Why appearance is important for people with anxiety

At least, it is for me. I definitely don’t speak for everyone. We are not all the same.

But here’s the thing: it’s not actually about how I look. Yes, I like to look nice and I care about that. I have never shown up to work – of any kind, even breaking down a theatre set back in my summer camp days – not put together. I’m not saying that I wear full makeup all the time, even hanging out at home on the weekend; I don’t have time for that and it’s bad for my skin. And if you do that and it makes you feel good, go you. I like the creativeness of thinking about how to put my clothes together for new outfits, and I like a good matte lipstick (I never wear them except for special occasions but that hasn’t stopped me from buying like 7 tubes of Colourpop’s Ultra Matte Liquid Lipstick).

It’s about the routine of getting ready. On mornings when I’m anxious or – god forbid – panicking, the routine is soothing. It gives me a focus. It give me purpose and takes just enough of my concentration to help me avoid feeding the anxious thoughts, but not so much that I can’t count my breaths. There have been many mornings where I’ve woken up thinking I can’t do this, and by the time I swipe on my mascara (my last step), the anxiety has lessened enough that I know I can get through the day or, best case, I’m totally fine. It also helps me at night: having a bedtime routine has been proven to help your brain start to relax and prepare for sleep, improve your quality of sleep, and it’s a wonderful way to bookend the day. It’s predictable, and as those of us with anxiety know, predictability and routine are key.

It also helps me remember that taking care of myself is important and that I don’t have to feel bad about taking that time for myself or splurging on a high-end moisturizer. I’ve spent A LOT of time researching and trying out skincare products. And haircare products. And finding the best version of the basics I wear day in, day out: best underwear, bra, socks, tights, the jeans I’ll probably be buried in because they’re perfect, etc, etc. If you added up all of the time and money I’ve spent on all of the things, it would probably be a shocking amount. But it’s totally worth it. It’s worth it to know that the waistband of the tights I wear under my jeans in the winter won’t cut into my stomach after I eat a big lunch. It’s worth it to know which facial products make me break out and which don’t, and which ones are all hype. It’s worth it to have a uniform of sorts: I know I’ll feel comfortable, I know what stores to buy from and how much it will cost me, and I know I’ll feel like myself no matter what combination of things I put on. I don’t have to worry about these things anymore; I can just buy what I know works and that’s that. Plus, apparently I’m good at picking the correct skincare products because when some of my students found out I was 31, one of them said “Miss, did you find the fountain of youth or something? I thought you were like 22!”.

For me, all of this is a way to manage anxiety through avoiding decision fatigue. I make so many(SO MANY) decisions every day: yes, you can go to the bathroom; no, I don’t think this policy is a good idea; this is how I’m going to teach this particular skill and the precise language I will use to articulate it. I honestly can’t be bothered with trying to figure out what to wear each morning, let alone dealing with something unexpected like a new product that doesn’t do what I wanted or a breakout. That kind of thing has the potential to ruin your whole day. This isn’t to say I don’t try new products – hello Sephora! – but I never do it during my morning or evening routine.

Below I’m going to break down each of my routines, morning and night, along with the products I like in case you’re into that. What’s most important, though, is to remember that it’s about the process. It’s about the steps. Feel free to copy my routine, add or subtract steps, or change them around. That part doesn’t matter(well, it does when you’re talking about skincare). It’s about the fact that it exists.



  1. Stumble out of bed and pretend that I’m awake enough to do anything.
  2. Brush teeth.
  3. Put in contacts.
  4. Cleanse face with Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water.
  5. Moisturize with Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel.
  6. Apply sunscreen. I like Clarins because it’s super light, doesn’t show under makeup, doesn’t wash you out, and is super strong. It IS pricey, but one bottle lasts forever. You can also get a tinted version, but that only has two shades.
  7. Get dressed.
  8. Makeup! Some standbys: Almay Smart Shade Foundation, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, and Maybelline Full ‘N’ Soft Mascara.
  9. Do hair. Some great products: Living Proof’s Style Extender, Consort Hairspray, and Living Proof’s Dry Shampoo.
  10. Set kettle to boil, prep French Press for coffee, and make lunch while waiting.
  11. Make coffee.
  12. Pack up.
  13. Put on 7,000 layers because this winter is ridiculous and go to work.



  1. Brush teeth and put in retainer (I did not spend all of that money on Invisalign for nothing).
  2. Take out contacts.
  3. Remove makeup with Micellar Water.
  4. Cleanse with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.
  5. Tone with Clinique Acne Solutions Clarifying lotion.
  6. Apply Neutrogena Retinol treatment (helps prevent sun damage and wrinkles).
  7. Moisturize with Clinique Dramatically Different Moistuirizing Gel (I use the Cream in winter).
  8. Apply Burt’s Bees lip balm.
  9. Fill out Thrive Journal entry for the day. (I’ll be doing a post on Thrive Journals soon because I love them and they’re amazing.)
  10. Take fish oil pills – the Omega-3 is good for your skin.
  11. Look at my phone a little.
  12. Read.
  13. Lights out and sleep!

** I do wear pajamas, but usually I’ve been wearing them for a while by that point because home is where no pants are.

2 thoughts on “Why appearance is important for people with anxiety

  1. Hi. I saw you mention Thrive Journals. I’d never heard of them so I took a look. Very interesting. Will look more closely. But the mention of journals got me back to my own journaling. It’s been really helpful for me in dealing with my own anxiety/depression patterns. Helping me return to the actual, the real, the now. Thx!


    • They were a Kickstarter last year, so they’re pretty new. I love mine, though. I’ve found that one of the most important things in terms of anxiety management, for me anyway, is practicing gratitude and keeping track of my sleep and exercise. So glad that journaling has been working for you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s