When You’re Anxious All Day, This Is What Really Happens To Your Body

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have been wired with a fight-or-flight response to danger. Though threats have become tamer over time, many of us still feel like we’re being chased by saber-toothed cats. Today, anxiety is commonly triggered by situations like giving presentations at work, offering ourselves up to be judged on social media, or talking to strangers. In other cases, it may not be caused by any single situation in particular. 

While many of us feel anxious from time to time, experiencing anxious thoughts and feelings on a recurring basis can indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders are “the most common mental illness” in the United States, affecting one in five adults, and “women are more than twice as likely as men” to experience one. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders can be caused or worsened by physical factors, including thyroid problems, medications, or substances like caffeine. Anxiety can also have long- or short-term physical effects ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions. Learning about these effects may seem anxiety-inducing, but you can use your awareness to make lifestyle changes that may help soothe your body and mind. Here’s what happens to your body when you’re anxious all day.

You may have difficulty concentrating if you're always anxious

When you’re anxious all day, it can be difficult to focus on anything other than your anxiety. “Difficulty concentrating is one of the most common diagnostic criteria across DSM-5 categories,” reads a 2017 article in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, “especially within the emotional (mood- and anxiety-related) disorders.” Because difficulty concentrating tends to be subjective and difficult to measure, not much is known about the extent of its relationship to anxiety. One possible explanation is that anxiety causes your body to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol (via Harvard Medical School), which can potentially make you feel jittery and on edge. The stress response requires a lot of physical energy and shifts the brain away from rational thinking and into survival mode, according to WellDoing.org.

Certain lifestyle changes can help boost concentration, and many of them overlap with suggested changes for anxiety management. Healthline recommends eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and lowering caffeine consumption. It could also help to engage in a stress-reducing activity such as journaling, meditating, or reading. (Here are some creative activities that could ease your anxiety.)

You might suffer from tension headaches and migraines

People with anxiety may be prone to tension headaches. The exact causes of tension headaches are unknown, but according to Healthline, common triggers include abnormal serotonin levels, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, and stress — all of which could be anxiety-related. Additionally, according to the American Migraine Association, nearly half of all migraine sufferers in the United States also suffer from anxiety. Medical research published in The Journal of Headache and Pain suggests that individuals who suffer from migraines are five times more likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t. So, if you have anxiety, you may be familiar with migraines, too. And vice versa.

To prevent potentially anxiety-induced headaches, Healthline suggests being aware of your triggers. Common migraine triggers include alcohol, caffeine, changes in hormone levels, lack of sleep, and general stress. You may also try to manage your anxiety directly in order to prevent headaches, such as by practicing yoga or meditation. Standard self-care measures, such as exercising daily and drinking plenty of water, can also be helpful in keeping both headaches and anxiety at bay.

Still, anxiety headaches cannot be prevented completely. When they do arise, you may consider treatment options like medication, therapy, or acupuncture. (Here are therapist-approved ways to cope with anxiety.)

Your breath may become short, shallow, or rapid

The relationship between anxiety and breathing can be a catch-22: Anxiety can cause breathing difficulties, and breathing difficulties can cause anxiety. According to Healthline, when the fight-or-flight response sets in with heightened anxiety, you may experience breathing-related symptoms, such as a “tightness” in the chest, shortness of breath (known as dyspnea), or rapid breathing as the body attempts to pump oxygen into your muscles to get you ready for the possibility of “flight,” or running away from what triggered the response.

Deep breathing exercises can help you manage anxiety and related breathing symptoms. Diaphragmatic breathing, for example, involves placing your hand on your stomach as you take deep breaths, paying attention to the stomach as it rises and falls with each breath. Surprisingly, exercises like running can also help when you feel anxious all day, as the body is already prepared for “flight.” Notably, breathing from the nose, in particular, can help you avoid hyperventilation.

If you're anxious every day, you may experience heart palpitations

Episodes of anxiety can trigger heart palpitations, which can make you feel like your heart is racing or fluttering. Stress hormones affect the parts of the brain that regulate the cardiovascular system, so when these hormones set in, cardiovascular functions, such as blood pressure and heart rate, respond accordingly. Healthline reports that palpitations can also be triggered by too much caffeine, which notably commonly triggers anxiety too.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, research suggests that individuals who have generalized anxiety disorder experience cardiac events, such as heart attacks, more frequently than those who do not. Research suggests individuals with anxiety issues may also be more prone to heart disease due to low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in foods such as seafood, nuts, and seeds. If you experience anxiety, you may quell cardiovascular symptoms in the short-term by cutting down on your morning cups of coffee and in the long-term by eating your omega-3s and avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol.

Your digestive system is thrown off balance by anxiety

Anxiety can feel like butterflies in your stomach — and there’s a scientific explanation as to why. Harvard Health Publishing deems it the “gut-brain connection,” which refers to the gut’s sensitivity to emotions, including anxiety. Your brain and intestines send signals back and forth, which means stomach trouble can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause stomach trouble. Symptoms may include stomach cramps, heartburn, loose stools, and nausea. The “gut-brain connection” can also cause or worsen chronic digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the gut is highly responsive to emotions due to its high volume of nerves and its connections to the brain. To manage both anxiety and digestive upset, you can opt for gut-healthy foods, including probiotics and certain fermented foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, and miso. You may also try avoiding foods that might throw your gut off balance, such as animal proteins and foods that are fried or highly processed, as noted by Medical News Today.

Your sex drive may take a nosedive when you're anxious all day

“All anxiety is a distraction that limits sexual success,” Laurel Steinberg, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist and Columbia University psychology professor, told Health. A bout of anxiety can kill the mood in the bedroom, and chronic anxiety disorders can put a long-term damper on your sex life and a strain on your relationship.

If you are having sex, but feeling anxious while doing so, your body’s stress response can make it almost impossible to relax into orgasm. Anxious feelings can also make it more nerve-wracking to be vocal about what you want or to feel confident in your body in front of your partner.

And then there’s the ultimate catch-22 of the sex-anxiety tug-of-war: As Healthline puts it, “What’s a bigger orgasm killer? Anxiety or anti-anxiety medication?” If you take anti-anxiety meds, you may experience a lower sex drive and find it difficult or even impossible to reach orgasm when you do have sex — the same sex-related symptoms that can accompany untreated anxiety. While there is no straightforward solution for navigating anxiety and sexual satisfaction, your mental health should remain paramount. “An ideal sex life, and relationship in general, is securing your happiness and then helping your partner to be happy — put your own oxygen mask on first,” says psychiatrist Laura F. Dabney, M.D. (via Healthline).

You may have trouble sleeping when you're always anxious

As with many physical symptoms of anxiety, sleep-related symptoms can create a vicious cycle. Ruminating on anxious thoughts can keep you up at night, and the sleep deprivation that results can worsen anxiety. According to Sleep Foundation, “serious sleep disturbances, including insomnia, have long been recognized as a common symptom of anxiety disorders.”

A key factor in insomnia is hyperarousal, which is when the body is in a heightened state of alertness due to stress, per a review in Nature and Science of Sleep. Individuals with anxiety disorders may also have higher sleep reactivity, “which means they are much more likely to have sleeping problems when facing stress” (via Sleep Foundation). Anxious rumination before bed can also disturb the deepest point in the sleep cycle, rapid-eye movement sleep, and even bring on nightmares. In turn, lack of sleep or even low-quality sleep can wreak havoc on individuals’ emotional and mental health.

Aside from medication and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, sleep hygiene practices can set the stage for a good night’s sleep. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests setting a consistent sleep schedule; avoiding stimulants and screens before bed; and keeping the temperature, noise, and light in your bedroom at comfortable levels.

If you're usually anxious, you may be more prone to aches and pains

Researchers studying the brain and the nervous system have discovered that physical pain shares certain biological connections with anxiety. As anxiety causes tension in the mind, it often prompts the muscles to tense up, which can cause everyday aches and pains. Harvard Health Publishing reported a link between psychiatric disorders and chronic pain syndromes, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and low back pain.

A combination of medication and psychotherapy has proven to be effective in chronic cases of both anxiety and pain. But according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, individuals who experience both anxiety and chronic pain may have a lower pain tolerance and be prone to the side effects of certain medications, which can complicate treatment.

Harvard Health Publishing cited a study that found that “hypnosis training reduced both gastrointestinal distress and levels of depression and anxiety” in 71 percent of individuals studied. Individuals may also lessen their anxiety and physical pain through relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and yoga, and by avoiding foods, such as gluten, dairy, nightshades, and alcohol.

Your risk of depression may increase when you're anxious

According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can be both a symptom and a cause of major clinical depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that “there is no evidence one disorder causes the other, but there is clear evidence that many people suffer from both disorders.”

Depression is more common among women than among men, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In women, depression “tends to manifest as sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.” Anxiety and depression share similar symptoms, including “nervousness, irritability, and problems sleeping and concentrating.” 

Though the two conditions vary, they require similar clinical treatments in the forms of psychotherapy and medication. Lifestyle factors, such as “improving sleep habits, increasing social support, using stress-reduction techniques, or getting regular exercise” can also help, per Mayo Clinic. Individuals who have anxiety, depression, or both are advised to avoid alcohol and non-prescription drugs.

You may feel irritable

Irritability is a common symptom of both anxiety and depression. According to Medical News Today, irritability can be inflamed by factors such as “life stress, a lack of sleep, low blood sugar levels, and hormonal changes.” Irritable feelings are sometimes accompanied by similar symptoms to anxiety, including “confusion or difficulty concentrating, excessive sweating, a rapid heartbeat, [and] fast or shallow breathing.” Your efforts to avoid anxiety-inducing situations may make you hypersensitive to even minor irritations, which can cause more extreme or long-term irritability.

Your irritable feelings do not mean you’re a disagreeable or grumpy person. An anxious, hyper-aroused state can make minor annoyances or inconveniences seem like colossal threats due to fight-or-flight instincts. If you’re feeling irritable, CalmClinic recommends communicating with the people around you about how you’re feeling and what you need, and apologizing if necessary. 

Anxiety, irritability, and mood swings are often caused or worsened by hormonal imbalances. The Women in Balance Institute suggests limiting processed foods, maximizing organic fruits and vegetables, and replacing coffee and soda with green tea and water.

When you're always anxious, you may experience panic attacks

Anxiety attacks and panic attacks are two different things, but they have similar emotional and physical symptoms. According to Healthline, unexpected panic attacks involve flurries of fear or feelings of impending doom that may come on for unknown reasons. Expected panic attacks often occur in response to specific fears or situations that the sufferer finds stressful. Panic attacks are often intense, while anxiety attacks may vary in severity, and panic attacks typically last no more than ten minutes, per WebMD. Multiple panic attacks may indicate a panic disorder.

Panic attacks can occur as a result of feelings of anxiety that have escalated to extreme levels. Common triggers for both anxiety and panic include driving, social and work situations, and chronic illness or pain, per Healthline. The distinction is that anxiety may come on more slowly than a panic attack would, and it is usually caused by the anticipation of stress or a particular threat. Still, both anxiety and panic can be accompanied by an intense physical response. WebMD warns that particularly intense symptoms — “such as chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, dizziness, fainting, and weakness” — should be assessed by a doctor.

You may lose your appetite

In anxious times, you may be too preoccupied by the things that are causing your anxiety to fulfill your own basic needs, like sleeping and even eating. Some people may neglect their need to eat completely. According to the 2015 Stress in America survey by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of respondents reported that they had “skipped a meal in the last month because of stress” (via Healthline).

Losing your appetite due to anxiety is related to the primal fight-or-flight response, per Healthline. It can also be the result of the body’s excess production of the cortisol stress hormone. “In the acute or immediate setting, stress causes increased levels of cortisol, which in turn increases acid production in the stomach,” said Raul Perez-Vazquez, MD, according to Healthline. “This process is meant to help the body quickly digest food in preparation for ‘fight-or-flight,’ which is mediated by adrenaline. This process also, for the same reasons, decreases appetite.”

It may be helpful to intentionally schedule times for meals and snacks, and to reach for nutritious, easy-to-eat foods.

You may feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseous when you're always anxious

According to research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research in 2008, “about 28 percent of people with dizziness also have symptoms of at least one anxiety disorder” (via Medical News Today). Anxiety can cause dizziness in a few different ways.

Vasovagal syncope, or a sudden drop in blood pressure, is commonly linked to medical-related phobias and can cause fainting. In other cases, the “subjective feeling of dizziness” can accompany anxiety due to the body reflecting a loss of emotional balance. A 2014 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found a link between “anxious, introverted personality traits” and chronic subjective dizziness. Dizziness can also be caused by anxiety-related breathing problems, such as hyperventilation, which can lead to fainting. 

As with many physical symptoms, dizziness is both a symptom and a cause for anxiety. While medication and therapy may be required in some cases, steps such as lying down, closing your eyes, and breathing gently can help alleviate bouts of anxiety-related dizziness. As with many physical anxiety symptoms, getting plenty of water and sleep can also help to prevent discomfort and keep your body in balance.

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DWTS' Lindsay Arnold Shows Postpartum Body 1 Week After Daughter​​​'s Birth

Postpartum pride! Lindsay Arnold rocked a nursing bra and leggings one week after giving birth to her daughter, Sage.

Brittany Nassif and More Celeb Moms Show Postpartum Bodies Days After Birth

“Wearing my fave postpartum clothes from #kindredbravely,” the Dancing With the Stars pro, 26, captioned her Sunday, November 8, Instagram Story mirror selfie. “I seriously underestimated how important a good nursing bra is.”

The So You Think You Can Dance alum went on to share footage modeling her outfit, saying, “I also wanted to show you the leggings I got, seriously so freaking comfortable. [They’re] so nice because [they] give, like, a little bit of suction support, which is really good for my C-section. I am loving these.”

Lindsay Arnold’s Baby Bump Album: See the Dancer’s Pregnancy Pics

The Utah native announced earlier this month that she and her husband, Sam Cusick, had welcomed their baby girl. “The most beautiful surprise on this very special day,” the dancer wrote via Instagram on November 2. “Baby Girl and mama are healthy and well.”

Arnold revealed the infant’s name two days later and gave her Instagram followers more details on Sage’s arrival, eight days ahead of her due date.

“I woke up to my water breaking around 3:30 a.m. at home in bed and contractions started immediately after,” the DWTS season 25 winner captioned a photo of the newborn. “Sam and I grabbed everything and headed straight to hospital. Baby girl was still breech and I was progressing very fast so we prepped right away for C-section delivery. I am so grateful for the incredible team of nurses and doctors who delivered our baby girl to us safe and sound.”

The new mom shared the significance behind Sage’s moniker, writing, “She entered this world on the same day that we lost Sam’s beautiful mother just one year ago and we couldn’t help but see God’s hand in this and know that Sage was handed down to us by her beautiful angel grandmother, Jennifer Jill Gillette Cusick.”

‘Dancing With the Stars’ Babies: See Which Pros Gave Birth

Fellow DWTS pro Peta Murgatroyd commented on the social media upload with heart emojis, while pregnant Witney Carson wrote, “Love her so much already. She is so beautiful and what an amazing day to come into this world! So special.”

Arnold and her high school sweetheart tied the knot in June 2015 in Utah. Five years later, they announced that they were starting a family.

“A lot of people have asked, ‘Are you going to have her dance?’ Of course, if she wants to dance, I would love that because I know a lot about it,” the then-pregnant star exclusively told Us Weekly in July. “I just really look forward to helping her find the thing that she loves to do and then being her biggest No. 1 fan.”

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COVID-19 anxiety linked to body image issues

A new study has found that anxiety and stress directly linked to COVID-19 could be causing a number of body image issues amongst women and men.

The research, led by Professor Viren Swami of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, involved 506 UK adults with an average age of 34.

Amongst women, the study found that feelings of anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 were associated with a greater desire for thinness. It also found that anxiety was significantly associated with body dissatisfaction.

Amongst the male participants, the study found that COVID-19-related anxiety and stress was associated with greater desire for muscularity, with anxiety also associated with body fat dissatisfaction.

Negative body image is one of the main causes of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and this new study adds to recent research indicating that fears around COVID-19, and the consequences of the restrictions introduced to help tackle it, could be contributing to a number of serious mental health issues.

Lead author Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “In addition to the impact of the virus itself, our results suggest the pandemic could also be leading to a rise in body image issues. In some cases, these issues can have very serious repercussions, including triggering eating disorders.

“Certainly during the initial spring lockdown period, our screen time increased, meaning that we were more likely to be exposed to thin or athletic ideals through the media, while decreased physical activity may have heightened negative thoughts about weight or shape. At the same time, it is possible that the additional anxiety and stress caused by COVID-19 may have diminished the coping mechanisms we typically use to help manage negative thoughts

“Our study also found that when stressed or anxious, our pre-occupations tend to follow gender-typical lines. During lockdown, women may have felt under greater pressure to conform to traditionally feminine roles and norms, and messaging about self-improvement may have led to women feeling dissatisfied with their bodies and having a greater desire for thinness.

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Hello, Curves! Kim Kardashian's Body Evolution Through the Years

Beauty, brains and body — Kim Kardashian has it all! For more than a decade, the reality star has been turning heads with her curves at every event she’s attended and all over her social media.

The KKW Beauty founder started showing off her stylish figure when she first gained attention as Paris Hilton‘s devoted sidekick, donning formfitting numbers on the red carpet, gowns with high leg slits and itty-bitty bikinis at the beach. As her own stardom began to grow with her family’s reality series, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the California native eventually landed on a signature look.

Kardashian married rapper Kanye West in May 2014, nearly one year after welcoming her first child, daughter North. When she walked down the aisle in Florence, Italy, the entrepreneur stunned in a custom Givenchy Haute Couture gown designed by her go-to designer, Riccardo Tisci.

In December 2015, Kardashian gave birth to son Saint and was eager to snap back to her pre-baby weight. Within six months, she told E! News that she had reached her goal after supplementing her workout regimen with the Atkins diet.

“I think I’m almost at 70 [pounds] down,” she told the outlet in July 2016. “I’ve recently gone into extra gear, just staying more focused. You do get comfortable and then you start to get off track a little bit but I’ve kind of like pumped it up a little bit, just started to stay focused and follow the Atkins diet again. I feel like I lost another last few pounds that I really had to lose so that makes me happy.”

The SKIMS founder and the “Stronger” rapper share two more children, daughter Chicago and son Psalm, who were welcomed via surrogate in January 2018 and May 2019, respectively. After spending time wrangling her four little ones, Kardashian committed herself to getting into tip-top shape ahead of the 2019 holidays.

“Kim is really focused on getting back to her goal weight and to a place where she feels totally fit and comfortable with her body,” a source told Us Weekly exclusively after the social media mogul gained “18 additional pounds” before November 2019. “She has been working out very diligently, so she can feel like ‘herself’ again and wear the items she wants to without worrying about how they will fit.”

Scroll down to see how the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star’s body has transformed since 2006.

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What is ketosis – and is it good for your body?

There are certain buzzwords in the fitness world that just baffle us.

We may nod along and pretend we know what they mean in order to save face in front of the protein shake gang, but we are secretly Googling the moment we have a free second.

High on this list of confusing fitness terms is ketosis. 22,340 Brits search for the meaning and benefits of ketosis every month.

If the word itself sounds a bit scarily scientific – that’s because it is. But, if you’re serious about fitness, diet and improving your overall health, it might be useful to know exactly what it means, and if it could be good for you.

What is ketosis?

Ketosis is essentially a state where the body is using fat as its main fuel. This happens when the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrates to use as fuel, and can be intentionally triggered by following a very low carb, ‘ketogenic’ diet.

‘With the popularity of the keto diet, there is some confusion about what ketosis is,’ says MyVitalMetrics founder, Owen Hutchins.

‘At its most basic, ketosis is the result of burning fat for fuel when the body doesn’t have any carbs in the system.

‘Specifically, when the body burns fat as fuel, as part of that process it creates chemicals called ketone bodies. These ketone bodies are then normally burned in another energy production process which takes some glycogen (stored sugar) and uses it together with the ketones to create more energy.

‘However, if there is no glycogen available this process cannot be completed, so the ketone bodies remain in the blood and urine. This is ketosis.’

Is ketosis good for your body?

There is contrasting evidence about whether ketosis and the keto diet are actually healthy and good for your body. And the one hand, it can help you to maintain a healthy weight, but experts say it is not without its risks.

Doctors say that being in a state of ketosis can help you lose weight, which can be beneficial for preventing all kinds of health problems.

Beyond weight loss, other benefits could include lowering your risk of heart disease, and could be helpful in preventing seizures in epilepsy patients.

However, a recent study branded the diet ‘dangerous’ and said it was found to weaken the bones of athletes and increase their risk of injury.

Other experts have even warned that a long-term keto diet can damage the heart muscle. And many have suggested that keto is only safe and effective over a short period of time.

Is the keto diet safe?

‘Renowned for its ability to source calories from protein and fats, as opposed to carbohydrates and sugars, in a bid to elevate weight loss and boost energy, the state of ketosis has been credited for aiding a range of health problems,’ nutritionist and founder of Nosh Detox, Geeta Sidhu-Robb, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘However it is not without its criticism, such as the safe longevity of the method. But what must be said is that the ketogenic diet is most definitely safe and is a viable dieting technique.

‘Before starting a keto diet its important to do your research – of your own body. It’s very important to examine your relationship with fats as a traditional ketogenic diet will have lots of them.

‘Have a meal plan in place and opt for the best quality products, even if this means a spike in the prices – bearing in mind the keto diet should not be a long term plan.’

Geeta says that there’s also another concern with consuming high volumes of meat on this diet.

‘While the upside of this plan is that people end up eating healthier fats, less sugar and see their insulin levels mellow, it can often mean that people become reliant on saturated animal fats in meat,’ Geeta tells us.

‘This is why vegan variations of the keto diet are much healthier options as you still reap the weight and health rewards of a keto diet but avoid the harmful fats in meat, which are hard to avoid when you consider the fact that carbohydrates are almost completely disregarded.

‘Vegan ketosis will see plant-based healthy nutrients maintained.

‘The ketogenic diet will see its best rewards when implemented between one and two weeks at a time. It certainly shouldn’t be a long duration diet method.’

Remember, always talk to your doctor before making any major changes to your diet. Particularly if you have an underlying health condition.

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Why My Beauty Routine Was So Important During My Battle With Breast Cancer

This story is part of Survivor's Guide, a series on navigating the impact of breast cancer through beauty and self-care.

One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. I am one of those women and I've learned that breast cancer can only be defined by uncertainty. While it's a different journey for everyone, one thing always holds true: It doesn't affect only the person who is diagnosed. Whether you're going through it yourself or supporting someone else, it's difficult. Rarely are there definitive answers. With a cancer diagnosis, life changes in an instant and you have no choice but to persevere through every unknown. 

But amid unimaginable ups and downs, I found one constant: my beauty routine. I was fortunate enough to have my mom (my ultimate beauty queen) by my side through it all. She knew exactly how to help me keep a smile on my face. While I was recovering, we would do face masks and manicures together. Or when I couldn't lift my arms after my mastectomy, she'd blow-out my hair and help me swipe on my signature red lipstick. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw myself. 

The impact of beauty should not be underestimated.

Different things — a touch of lip balm, the feeling of a fresh face, a spritz of scent — might spark a similar feeling for you. Regardless of what that ritual might be, the impact of beauty should not be underestimated. Being able to feel like yourself is one of the most powerful treatments of all. It is not being vain. It is not superficial. It's not for anyone else. When you look like yourself, you feel like yourself. 

I hope the stories and tips from Allure's Survivor's Guide bring you happiness even if it's just for a moment. And survivor to survivor, no diagnosis will ever define you. You are beautiful just the way you are.

Take what you need from our survivor's guide: skin-care advice, courage, help with hair loss, or just the knowledge that you are never alone.

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Mum says 'flashing the wilderness' helped her love her post-mastectomy body

Could the secret to body confidence post-mastectomy lie in stripping off in the middle of the wilderness?

Cat Levitt reckons so.

The mum-of-one was diagnosed with stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer in June 2018.

Within months she had a double mastectomy, followed by four rounds of gruelling chemotherapy.

Thankfully, Cat has been given the all-clear – but she has struggled with the feeling of ‘not being a full woman’ since losing both nipples.

Rather than mourning her old body, Cat, 35, decided to celebrate her post-cancer breasts… by trekking to the top of mountains, getting topless, and ‘flashing the wilderness’.

She credits those excursions with helping her to embrace her body again.

So far, Cat has visited – and flashed – more than 10 beauty spots, including Ice Lake in Colorado, US, and has sparked a trend among other breast cancer survivors.

Cat, from Aspen, in Colorado, US, said: ‘Flashing the wilderness is a way for me to show everybody there’s strength in your scars and strength in breast cancer.

‘I never thought I’d get to where I am now and love my scars. After you go through these surgeries you feel really awful.

‘At first I didn’t have confidence and self-love – now I do. I felt like a piece of what made me a woman and a mother were missing. I felt like I wasn’t whole.

‘I know a lot of women that are going through chemotherapy, or who have just had surgery, and they don’t know if they’ll ever get that strength back. It takes a while but you do.

‘I do it a lot – I’ve always flashed the wilderness.’

Cat’s flashing photos are taken by her boyfriend Isaac, who saved her life by finding a lump in her breast and urging her to get checked.

‘We met a couple of months before I was diagnosed,’ says Cat ‘We were at a brewery and our dogs got tangled up. It’s like a Hollywood movie.

‘That was a month before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We weren’t together very long and he found my breast cancer.’

At the end of 2019, Cat was given the all-clear and told she was finally in remission after a challenging 18 months of juggling being a mum to her little girl Addie, five, and going through treatment for cancer.

Now she uses her following to teach women of all ages that they’re ‘not dead after a breast cancer diagnosis’.

Cat said: ‘Now I have no evidence of disease. I was given the all-clear around October 2019.

‘On January 1 [2019], I had my exchange surgery where they exchange the expanders [that stretch remaining breast tissue and skin] and put in the implants.

‘Then I had a fat transfer surgery from my stomach to the top of my breasts to make them fuller [in May 2019].

‘It’s really common not to reconstruct the nipple. There’s advocacy for surgeons paying more attention and doing nipple reconstruction.

‘It was definitely something I struggled with but flashing the wilderness is a way for me to process it as well.’

Cat says she’s received messages from women all around the world who have been inspired to do their own topless photos to embrace their bodies.

And as well as inspiring others, the mountain-top adventures has helped Cat, too.

‘Sometimes I feel like I’m not a full woman because I don’t have nipples,’ the mum says. ‘It’s a way for me to build confidence too.

‘I hike a lot so it’s really freeing to feel like I did it [each time]. I’m free and open and it’s a much more positive way to look at my boobs, as opposed to most of the other pictures that are posted.

‘I try to post pictures that are really positive associations with breast cancer and how we look afterwards. It reminds people to check their breasts.

‘That’s why I do the wilderness posts too. I’ve always hiked and I can show people that you can conquer anything after a breast cancer diagnosis, you can still feel alive.

‘It’s not just women over 50 who suffered with this awful disease. I know so many women that are my age or younger that have it – hundreds of women.

‘We can empower each other through these pictures and stories, and letting people know breast cancer doesn’t look like what it used to in the past.

‘I have loads of comments from people who say how important it is for them to see this.’

Do you have a story to share?

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Cassie Shows Off Postpartum Body, But We Wish She Didn't Have To

Since having daughter Frankie in December, singer and model Cassie has not the most prolific of new celebrity moms on social media. But on Monday, she took to her Instagram Stories with an admission that we think might explain her absence. She seems to have gone back and forth with accepting her postpartum body.

“I haven’t posted anything like this in a while, but I’m very proud of myself,” wrote Cassie, who married trainer and bull-rider Alex Fine last year, shortly after ending her 10-plus-year relationship with Diddy. “The female body is truly an amazing thing. I didn’t rush to lose weight after having Frankie in December, but when I was ready to, I struggled with it for some months.”

After spending her career modeling and performing, we imagine it was difficult for Cassie not to feel she was in the same physical shape as she had been in for most of her life. Pregnancy and childbirth take a toll on the body — changing everything from lung capacity to bone density — and it’s not necessarily realistic to expect that once the baby is finally outside your body that you can get it “back” just by exercising and dieting a lot.

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A post shared by Casandra (@cassie) on

But we very much wish that no new parent felt that this is something they have to do. If we could live in a world in which women weren’t compelled to show off how they lost the baby weight — or even feel the need to explain that doing so is taking some time — we might all be a little healthier and happier.

For her part, Cassie said she realized she needed to be easier on herself.

“I stopped putting so much pressure on myself and with less stress and healthier habits,” she wrote. “This is me today 7 months postpartum. Feeling really good, I’m healthy and working on my strength. Love your body!”

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Day dreaming ✨

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Congratulations to Cassie for feeling good and being proud of herself, truly. Everyone else reading this, please know that you absolutely do not need to have abs like that seven months after having a baby, or ever. Do postpartum workouts and eat right so that you have the strength and endurance to care for your child and do everything else that makes your life fulfilling, not so that you have that extra line down your middle when you wear a bikini.

Cassie has managed to spend her career going by just one name. We wonder if her daughter or any of these celebrity kids with unique names will have the same privilege.

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