A YOUNG woman from Crowthorne who has battled anxiety is throwing herself in at the deep end by entering a Miss Swimsuit competition.

Laura Stephenson, 24, practices mindfulness to help her deal with her crippling anxiety, which she said at its worst prevented her from leaving the house.

The Waitrose shop assistant said: "I would just feel really down about myself, to the point that I felt like I couldn't go into work or see my friends. I had such low self-esteem and my body image was so poor, I became very closed off.

"I went to see the doctor, but they couldn't really help so I started practising mindfulness every night, when my mind starts to get carried away it's helpful to bring it my thoughts back into myself.

"I also started going to the gym to help me focus and to improve how I felt about myself."

Laura decided to take herself out of her comfort zone and to spend 2018 doing things that scared her, one of which was entering the Miss Swimsuit 2018 competition.

She said: "I have never done anything like this before, but the feedback I have received from family and friends has been incredible. Whenever I start to doubt myself, or think I can't do it, I read their comments on social media and it boosts me up.

"I've also applied for university, I have been out of education for a few years so I decided to give it a go and apply for the part time course, and I was accepted to Central Lancashire."

Miss Swimsuit UK is a pageant which specifically encourages healthy body image among young women.

Laura said: "I will take part in the Essex heat this Saturday (21) and then three people are chosen to progress to the final, with a wildcard picked through an online vote from each heat.

"If I win, I really want to use it as an opportunity to highlight anxiety and positive body image, I feel like so much more could be done to help people, and to let them know that they are not alone."