Navigating Anxiety with Lauren Elizabeth

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By Meadowlark Monaghan

Lauren Elizabeth is a social media unicorn. An original YouTuber (we’re talking over 10 years on the platform) whose content and community have grown alongside her, she went from being part of the teenage BeautyCon scene of the 2010s to becoming an approachable lifestyle influencer, fierce mental health advocate, and role model for female entrepreneurs forging their own paths. 

She was also one of the first to navigate the YouTube-to-podcast pipeline, with her show “MOOD With Lauren Elizabeth” which showcases her passion for psychology, social behavior, and uplifting female voices. In a month all about friendship, I was honored to speak with my friend Lauren, who I actually first met at the beginning of lockdown after recording an episode of her podcast. Since that time, Lauren has bought a house, sold a house, moved across the country, started two clothing brands, and still been there for me as a friend every step of the way. 

In an effort to unlock her secret to remaining grounded throughout it all, I spoke with Lauren about how she manages her anxiety, how she navigates boundaries when making new friends, and her work within the disability and mental health communities. 

In homage to your podcast, what has been your best and worst mood this week?

I do this every week and yet I still always think, “WTF did I do this week?” But it’s so nice challenging myself to reflect in terms of moods not “achievements” so I encourage everyone to try! My best mood this week was actually connecting with my friends in a time of need and my worst mood was just classic fear and anxiety – allowing myself to be vulnerable by opening up to friends about it turned that into my best mood of the week. 

What was your earliest experience with anxiety? 

Technically it was childhood although I can’t describe it in vivid detail like I can many times in my young adult life. At a very young age after some classic divorce trauma, I quickly developed separation anxiety from my mom which I’m sure manifested into many of the fears and anxiety attacks I would deal with throughout the rest of my life. 

How has your relationship with your anxiety changed over the years? 

This is such an important question because it's crucial to note that anxiety DOES change. After I moved to California my anxiety hit an all time debilitating high. I couldn't sleep, work, or really function. I began to not live in reality and was inside of my head instead because my anxiety had that much control over me. My relationship with anxiety was that I was fearful of it – not just the anxious thoughts, but the anxiety itself. I soon learned that this was leading me down a dark path and sought professional help with changing my life and my relationship to my anxiety. The biggest lesson I learned was that I’m not my anxiety and fears. Anxiety is something that comes onto me but it is not me. Learning about anxiety in a logical way helped me cope when I was dealing with it emotionally. I learned how to separate myself from the big scary anxiety monster and look at it from the logical Lauren perspective and not believe everything it was telling me. This was instrumental in beginning to downgrade how anxiety was interrupting my life. 

You’ve been on YouTube for over 10 years, when did your content shift to include mental health and personal development themes? 

Yikes, grandma vibes. Very early on before anyone spoke about mental health online I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was gaining popularity on the internet whilst pretending to be something I was not. It didn’t sit right with me at all and I didn’t want to put on an act. I began opening up about how I was actually feeling when I was 18 and just left home for the first time. I still to this day am shocked how much being honest changed the entire trajectory of my career. Of course, it’s a much different world on the internet today where you’re applauded for being vulnerable, but back then it was just terrifying. Since I realized that no matter what I did or accomplished, people still related most to my mental health journey, I wanted to dive into it more and use my platform to continue those conversations with a podcast. 

Since I’ve known you you’ve had a public breakup, a cross-country move, launched two clothing brands, and more! What’s been keeping you grounded?

I mean how hilarious is that. My joke is that I clearly have to go through all this bullshit because I have the platform to at least share how I get through it all and hopefully help someone. At least that keeps me pretty sane most of the time. This past year has been the most I’ve ever felt like I can’t keep doing it all anymore – I’ve been working since I was 16 and this job can feel really isolating to begin with. But I’ve always been the person that can pivot, figure it out, go into survival mode, and carry on. I think my family ingrained that in me and I really don’t know what other option there is. I stay grounded by not changing who I am. I have had the same best friends since I was 13-years old and am extremely close with my family. I go to therapy once a week and never stop putting in the work to simply be more at peace with myself so I can get through life’s never-ending challenges. If I went through the past year of BS a few years ago, I can almost guarantee you I would not have handled it with as much grace and honesty as I was able to this year thanks to those three things (friends, family, therapy).

You’re now working with your boyfriend’s brand to help support awareness around folks with disabilities. What are some similarities and differences you’ve noticed between the developmental disabilities and mental health community?

It’s an honor to work with the Jake Max team championing people with disabilities through their art and stories. When I was in elementary school I thought I was going to grow up and become a special educator. I clearly got into a totally different field but I think the key thing is helping people be seen for more than what the world stereotypes as their “flaw.” Having a disability of any kind doesn’t mean you can’t be a leader, a lover, a good human being. All people with disabilities want is to be seen for who they really are, respected, and included. I used to be ashamed of my mental health issues thinking I would never be able to find a partner, become a mother one day, be a CEO – but that simply isn’t true. If anything, people’s disabilities are their superpowers that make them kinder, more compassionate, and more ambitious about living life to the fullest.  

As a public figure, how do you approach making new friends? 

My podcast allows me to have the most amazing open and real conversations ever that leads me to making the coolest friends. I’m very good at reading people because my social anxiety has had me on high alert my whole life. I’m overly aware and really try to see people and meet them where they’re at. I can always tell when someone is a good human. If I get bad vibes, I move on – I’d rather be kind to everyone and those that are kind along the way I keep close. 

Have you ever gone through a friendship breakup? How did you navigate? 

Woof, yes. It was honestly harder to get over long term than a break up. You invest so much of your life into your friends and they are the people who can be in your life forever. Boyfriends can always come and go but your girlfriends are always there to pick up the pieces. It’s cheesy but it’s beyond true. My only advice on how I navigated it was with accountability, honesty, and compassion. Before I say anything [in these situations] I always ask, “Is it kind, is it loving, is it necessary?” because if it’s not one of those things, do you really need to say it? Sometimes the truth hurts and is necessary and sometimes you screw up and say things you shouldn’t have so you take accountability. You always have to remember your friend has their own baggage that changes their perspective and feelings. As long as you can weigh all those mature communication tactics, you can at least move forward in peace whether that’s alone or together. 

How do you and your friends talk about mental health?

Since I’m kind of known for mental health I guess it makes it a lot easier for my friends to talk to me? I also think the pandemic really opened people’s eyes up to what living with anxiety and sadness consistently feels like. Being able to genuinely ask how are you doing and have a real conversation about it only made my friends closer. We wanted to be there for each other. Now we just honestly tell each other how we’re feeling even if it’s followed by an overly self-aware, “I know I have nothing to be worried about but just hear me out so I can get this anxiety over with!” It’s very cleansing, haha.

Do you look for solutions or support when talking with friends? What do you give? 

I look for solutions to a fault. I care too much and have to remind myself I can’t push someone to do anything they don’t want to do. Someone will go to therapy when they are ready. You can’t make them even if you know it’s good for them. I’ve had to learn to set clear boundaries and offer support instead of giving all of my time and energy to the “fixing.” I believe in tough love, and truly being able to get in the weeds with your people and help, but of course you have to take care of yourself along the way.

How do you set boundaries with friends? 

This is something very new to me. I’ve never had boundaries so what I am trying to do is remind myself that the world isn’t going to end if I don’t text back – that other people probably aren’t thinking all the horrible things I am thinking and it’s OKAY. I think when I make confident decisions and am compassionate I feel more comfortable setting my boundaries because I believe in them! I also get lots of help from my therapist who tells me I’m allowed to do things for myself that I can live with, my friends don’t have to live with my choices, but can I? I’m working on it.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here.

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