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How not to sweat your next test
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teststress1.gifTest stress can turn you into a mess and make your grade less, instead of doing your best, and...ah, forget it. We're out of rhymes!

But seriously, this seems like a big issue for students of all ages. How many times have you been disappointed by how you performed on a test, and felt sure that it wasn't because you didn't know the material but were instead so nervous or freaked out by the test itself? You're not alone, but there are lots of strategies to tackle this. Check out our section on Test Stress and see what other IML'ers have written about the subject on our Test Stress You Said It page.

We recently read about a new study from the University of Chicago that asked students who were anxious about a test to spend 10 minutes beforehand writing about their feelings. What happened? Those students improved their scores by a whole grade (for instance, going from a B minus to a B plus). What these researchers were trying to prove is that worrying uses up a lot of the brain's "working", or short-term, memory, so that memory can't do its job of recalling all the stuff that person studied to prep for the test.

Maybe the process of writing about test stress gets those thoughts out on paper so they're not swirling around in your head, taking up space. Or maybe it's just a relief to acknowledge that you're nervous, face the worst case scenario, and move on. Whatever. We're just big fans of the power of journaling to help with all sorts of feelings!

The next time you're really amped up about an exam, see if you can take a few minutes that morning or right before class -- in the hallway, the library, even in the bathroom if you have to -- to let that test stress out of your brain and onto the page.



 
Advice on Valentine's Day
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Today, we're wondering: Does anyone ever actually have a good time on Valentine's Day? Maybe if you're in the lucky 1% of people who are happily, securely going out with someone, we can see you enjoying the holiday. But if you're going out with someone and things are a little weird, if you just broke up with someone, if you're not going out with anyone, if you have a crush who doesn't know you exist, if you have a crush who knows you exist but isn't sure how he/she feels about you, if you don't have a crush at all, or if you're a human being with any one of a hundred other situations that we haven't mentioned...Valentine's Day can be, well, not so much fun.

The whole thing is just a lot of pressure and a big marketing ploy to sell cards, candy, and red teddy bears, right?

heart.jpgOkay, we're not really that cynical. Valentine's Day doesn't have to be so all-or-nothing. It's one of those things that really is whatever you make of it, and a "valentine" can be so much more than an object of romance. Do you have parents, siblings, friends, or relatives who help you feel the love in your life? And how about being a valentine to yourself? Can you celebrate the things about you that you're proud of, happy with, and maybe even love? Think about how to make the holiday your own.

Once you've done that, hopefully you won't stress over dances and other V-Day events planned at school or in your community. But if you're still stressing, here are some ideas:

  • Go with friends. Even if you have a crush and are tempted to try and go with him or her, take that angst out of the equation. You'll probably have more fun with your buds anyway, and who knows...maybe something natural will happen with that crush once you're there.

  • Have fun with the outfit. Dress in whatever makes you feel good (and comfortable), rather than what you think will impress someone else. You and your friends might come up with some kind of "theme" and coordinate. If you want to make your outfit special but can't afford a whole new getup, buy (or borrow) one cool accessory like earrings or a belt.

  • Dance. That may seem like a big "duh," but sometimes it seems like that's the only thing people aren't doing at these things. Here's an opportunity to just let loose and move. Make a pact with at least one friend that you'll be the first people on the dance floor, and see how quickly others join in. Or make it your mission to get a teacher or other adult chaperone to boogie down. Try to think positively and not so much about what people might think of you; chances are, they're jealous that you're having such a good time.

  • If you can't bring yourself to dance, then do some People Watching. Not so much to gather gossip, but rather, just to learn about behavior. Pretend for a minute that you're an alien scientist come to Earth to study the strange social habits of young humans. Try it; it's pretty fun! 
Share your own advice on our How To Have Fun At A Dance You Said It page, and don't forget to send an IML Valentine E-Card to someone special!


New Schools Can Rule
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If you've been feeling stressed/depressed/excited/nervous about the start of school, we feel your pain. This is definitely a time when everyone's on a roller coaster of emotions. All you can really do is ride it out (and not scream too much). 

Thumbnail image for highschool1.gif
If you're starting a new school, that roller coaster probably has some extra loops and dips. Remember that you're not on it alone, and others have gone before you. We've gathered together our best advice and tips in one place to help things go a little more smoothly:


Advice from the Mentors and experts on all sorts of new-school drama, from lockers to uniforms to getting organized.

A principal's Top Four helpful hints for surviving the leap to middle school.

Tips on dealing with older students at your new school.

And of course, you can read about other IML'ers' experiences on the "Going To A New School" You Said It page.

We'll send you off with our list of the Top Five Reasons Why Going To A New School Can Be Pretty Awesome:

5) You know that teacher you never quite got along with? Not there. You won't see him in the halls. You won't have to pass her classroom. Phew.

4) Most people weren't around for that horrifyingly embarrassing thing that happened last year. And if they were, they won't remember for much longer, because pretty soon somebody else will do something even more embarrassing, and you will quietly thank them for it.

3) There will be at least one thing that's much better than your old school. Maybe it'll be a bigger or better-located locker. Or a great new teacher. Or no more uniforms. Or a club or team you can't wait to join. Keep a lookout for that thing. Even when it seems like everything else kinda stinks, you'll find it. 

2) The new cafeteria's "Mystery Meat" will taste different than your old cafeteria's "Mystery Meat." 

And 1) Three words: Fresh. Crush. Material. (Yeah!)

Good luck to all of you!




Celeb Scoop: Big Time Rush and Victoria Justice go "back-to-school"
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Even if you're not a student anymore, the end of August will always be "back-to-school" time -- just ask any grown-up or, in our case, a few Nickelodeon stars!

fashionshow.JPGLast year, IML was invited to attend a cool Back-To-School fashion show and concert at Macy's Herald Square in New York City. The event was hosted by "Victorious" star Victoria Justice and featured performances by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Josh Golden, teen pop artist Charice, and...oh...these four guys who call themselves "Big Time Rush." It was a fun way for all the kids, tweens, and teens there to really celebrate going back to school and how exciting it can be, instead of just feeling bummed out about it.

We also got the chance to talk to Victoria and the BTR boys -- James, Carlos, Kendall, and Logan -- about their own memories of going back to school. Check out our short video interviews:





Back to school -- bring it on!



Get A Grip, Get Organized!
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messycloset.jpgWe love this time of year because it forces us to make some changes. For instance, our horribly messy IML bookcase. Gotta get it cleaned up so we can actually find the books we want to review for our blog! We'll get so much more work done that way. You may already be feeling like this about your locker, your backpack, your desk, and other areas where you keep important things. But life moves pretty fast, and sometimes it's hard to know how to set things up in a system that fits your needs and style.

We asked mom, blogger, and organizing expert Colleen Padilla for some tips for stowing stuff in your backpack, calendar, locker, desk at home, and closet. Here's her great advice, which will hopefully help you get this school year off to a great start!

Your Backpack
1. Compartments, compartments, compartments.
Go for a backpack with more than one compartment so you can easily have a general area for books, binders, and folders along with another area to easily put in tasks that must be completed. This way, when you come home, you'll know that compartment contains that evening's "To Do's." Homework assignments, permission forms that need to be signed, etc. Once the tasks are completed, you can return everything to this compartment so it's easy to find the next day when it's time to turn it in.
 
2. Create the best Folder or Binder system that works for you
    •    Do you want to organize 2 large binders by Morning Classes and Afternoon Classes?
    •    Or would it be easier for you to create individual binders for each subject area with accompanying folders specific to each class?
 
Your Calendar/Planner
Lists lists lists. I'm a fan of the To Do List. Write it down. Even if you think you will certainly remember it. That saying your grandma told you about, "A short pencil is better than a long memory," couldn't be more true. You can never write too many things down when it comes to helping you remember what to do. Especially if you're hoping to rely on a nosy parent who likes to peek at your assignment book to remind you about potential due dates!
What to look for in an Assignment Book?  Buy a specific planning calendar that allows a page per day to write all your daily To Do details, but also gives you a monthly and weekly view so you can plot out and visualize what you schedule looks like long term too.
 
Your Locker
Clean it out once a week. You won't regret it. Don't let stuff pile up in there like old sweaty gym socks. Not only will your locker stink if you don't clean it out, but you'll be far more likely to be unable to find that important homework assignment someday when it randomly falls out of your backpack into a pile of scary clothes or old leftover lunches. 

Your Desk at Home
Create an inbox system to organize those important assignments, study guides, and more. Find out what works for you -- do you want bins for each subject or would you prefer to organize according to what must be completed on a regular basis throughout the school semester, such as General Homework, Test Review material, Creative Writing Assignments, Daily Math Homework?
 
But the most important thing about the desk is having a set work area that is for you to use regularly and at the same time each day. Make it a daily routine to sit down at your desk at the same time every evening or late afternoon after school. Whether it is for 30 minutes when you have hardly any homework, or for 4 hours on those tough days when you have more homework than you want to think about. This will force you to keep a routine to sit down daily in a quite place and get mentally organized. It will be far harder to forget to do your homework if you always sit down to do it in the same place every day!
 
Invest in a bulletin board too that you can place near your desk. They are great ways to organize and you can tack up important to do lists if you go for the Cork Board style board or if you go for a Dry Erase Style Board you can use that for your Weekly and Daily To Do's to keep your important assignments fresh on your mind while your in your bedroom so you don't forget priority tasks.

Your Closet
Bin it up! I'm a huge fan of the bin system for closets. Pretty up your closet with shoe organizers and baskets lined with funky bright materials where you can easily store your favorite work out clothes, jeans, and tee shirts that your wear weekly. You don't have to spend a fortune on a closet organizing system when you can stock up on affordable and fun baskets, bins, and storage containers at off-price stores like T.J .Maxx or Marshalls. I always find if I keep it looking pretty, I'm more apt to fold my clothes at the end of the day and hang things up. An organized closet and bedroom will help you stay organized and feel organized even when the rest of your mind is running in a million directions thinking about soccer practice, the latest gossip at the lunch table, worrying about a pop quiz in Spanish class and the math test your have tomorrow.



Back To School Shopping Tips
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shopping.jpgShopping for back-to-school clothes is just plain exciting, filled with fresh possibilities. A great new addition to your wardrobe can help change your habits, your outlook, and your self-confidence. Plus, it's just fun to shop!

It can also be wrapped up in a lot of doubt, too. Times are tight; is there room in your family's budget for that pair of killer new jeans that you don't really need? What if you buy stuff that ends up being out-of-style before Halloween? What if you fill your closet with clothing that's hot and trendy, but just isn't you?

IML asked fashion expert and mom Audrey McClelland of MomGenerations.com for some advice!

IML: What are the trends for pre-teen and teen clothing this fall?
 
Audrey: On young ladies we're seeing some updates on classic button-downs with plaids, patterns and feminine detailing. Jeggings (leggings made to look like denim) are extremely hot right now for young ladies!  What's great with jeggings is that they can be worn with longer tops, tunics and dresses. Other popular bottoms options are deconstructed denim, five pocket khaki and mini-skirts. Mixing patterns, colors and materials is also a fashionable statement. Teens can create their own looks and styles with this trend. Outerwear is a fun and easy way to create some unique looks for teens. Leather jackets or ones with a military influence are also very trendy.
 
On young men we're seeing a lot of dark denim with stitching detail. It definitely creates a more polished look. Layering is a very big trend this fall. Layer a graphic tee, button-down and military style vest and/or hoodie. Even layer a graphic tee over a thermal knit for unexpected look. Vintage plaids are also a strong trend that we're seeing.  Button-downs with western-style inspiration is being seen a lot. Young men should be looking to achieve some classic and modern looks.
 
IML: Are these inspired by anything? Why do you think they're happening right now? 
 
Audrey:
Fashion is in a really fun place right now. It's something that young ladies and men are really having a good time with. Trends are usually inspired by something. I feel there are 2 things bringing forth some trend-inspiration right now. First, trends are really being inspired by young Hollywood starlets. We see them on TV and in movies, in magazines and online. Young ladies and men want to wear what these young stars are wearing. Second, we're seeing a lot of trends geared for women and men in their 20's and 30's becoming adapted for younger people.
 
IML: A lot of tweens and teens are looking to create their own style. For instance, they don't want to conform to a trend, but they also don't want to look totally out of place. What's your advice for people like that? What are some tips for creating your personal look?
 
Audrey:
Style is all about feeling comfortable in what you have on. If you don't want to conform to certain trends and they want to create their own looks, I suggest:

1. Find some colors that you truly like on yourself. Infuse these colors into your wardrobe. Once you have a color you feel confident and fashionable in, you'll find it very easy to work with styles and trends that are "in" at the moment.

2. Accessorize!  I love accessories because of this very reason -- you can create your own personal look. For young ladies -- necklaces, scarves, bracelets, rings, hair accessories and hats. For young men -- hats, ties and scarves.
 
3. Layering is a great way to create your own look. Start with pieces that you love -- tanks and tees and then build on them. Do you like button-downs? Cardigans? Vests? Sweater wraps?  Add items that you feel comfortable in and feel good in.
 
4. Know what works for you. Styles and trends that are "in" don't work for everyone. It's so important for you to really know what works for your body. This can impact your personal style immensely because you're only wearing pieces that you know actually work for YOU.
 
IML: If you want to buy clothes that look current, but aren't necessarily part of a trend and will last a little longer fashion-wise, what should you be looking for?
 
Audrey: Oh, I love this question!
 
For young ladies:
1. Dark Denim
2. White Button-Down
3. Black Sweater Wrap or Cardigan
4. Hoodie (any color)
5. Accessory item -- scarf, statement necklace, etc.
 
For young men:
1. Denim
2. Graphic Tee
3. Hoodie
4. Athletic Wear
5. Polo Shirt
 
IML: Do you have any advice for back-to-school shopping on a budget?
 
Audrey: My advice would be to shop at off-price retailers like TJMaxx and Marshalls. Parents and tweens will be able to stretch their dollar further because the prices are so affordable. My advice once in the stores is to stock up on items that will last throughout the year -- denim, hoodies, sweaters and tees. These are clothing items that can be built on, which is very important when you're shopping on a budget.
 
IML: Many tweens write in to our site about purchases they end up regretting. How can young people avoid that trap?
 
Audrey: Tweens can avoid purchasing items they regret by truly knowing the answer to what they need, what they want and what they will wear. This is the 3 part question that isn't easy to always answer, but when you can answer it truthfully, you won't regret purchases. Trends are not created equal. What works for you, will not work for everyone. It's so important to be able to know that what's going into your closet are actually items you will be wearing -- with a smile!

IML: Thanks, Audrey! That's great advice!

Audrey:
You're welcome!



New Schools Can Rule
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To all of you who started school this week, we hope everything's going well! And if you start next week and fully plan on being stressed/depressed/excited/nervous over the weekend, we feel your pain. This is definitely a time when everyone's on a roller coaster of emotions. All you can really do is ride it out (and not scream too much). 

Thumbnail image for highschool1.gif
If you're starting a new school, that roller coaster probably has some extra loops and dips. Remember that you're not on it alone, and others have gone before you. We've gathered together our best advice and tips in one place to help things go a little more smoothly:


Advice from the Mentors and experts on all sorts of new-school drama, from lockers to uniforms to getting organized.

A principal's Top Four helpful hints for surviving the leap to middle school.

Tips on dealing with older students at your new school.

And of course, you can read about other IML'ers' experiences on the "Going To A New School" You Said It page.

We'll send you off with our list of the Top Five Reasons Why Going To A New School Can Be Pretty Awesome:

5) You know that teacher you never quite got along with? Not there. You won't see him in the halls. You won't have to pass her classroom. Phew.

4) Most people weren't around for that horrifyingly embarrassing thing that happened last year. And if they were, they won't remember for much longer, because pretty soon somebody else will do something even more embarrassing, and you will quietly thank them for it.

3) There will be at least one thing that's much better than your old school. Maybe it'll be a bigger or better-located locker. Or a great new teacher. Or no more uniforms. Or a club or team you can't wait to join. Keep a lookout for that thing. Even when it seems like everything else kinda stinks, you'll find it. 

2) The new cafeteria's "Mystery Meat" will taste different than your old cafeteria's "Mystery Meat." 

And 1) Three words: Fresh. Crush. Material. (Yeah!)

Good luck to all of you!