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How What You're Wearing Can Affect Your Anxiety

You may take a lot of time with your appearance, hardly think about it, or passively let others tell you what you should wear instead. Depending on why you do these things, you may be dressing for stress. This article will show you how to avoid these appearance-related anxiety pitfalls, and dress for success.

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Are You Dressed for Stress?

Is anxiety caused by your outfit? Of course not. Take my anxiety test to learn more about your anxiety. But even though people should have freedom to dress how they want, the truth is that those that purposefully dress down often lose confidence in themselves. That loss of confidence affects your anxiety levels.

With that in mind, what you wear (and why you wear it) can have a big impact on the amount of anxiety you have to deal with in your life. Because of the power of first impressions, as well as how quickly visual information is processed, the way you present yourself to the world via your appearance will affect your relationships with others as well as how you view with yourself. The following are some of the reasons and ways that anxiety can be affected by your clothing.

Being Dressed By Others

Some people find themselves inabusiverelationships with people who wish to control them via their physical appearance: it may be a new friend, a significant other, or even a parent. Warning signs to watch for and how these people (and clothing choices) can affect you are outlined below.

Controlling friends -- People may enter your life who feel entitled to control you. If you find that a friend is constantly criticizing what you wear, or demanding that you look a certain way regardless of your preferences (rather than offering sensitive feedback when you ask for it, or respectfully explaining what about how you dress is bothering them and why), you know that they are a person to avoid because they will only cause you stress by making you act in ways that are untrue to yourself and destroying your self esteem for their own benefit.

Controlling S.O. -- A significant other who criticizes the way you dress or constantly demands that you dress up for them, or dress down for others, is worth even less of your time. If you find yourself dressing to suit another person's idea of who you are or need to be in order to earn love or affection from them, you are being forced to dress for stress and should (with support from friends, family and/or a counselor's support, with a court order if need be) remove that person from your life as soon as possible. The more you give in to their demands (or allow yourself to be coerced and/or traumatized by them), the more prone you will be to controlling relationships further down the road and panic attacks due to post-traumatic stress.

Controlling parent -- Parents may wish to control their children's lives past the age when such control is appropriate due to overprotectiveness, or simply due to unhappiness in their own lives. This may lead to hypercritical analysis of clothing choices or even attempts to dress you as they see fit, which can be socially mortifying and reduce your sense of control over you own life, leading to high stress, low self esteem, and even depression.

All of these could have contributed to your own anxiety, or make you anxious about the idea of what you wear.

I Don't Care Couture

Dressing thoughtlessly because you don't feel motivated to make an effort with your appearance, or because it causes you too much stress to decide what to wear, can lead to stressful relations with others. Friends may avoid you, coworkers or strangers may talk about you behind your back, and you may even be fired from your job. These can lead to feelings of rejection and paranoia, which can easily build into anxiety and panic.

It's important to realize that there are those that "don't care what other people think" and "want to dress however they want." There's nothing necessarily wrong with that. But what you need to realize is that you DO care what other people think, simply by the fact that you're purposefully not dressing the way they want. That's caring. That means that you're choosing outfits based on making sure that they are not what other people think is "cool," and you're going to think about that every time you go out.

Dressing Up Low Self Esteem

If you are someone with low self esteem, you may feel the need to dress a certain way to compensate for the ways in which you imagine that you don't measure up to others: this may mean you dress to fit in with a certain crowd even though you don't feel like one of them, dress to call attention to yourself because you don't feel like people would ever pay attention to you otherwise, or obsessively follow trends in order to impress people with your new or trendy clothing choices rather than with your thoughts or personality. These ways of dressing can lead to shallow connections with others based on superficial and perhaps dishonest statements that your clothes have made about you, which can keep you from forming strong emotional connections or confidence in your sense of self, resulting in loneliness and stress.

Dressing Uncomfortably

It's true that some outfits that make you look nice are uncomfortable. But that perfect pair of 3-inch heels, too-small pair of jeans or old belt that doesn't really fit anymore may be contributing to your anxiety. Looking fashionable or dressing for convenience at the expense of your physical comfort is to be avoided. After all, it's hard to look great when your feet are screaming or your internal organs can't digest your food properly, and ultimately it's pretty inconvenient. Dressing in spite of your body only leads to a negative self image and the idea that you are always fighting against yourself to look good, which can be very stressful.

If you are making any of these choices when dressing yourself, as necessary as it may seem to you due to external pressure, the media or your own beliefs about what looks good, you are setting yourself up for an increase in anxiety in your life. Read on to discover how you can change your style in empowering ways.

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How to Dress For Success

If you are reading this article, you may have noticed that some people seem to dress effortlessly and always look happy, healthy and confident. You may also have wondered how they manage to pull it off, and assumed that they (unlike you) have tons of money, a personal shopper and a life coach. Fortunately, the secrets to their success are things that anyone can do, including you.

Most likely, those people are following one, several, or all of the tips below.

  • *Dress For You and No-One Else - *The unfortunate truth is that you should consider what looks good and what doesn't, because you want to be confident in your outfit. But that confidence should be based on what makes you confident in front of others. This doesn't mean you shouldn't be considerate when you dress yourself (by, say, wearing pink to a funeral or house slippers to a job interview), but you should be consciously dressing to reflect the best of who you are (rather than letting others decide for you how you appear to the world). This will help you feel good about your own ability to make choices and assert yourself, keeping you from doubts about who you really are or whether people really know you.
  • *Think About What You Wear - *What you wearrequires some planning. Putting together outfits in advance can help you avoid stress caused by having to decide at the last minute, and looking through magazines or on the internet can help give you an idea of what kinds of clothes you would feel good about wearing. Feeling put together and professional can give you a big boost of confidence and self-assurance that you maybe wouldn't expect, as well as making it more likely for people to give you compliments and treat you respectfully.
  • *Show Off Your Positive Qualities - *Don't hide behindwho you think people want you to be, or who you think you have to be to be happy. If you dress in ways that reflect who you truly are, and don't obsess over whether you don't look good enough, people will actually be impressed by and drawn to your self-confidence and maybe even be inspired by you. Being an inspiration to others rather than feeling you like rely on others for your personality will be a great relief and help you to realize that you are free to make your own choices without fear.
  • *Don't Hurt Yourself - *Avoidclothes that pinch, pull, chafe, or otherwise hurt your body. If you're worried about looking good, you should worry first about feeling good: when you figure out how to do that, you will look your best and have nothing to worry about. In addition, limiting the physical stress that your body has to endure will help you to have the energy and strength to deal with emotional stress when it comes your way and allow you to feel stable and in control. If you are forced to dress uncomfortably no matter how you dress due to physical or health problems that make you uncomfortable, you should engage in physical therapy and exercise regularly (or find a personal trainer) to help you overcome those difficulties and dress in a way that makes you happy.

Looking amazing doesn't have to make you unhappy, uncomfortable and stressed out, and if you are all those things then the chances that you look amazing are slim to none. Get a reality check and review your fashion choices to make the changes that will lead to a new, healthier you.

Anxiety isn't caused by the clothes you wear, but they play a role. You still need to make sure that you're reducing your anxiety as well. Once you do, you'll be more confident in whatever you wear.

I've helped thousands of those suffering with anxiety and dressing like it learn to stop their anxiety symptoms using my free 7 minute anxiety test. This test is a great way to make sure that you are able to free yourself of your anxiety.

Start the test here.

Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.

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