re isolating alone. Looks like I’ll be playing Call of Duty forever then…

22. Have a hug. Hugging increases serotonin levels which are linked to happiness and releases oxytocin which lowers stress hormones like cortisol. If you’re staying home with family, friends or flatmates this is a good time to hug them. Maybe warn them first though.

23. Have a massage exchange. Most of us don’t have 50 quid lying around to splash out on a professional massage, so relieve tension the frugal way and exchange massages with a friend or flatmate that you’re staying home with. For example, try massaging the muscle under the thumb to relieve tension in the hands (you’ll look just like a pro!) There are loads of tips online so you, your mate and your bank balance can enjoy the benefits of relaxation!

24. Drink hot water. Learn from the tradition of Chinese healing and drink a cup of good ol’, clean hot water. Okay, so it may not be as delicious as a hot chocolate but it will cleanse your system of toxins that have accumulated in the body and may be causing tension. You could try adding some lemon for flavour, vitamin C and its mood enhancing properties (e.g. reducing anxiety).

25. Support someone else. Moving your attention outside of yourself can help take the pressure of stressors in your own life and supporting others can also give you valuable insight for how to redress your issues. Seeing the impact you make in that person’s life will also boost your self-esteem which in turn, can help de-stress.

26. Watch cute animals on youtube. Oh, the power of cute! Watching our furry friends doing their thing can help reduce your stress levels and lift your mood. Aww!

27. Go Stargazing. If you have your own outside space, laying down and watching a starry night is not only awesome but it increases your brain’s alpha waves which rapidly enables you to relax. Cool, huh?

28. Light some incense. Scents like Sandalwood and Sage can help calm anxieties and aid relaxation (and make your room smell wonderful!)

29. Squeeze a stress ball. Using a stress ball can help alleviate tension by promoting muscle relaxation and providing a general sense of release.

30. Keeping a diary. Venting all those thoughts and emotions onto paper can make your feelings and problems seem less intimidating. Writing can be both insightful and therapeutic so get those words down on paper!

31. Chew gum. Chewing gum for a few minutes can help release anxiety, improve your mood and you’ll never have to worry about bad breath again! Go and rummage through every one of your pockets and bags – you’re bound to have some somewhere. 

32. Drink green tea. Feeling all worked up? Green tea is a source of the chemical L-Theanine which can help relieve anger.

33. Call an old friend. Feeling out of control? Speaking to an old friend can be really grounding. Social connectedness can reduce stress levels and no doubt the nostalgia will get you smiling and laughing too!

34. Snuggle up with a pet. Cuddling your pet can help reduce anxiety through the release of oxytocin in your brain, ease feelings of social rejection and make you feel cared for which can help boost your self-esteem. The cutest therapy going!

35. Sniff those flowers. Did you know that certain smells can change our mood? Floral scents can lift your mental state and make you feel less anxious…so go in your garden and stick your nose in the rhododendron bush!

36. Stretch it out. Stretching has been linked to relaxation and stress relief as well as a greater sense of wellbeing. It’s also incredibly satisfying.

37. Organise your space. Mess can really start to clutter up your mind so clean your room and reorganize your desk. Tidy room, tidy mind (sorry, we said it).

38. Take a walk in nature. Not only will walking trigger the release of endorphins which can reduce stress hormones, but being out in nature can boost serotonin levels which can also contribute to an improved sense of wellbeing.

39. Be a tourist. Try mixing up your daily exercise and walk on different routes. Not only will it stop you getting bored but you’ll be surprised what you find when you’re a tourist in your own city, town or village.

40. Wash dishes. Okay, so I get that you’ve probably spent half your life avoiding this task but you’ll be surprised at how therapeutic it is. Not only will mindfully washing the dishes relax you, but you’ll please any other household members too and feel a sense of self-esteem boosting accomplishment. Concentrate on letting your mind and body experience the task with serene awareness (e.g. focussing on the smell of the soap, the feel of the dishes and the warmth of the water).

41. Visualisation. Your mind is a powerful tool. Whether you use it to visualise success, visit a happy place, or embark on an imaginary journey, the technique can help alleviate anxiety and sadness so go get creative in your head!

42. Sleep well. Whilst stress can interfere with sleeping, sleeping can also relieve stress. So use some of our chilling out tips to help you relax before bed and follow our DTL Sleep Guide so you can ensure that you’re spending a third of your life in bedtime bliss…zzz…

43. Cook your fave dish. Nourishing yourself with a good meal can help boost your sense of self-worth. Cooking can be a relaxing and rewarding process and hopefully you’ll feel accomplished instead of poisoned by the end!

44. Write a card for someone you care about. Whoever it is I can assure you that they’ll appreciate a card letting them know you’re thinking of them. Random acts of kindness like this have beneficial effects for both you and the person at the receiving end. You can feel good about making someone else feel great and performing these acts has been linked to helping socially anxious people feel more positive.

45. Light some candles. Candlelight is known for its calming effects and (even better) scented candles have aromatherapeutic properties which can improve wellbeing. Watching the flame of a candle can also be a great starting point for meditation. So sit back and enjoy the glow!

46. Take a nap. Don’t feel guilty, naps aren’t just for those over the age of 65! The afternoon power nap can effectively reduce stress, improve your mood and increase alertness, so we give you full permission to climb back into bed!

47. Countdown from ten. Caught in chaos? Take a couple of minutes out of your day to mindfully countdown from ten and back up again. Continue this process until you feel calm enough to resume your day.

48. Wake up and smell the coffee. Finally, a saying that makes literal sense! Smelling coffee actually reduces stress hormones, so we suggest you have a good whiff of a decaf variety over breakfast.

49. Give your temples a good ol’ massage. Learn from the great art of acupuncture and give those temples a gentle knead with your index and middle fingertips. Massaging your temples helps relax the other muscles in your body as well as soothing your headache symptoms (bonus!).

50. Feed the birds. Enjoy the company birds can bring and track all the different species you can view from your doorstep, garden or terrace. Okay, so I know it’s not exactly a night out with your mates but give it a try!… being around nature has a range of positive effects on our mental health (such as reducing anxiety) and you’ll be able to see the happiness you’ve brought to these cute little creatures.

51. Hum the tune of your fave song. Feeling anxious? Humming can dramatically slow down your heart rate and ground you. It also has a relaxing effect on your face, neck and shoulder muscles. Humming your fave tune will lift your mood and ensure you don’t get some other irritating song stuck in your head!

52. Open the windows. Not only does fresh air promote wellbeing and relax you, but getting more oxygen to the brain improves concentration and gives you the energy boost you need without the same sugar comedown of a chocolate bar (damn).

53. Be nice to yourself. Criticising yourself again? Take some time to practice self-love, whether that means starting the day repeating positive affirmations about yourself or nourishing your body with the nutrition you need. Remember ditching negative self-talk really will relieve a lot of stress. Check out some of DTL’s tips on building your self-esteem.

54. Have a bath. Taking a dip in a hot bath will relax your muscles, enabling you to unwind both physically and mentally which can help prepare you for a good night’s sleep too. A good soak can also be a great way to reduce daily anxiety…unleash the rubber ducks!

55. Get up earlier. Sorry guys. Whilst I wish early starts weren’t the reality, setting your alarm clock even just 15 minutes earlier could reduce your stress levels and bring back some routine. Waking up earlier also provides you with some valuable time to relax with yourself and prepare for the day ahead…so wake up sleepy heads! (Yawn).

56. Avoid negativity. Don’t let other people’s negativity shoot your adrenaline levels through the roof. It’s important not to judge someone for being negative, try to support them but make sure you separate your identity and emotions from it. If their negativity is aimed at you, it looks like they’re engaging in bullying behaviour so read our advice on how to talk to someone who’s bullying you.

57. Take care of your plants. Not only does filling your room with flowers look pretty and purify the air, but being around plants can help people feel more relaxed and actually reduce your likelihood of developing stress related depression.

58. Get knitting. Get creative using your motor skills to make repetitive motions that relieve stress. Give your brain a much needed break and if your thoughts get distracted, return to the movement. Go and raid the cupboards for those knitting needles!

59. Relax your jaw. Release the tension you’re carrying in your jaw by opening it wide for a half a minute, breathing through your nose and gently closing it. Great practice for the dentist too 

60. Reflect on the day’s achievements. Don’t get stressed about what you should be doing, feel great about what you have done instead. We’re not expecting you to have climbed Mount Everest, you could have just given a friend some good advice. The reflection process can help boost your self esteem and ease anxiety as you’ll see how great you are already!

61. Munch some crunch. It’s important not to use food as a stress reducer as this can lead to unhealthy eating habits. But when you do reach for a snack, try some carrot sticks or a handful of almonds as this will help relieve stress by working your jaw muscles as well as giving you a nutritious boost. Gnaw away!

62. Deep breaths. When we’re feeling anxious our breathing changes and this ‘overbreathing’ can actually produce more anxiety. But deep breathing will encourage your mind and body to slow down and return to normal. So next time you feel yourself getting anxious, have a quick break and take a deep diaphragmatic breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold it for 2 and exhale slowly through the mouth for 4 (wait a few seconds and then repeat). Panic over!

63. Decompress your stress. Invest in a 3-pack of flannels, soak them in warm water and place one on each of your shoulders and your neck, then close your eyes and relax those muscles. Ta da!

64. Turn off ALL electronic devices. Technology can be wonderful but interconnectedness comes at a price…laptops, phones and tablets all subtly increase our stress levels making us feel constantly ‘wired’. They can also disrupt your sleep which will only contribute to stress so make sure you switch them off an hour or two before bed. Oh the conflicting joys of the 21st century!

65. Browse your books. Sit back, relax and get lost in that good book you brought months ago but never read. New research suggests that reading even for just six minutes can reduce your stress levels by two thirds!

66. Clear your closet. Having a closet full of clothes you never wear just creates clutter and adds to the stress bucket. So make a day of it, and prepare to auction off your unwanted clothes after lockdown and donate the proceeds to Ditch the Label – thanks!

67. Study a new topic. I know it sounds counterproductive considering the stress studying causes, but study a topic you don’t or didn’t do at school, like gender across cultures, or survival skills…we would all feel more relaxed if we knew how to survive on a desert island.

68. Take a break from social media. Whilst interconnectedness and the opportunities of social media offer us so much, using it too often can have adverse effects. It can lower your self-esteem, take you away from the moment and bring drama into your life. All of these factors massively contribute to stress so take a break!

69. Have a good cry. Let’s face it, we’re living through difficult times so bottling up your emotions can lead you down a dangerous path and suppressing those tears actually increases your stress levels so make sure you let it all out and you’ll be surprised by the relief it brings.

70. Write a gratitude list. Unsurprisingly, stressful events can leave us feeling negative and as if we’re lacking in some way. But having a greater sense of appreciation for the people and things in your life can really help you gain perspective, feel more positive and enable you to better handle stress. So try writing down 5 things you’re thankful for.

71. Try herbal remedies. Mother nature scores again! Next time you’re feeling stressed try sipping on some chamomile tea, full of anti-anxiety components, or drip some lavender oil on your pillow at night to help relax you for a peaceful night’s sleep.

72. Don’t procrastinate. We’ve all been there…one minute you’re studying, the next minute you’re checking out the photos of your friends’ mutual friends’ friend on facebook (wow, that even sounds as stressful as it is), but all procrastination does is put things off and stops you achieving your goals which only generates more stress!

73. Lower your standards. Setting ridiculously high standards for yourself generates anxiety by putting pressure on you to perform and it can make you particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of emotional stress. Nobody’s perfect so try loving and accepting yourself as the great individual you are.

74. Get a hobby. Pursuing a new hobby is a fun way to break away from life’s demands, as well as allowing you to build your self-esteem and express yourself, which all contribute to the reduction of stress. Why not give writing poetry a go or try out an online yoga class…do whatever interests YOU!

75. Watch the sunrise (or set). Okay, so perhaps getting up at the crack of dawn to watch a sunrise is a little bit ambitious, but watching a sunset on a clear evening is both breathtaking and incredibly relaxing. So let go of your worries and let yourself get immersed in the colors. It’s true that the best things in life are free.

76. Ask for help. Everyone needs a helping hand sometimes. Trying to cope with everything on your own just exacerbates stress. Whether you open up to a trusted friend, family member or us here at Ditch the Label, a problem shared is a problem halved!

77. Eat stress free. Incorporate stress-busting foods into your diet like avocados, oily fish, whole wheat varieties and oatmeal. Please Sir, can I have some more?

78. Enjoy simplicity. Used to living life in the fast lane? Rushing around is not only stressful, we forget about the simple things that bring us happiness too so learn to stop and notice life’s little pleasures like laughing with your friends or enjoying the feeling of sun on your skin when you go out for your daily exercise. Mindfulness can significantly reduce anxiety so relax and enjoy the moment!

79. Strike a (yoga) pose. There’s loads of yoga poses you can try at home that can help reduce anxiety. Have a go at the child’s pose by sitting on your knees and bending forwards so that your face is resting on the floor, keeping your arms by your sides. This comforting pose, helps us turn inside for a while and slow down our racing minds.

80. Stop judging. With so many things to worry about, don’t let worrying about what other people do with their time be one of them. Sitting around criticising others isn’t gonna make anyone happy. Try supporting them instead. If you often find yourself judging others it’s likely that you’ve been giving yourself a hard time too so ditch the criticism and you’ll not only feel better about yourself but you’ll have a lot more time to relax too!

81. Nurture yourself through words. Read whatever inspires you; poems, positive affirmations and empowering quotes….let the words ground you, calm your mind and regenerate you.

82. Avoid Caffeine. That comforting cup of coffee may not be so kind to your nerves. Whilst giving you a temporary boost, caffeine injects adrenaline into your system and increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A cup of coffee can brew trouble for anxiety sufferers so try an equally heart-warming decaf alternative instead.

83. Learn to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn. Bullying yourself, mulling over petty grievances and begrudging others is only gonna hurt you so start forgiving yourself and other people and you’ll find there’s a lot less to stress about!

84. Say no sometimes. Being a ‘yes’ person isn’t easy. People pleaser’s listen up!…saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean you’re selfish or rude. Practicing saying ‘no’ will help simplify your life and give you the valuable time you need to relax with yourself.

85. Get some sun. Vitamin D (which our bodies absorb through exposure to the sun) can play an important role in your mental health but at the moment many of us are lacking in it. Keep calm and soak up all the sun you can when you have to go out and if you’re running low, top up with vitamin D rich foods like oily fish and eggs.

86. Listen to calming music. Oh, the power of music! Research suggests that chilled out tunes slow down our pulses, lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones. So plug in and relax or if no one’s listening sing/shout along to release even more tension!

87. Stand tall. Did you know good posture can actually make you feel more in control and less anxious? Power poses of confidence can actually decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so stand proud and your mood will follow. And if your posture is suffering from working at your dining room table, take regular breaks and stretch it out.

88. Drink more water. Even slight dehydration can lower our moods and it can increase levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Dehydration can also cause your body to stop functioning properly which can result in anxiety too…so get sipping!

89. Do a puzzle. Feeling all keyed up? Try and crack a sudoku, a crossword or piece together a puzzle to unwind and get your mind into a state of relaxation.

90. Take your brain on holiday. As much as we’d all love to be sunbathing in the Caribbean right now, most of us are constrained to mind wandering instead. But daydreaming can help you solve stressful problems, relax you and inspire creativity. So get lost in your thoughts and see where your mind takes you!

91. Spend less. Advertisers capitalise on the notion that buyers ruthlessly spend in response to stress and low self-esteem. Remember that having lots of things just adds to stress and won’t solve negative feelings so next time you’re about to part with your cash take a step back and ask “why do I want this?” and “do I really need this?”

92. Do your nails. There are loads of tips online for giving yourself the ultimate DIY mani and pedi. Spend some time looking after number one, feel relaxed and maybe get creative with nail art too!

93. D.I.Y. Remember that set of shelves you bought that would look so awesome in your room? Or the string of lights you always intended to drape across your headboard? Now is the time to rip open those boxes and get them up! Every achievement makes us feel so much better.  

94. Change it up. If you have the option, try moving your furniture around. It feels completely refreshing and makes us see the space in a completely new way. 

95. Listen to an audiobook. Being read a story is ridiculously relaxing and a comforting way to wind down before bed. It’s much less effort than reading and there’s a huge choice of podcasts online so do check those out.

96. Make your room your safe haven. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary for peaceful relaxation so make it that way! Get some candles, declutter your space and why not make a personalised noticeboard of quotes that inspire you, pictures, photographs…

97. Get shredding. Remember that draw full of old bank statements and the bag full of receipts? Yeah, we’re pretty sure you don’t still need those paper phone bills from 2013…

98. Make a list. If you are one of those people (guilty as charged) who likes to make a list and then cross it all off with a flourish then go for it! Maybe even list all the things you’ll want or need to do once lockdown is over. 

99. Make over. Finally use all of those foot masks and hair treatments that you HAD to have but are now falling out of your bathroom cupboard every time you open it. Treat yo’self!   

You made it to the end, kudos!

Remember, you may be in a particularly stressful period at the moment and feel overwhelmed but remember it will pass. It’s likely that any negative feelings you’re experiencing are to do with your body responding naturally to stress. So stay calm, and relieve your stress using these tips. 

But, if those feelings become overwhelming and make you feel out of control, do speak to your GP, a trusted adult or talk to Ditch the Label.

There’s great support available for you and remember that nobody deserves to suffer in silence.

people standing in front of sunset, silhouette

Do you find it hard to make friends? Maybe you just moved to a new place and haven’t met anyone yet. Maybe you have friends, but want to make some new ones or the ones you do have are kind of crap?

Meeting new people is difficult at the best of times but that pressure doubles when you throw social awkwardness, anxiety or introverted-ness into the mix. Here are some practical tips to get you started:

Sports

It’s certainly not for everyone, but believe it or not, you actually don’t need to be sporty to enjoy sport… who knew?!? Team sports are great for building up solid relationships. You may not realise it straight away but teamwork is a great way to make friends.

Joining a social sports team is a way to get chatting with people because you already have a subject to talk about. Social sport usually means that there isn’t really a competitive element. Instead, people get together to play a sport for fitness or to socialise.

Dogs

Dogs are great friend makers and what’s more, dog owners really like to talk about their dogs. If you already have a dog, you’re halfway there already. If you don’t have a dog, then borrow your friend or neighbour’s dog.

Most people like to talk about dogs and they’re also really good for awkward people because playing with a dog gives you something to focus on when you’re talking to someone for the first time. What’s more, you’ll be making human friends AND dog friends, and who doesn’t want that?!

Get a Part-Time job

This one might not work for everyone but if you’ve just moved to a new town or the people at school or college aren’t really your crowd, get a part-time job. Somewhere like a cafe, a cinema, leisure centre or shop is a good place to start. Chances are, there will be other people a similar age who work there too. Even if the job itself is a bit rubbish, its a really good way to get talking to people. Then, when it feels right, try suggesting a work outing to your co-workers sometime.

Volunteering

Another good way to meet people is through volunteering.  If you have some spare time on your hands, volunteering is a really great way to fill it. You get to feel good about helping; it’s good for your CV; it’s even better for making friends and you’ll probably get a t-shirt – the benefits really are endless…

Learn an Instrument

You don’t even have to get good to start playing with other people. In fact, playing with others is the best way to get to grips with learning an instrument. Just teach yourself the basics using YouTube tutorials and fake it until’ you make it. Then, when you’re ready, start a band and hey presto – bandmates. (Plus, being able to play an instrument instantly increases your cool-factor – you can thank us later 😉).

The trick is to be confident in yourself. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. Just make yourself approachable, don’t be afraid to make the first move and always be open-minded.

Good luck, you got this!

Got any tips to add? Head over to the community where people could really benefit from your help, and you never know – you might discover something for yourself too!