The idea of summer often incites excitement and anticipation, as school lets out and you no longer have to layer up to go outside. For some, however, the idea of shedding layers is horrific, and going to the beach brings about more anxiety than sunshine.

This anxiety can stem from a variety of different places, but usually, it’s rooted in insecurity, at least to some degree. Everyone has insecurities, so in that regard it’s normal, but it’s not healthy to allow your self-doubts to fester inside you and ruin what could be a pleasant experience.

Similarly, while beach body anxiety is common and quite normal, it shouldn’t be accepted as the norm. Each person experiencing beach body anxiety should, gently, strive to overcome it so they can fully enjoy themselves and embrace the glory of their body — in or out of a swimsuit.

Insecurities can, of course, be indicators of a more serious mental-health issue running under the surface, so please seek professional help if you feel like you need it. In the meantime, however, these following suggestions may help begin the process of healing, and growing toward a happy relationship with your body.

1.The Importance of Self Talk

How you talk to yourself will define how you feel about yourself. Your negative emotions and anxiety about sitting in a swimsuit by the pool or on the beach begin with how you narrate yourself to yourself. You might not be able to control your feelings, but you can control your thoughts, so if you want to reclaim your emotions regarding your body, you need to begin by reclaiming your thoughts.

The best way to do this is by identifying and rephrasing all negative thought. To identify the negative thoughts (because sometimes they can be hard to spot), just imagine your best friend or sibling saying that same thought about themselves. If you would immediately refute their statement, then that was a negative thought, and if you wouldn’t want your best friend or sibling to say that about themselves, then you shouldn’t be thinking it.

After you identify the thought, you need to recognize how wrong it is, and try to rephrase it. This might seem elementary, but I often treat my brain as if it’s a toddler that needs to be corrected. I’ll mentally speak to myself, saying “No” and follow up with a rephrasing of the negative thought.

For example, if I thought to myself, “Everyone’s staring at you and thinks you look gross,” then I would immediately stop and say, “No. Everyone’s not staring at you because they’re too preoccupied with themselves, and you don’t know what they think about you.”

This process can be exhausting, but, after time and practice, it will become the norm and you will develop a loving self-talk, your beach body anxiety will vanish and your self-image will improve as a result.

2. Make Complimenting Yourself a Habit

This runs in a similar vein to healthy self-talk. Instead of just passively rephrasing negative thoughts, you should also be proactive in complimenting yourself. You don’t need to think of your entire body and self as beautiful at first, just pieces at a time. What is your favorite part about your appearance? Don’t say nothing — even if it’s something as small as the way one piece of hair curls, or the way your fingers are shaped, you should rejoice in that.

Try on your swimsuit and look in the mirror. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the bad things you perceive to be true about yourself, latch on to that one beautiful thing, no matter how small, and compliment yourself on that one thing. Tell yourself how beautiful you are. Make this complimenting a routine, and the more you do it, the more beautiful things you’ll recognize about yourself, and the less prevalent your beach body anxiety will be.

If you need help starting this, try creating a ritual to help encourage this healthy self-complimenting. One example could be finding a mantra (a meaningful, short phrase that defines what you want to believe or achieve) and writing it on or nearby your mirror.

Every time you look in the mirror, repeat that phrase and let that phrase replace all your negative thoughts. Examples of great mantras are “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139, “I am beautiful and have always been beautiful, whether I can see it or not,” or something simple like “I matter. I am important. I am beautiful.”

3. Self-Care: More Than Bubble Baths and Chocolate

When I say self-care, I don’t mean doing what you want, but rather what your body actually needs. If you’re eating clean and exercising, you’ll feel better, and your self-perception will follow. Remember, it’s not about feeling skinny, it’s about feeling strong and healthy.

You don’t have to revamp your entire diet or workout regime in one swoop, either. It’s okay to go slow. Any progress is good progress, so just focus on moving forward, no matter how slowly. You could start doing yoga before bed the next week, try eating more vegetables the next week, etc.

Praise yourself (and your body) for any and all achievements, no matter how small. If you didn’t drink soda for lunch, celebrate it, even if you ended up drinking soda for dinner. Again, it’s important to be patient with yourself.

Remember that while it’s important to be healthy, of course, it’s not all about getting rid of tummy fat or toning your butt. It’s about how you feel in the swimsuit, or any outfit, and taking care of yourself physically will help you feel better, regardless if that change ends up showing in your shape.

The solution to beach body anxiety begins in your mind. Your mind is like a garden—the seeds you plant will grow over time, and it is up to you to weed out the bad thoughts and let the good thoughts grow like flowers. This process takes time and practice, and that’s okay. It’s important that you are gentle and patient with yourself.

You don’t have to get it right every time, and it’s okay to have bad days. The good days are coming. With time and effort, your mental image of the ideal body will morph into the one you already have, and you’ll be able to enjoy the beach as much as your body does.

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