You tend to be the most confident, cool, and collected woman anyone has ever met on the surface. Commonly referred to as a real-life, bad-to-the-bone badass, if you will. However, on the inside you’re an over-analyzing storm of self-doubt, tension, and anxiety.
Those of us with high-functioning anxiety have built various coping mechanisms over time. We have become so good at suppressing our anxiety that even our closest friends and family have no idea what’s going on inside our overworked mind.
These coping mechanisms leave us feeling stressed, tired, and anxious. What’s worse, everyone around us believes we can handle almost anything, so they keep piling on more and more (check out my keynote address from Thessaloniki, Greece which offers tips for how to say “No” without being a jerk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTbNlyma_Ss).
It’s possible you encounter one or more of the situations below over the course of your day—or perhaps all of them:
This form of anxiety is referred to as “high-functioning anxiety.” And if this rings true for you, you’re one of the badasses floating in the pool of badassery! But happiness and laughter, achievement and triumphs, and a healthy dose of extroversion frequently mask this isolated confusion.
Nervous energy either paralyzes you or springs you into action when you have high-functioning anxiety and when it does, damn! You really know how to kick it in gear and get things done. People may think you’ve got it together, but the truth is that it hurts too much to slow down, so you keep going. You are unfamiliar with the concept of relaxation.
Those of us who experience these symptoms often find it very difficult to turn it off, let alone hit the pause button. Thoughts turn into worries, then worries consume our thoughts, thereby creating a constant state of “what if?”
Every day, many of us who suffer from high-functioning anxiety go through this ritual. It’s stressful, but if you’ve dealt with angst long enough, you’ve become accustomed to being uncomfortable.
We’re not alone: 18% of adults suffer from anxiety in some way. On the surface, you might appear relaxed, but deep down, you’re wondering how you can improve. You get very good at criticizing yourself and using those thoughts to propel yourself forward. You seem to be focused and efficient, but you’re still exhausted. You experience both highs and lows. Every single day.
However, it is not a healthy way to go about your workday…or, for that matter, your daily life.
Ways to Help Manage It
So, what can you do about it?
Acknowledgment is half the battle, so be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that you are human, which does not imply that you are defective or broken.
Sometimes people living with high functioning anxiety are hesitant to seek help because they don’t feel deserving of assistance. They believe no will believe them if they admit that they’re struggling. Or they fear that treatment may compromise their work ethic.
High-functioning anxiety can be a double-edged sword, but with a little awareness and understanding, the negative impacts can be acknowledged and dealt with in a healthy way!
Here are a few suggestions to help manage your high-functioning anxiety:
Be Open and Honest
While it’s always beneficial to talk about problems with someone you trust, being honest with yourself is just as important (if not more so). Recognize your difficulties and pay attention to your anxiety when you see it creeping into your life. Then, to navigate the fear and ensure your needs are met, be honest with yourself and others.
This can also be accomplished by positive coping strategies such as meditation or by confronting circumstances that increase your anxiety head-on (i.e. giving presentations or approaching someone new). Additionally, some people may find it beneficial to talk with a therapist to not deal with their issues alone. A counselor (and don’t ever rule out spiritual counseling) can assist you in identifying appropriate coping mechanisms that are tailored to your specific situations.
Be Mindful of What You Can and Can’t Control
Seek ways to acknowledge and consider things that are out of your control, as anxiety is closely linked to the concept of control. This can be achieved in the form of a list, free journaling, or other mindfulness techniques. By keeping track of what you can and can’t control, you can finally learn to be at ease with letting go, resulting in greater mental clarity.
Try Calming Yoga or Breathing Exercises
When your nervous system is in overdrive, it’s particularly important to address the mind-body connection. The nervous system is activated by structured breathing exercises or relaxing yoga practice, allowing you to “rest and reset.”
Practice Mindfulness and Grounding
Get outside and out of your head! Spending time outdoors helps you to engage your senses. Focus on what you see, hear, smell, and touch. Bring you attention into the present moment and focus on the details of your surroundings. Getting out of the house and spending time in nature is the quickest way to clear your mind of ruminating, anxious thoughts and encourages you to be present and in the moment.
Embrace Your Needs
Since you know your mind, body, and needs better than anyone else, it’s okay to be cautious when seeking guidance from friends, family, and coworkers. Everybody is unique, and there may be different triggers to anxiety based on your history. Seek help from those who are qualified and able to help you. Healthy boundaries matter.
Are you able to relate? Are you a high-functioning anxiety badass? If that’s the case, what advice would you send to those who are having similar challenges?
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