Anyone who thinks being a teen is all just fun and games and laughter, is too old to remember what it is really like. OK, there are fun times, but also heartbreak, heartache, exam stress and relationship problems. Not to speak of parents driving you crazy.
In between all of this, it's very difficult to remain focused and to make the right decisions. So what are the bad habits that people often pick up in their teens, and which cause so much problems later on?
Unhealthy relationship patterns. Do you get involved in relationships that are not good for you? With people who abuse you, who make you feel inadequate and bad about yourself and who may even beat you? If this is true for you, maybe it's time to see a counsellor and get help with not getting involved in such unhealthy relationships. If your friends are all telling you your relationship is not healthy, maybe it's time to listen. Get out of this cycle now while you still can.
Smoking. Much has been written about how bad smoking is for you. In fact, so much, that most people don't even take note any more. Point is, nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on earth, and kicking the smoking habit ten years down the line is extremely difficult. You only have to watch the agonies people go through, to know that this is not an exaggeration. So don't even start. And no, it's not cool. What could be cool about smelly breath and stinking hair?
Drugs. Few teens will reach the end of their schooling without at some stage, on the street or at a party, being offered drugs of some description. Chances are high many will try it. And everyone will think they are in control of it. So why are the rehabs bursting out of their seams? Why do so many youngsters end up dead? For your own sake and for the sake of friends and family who love you, it is simply better to not go down that road. Period.
Junk food. The odd hamburger and chips will not change you into the Michelin man. But eating too much junk food can become a problem if it's eaten daily. Fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of water and decent home-cooked food are all essential to your health. It's worth making an effort. How difficult can it be to buy a bag of apples and have a fruit juice instead of fizzy drinks?
Feeling sorry for yourself. We all feel sorry for ourselves every now and then. That is just life. But taking on the 'poor me' attitude to life is not only unattractive, but is also demotivating. It takes away your own power over your life and changes you into a hapless victim of life. Take charge of your own life, assume responsibility and grow up. You cannot always expect other people to do things for you that you should be doing for yourself. A wise person once said, "We see the world not as it is, but as we are."
Not doing regular exercise. Everyone has a slouch on the couch every now and then. Or even daily. But do make sure that you get regular exercise. It doesn't have to be marathon training or high impact aerobics. A regular and brisk daily walk would probably do the trick. You need exercise to stay healthy. And when you are studying or working, you will most probably not get lots of exercise, as most of this happens behind a desk.
Irregular sleeping. Your body needs sleep – on average between seven and eight hours of it per day. Everyone has the odd late night – all parties do not end at midnight, but it is important to establish a regular sleeping pattern early on in your life. It is also never a good idea to study through the night before an exam. A tired brain does not remember well.
Drinking too much. Many people drink too much when they become independent and move away from home. Alcohol has almost become part of youth culture. But do take care. Nasty habits can form during this time, which can impact heavily on your life later on. Never drink and drive, and do sit up and take note when you start getting hangovers regularly or even black out during a drinking session. In fact, alarm bells should be ringing.
Watching too much TV. TV is entertaining and great for a bit of escapism on a night when you are at a loose end. Never forget, though, that real life should always take precedence over TV – never put off social engagements, because you want to watch TV. TV (except for the news and actuality programmes) is essentially secondhand – it's about other people's experiences, not about yours. Get out there and have your own, unless a programme really is your favourite. And no, you can't have 29 of those.
Not taking trouble over friendships. Lovers come and go, but good friendships are for life. And they're worth taking trouble over. Pick up the phone, ask people out, be there when they need you, send an e-mail. Your number of friends, in the long run, reflects the amount of effort you put into friendships.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)