Living with High Functioning Anxiety
"Never get to busy making a living that you forget to make a life" - Anonymous
Oh my, it has been a busy past couple of weeks. Sometimes I wish I had better time management skills but other days I feel like I need more time in a day. I'm a busy bee. I thrive on being busy all the time and being productive. When I don't have anything to do, I feel oddly anxious like I should be doing something. I also start feeling like I'm a lazy couch potato and start feeling really guilty about "wasting" time not doing anything. Have you ever felt guilty if you're relaxing too much? Especially as a mother. I would feel like I should be doing something with Emma. Playing with her, crafts, and just anything.
Why is it so hard for mothers to relax? There are so many stressful demands that come with motherhood. Time demands, finances, relationship demands, self-guilt, and overall demand for time alone. When we become mothers, we suddenly have another little human to take care of. As a working mom, even in my "free time" it's really not free time. This becomes even harder for a person who experiences high functioning anxiety. I'm the type of person that can't stop working on a project once I start. I will devote all my time and energy to it until it is "perfect". This type of perfectionist behavior is a symptom of high functioning anxiety and is something I have been especially struggling with the past few months.
When I don't have anything to do, I feel oddly anxious like I should be doing something.
As you all know, this blog is part of a bigger endeavor of mine which is coaching and starting my own little business. From the jump, I jumped right in. I got my business license, website, created my social media, enrolled in coaching school, opened my business bank accounts, created my scheduling calendar, began my blog, and even started my podcast. Looking back, it was actually a very spontaneous decision that I made one day and just started the next.😅 Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is ok to slow down which is why I haven't posted a blog since 2 weeks ago. I don't want to put that pressure on myself to have weekly content because then it will spiral into anxiety. So thank you for understanding 🙃
What is high functioning anxiety?
Anyways, What is high functioning anxiety? and how is it different from "regular" anxiety or generalized anxiety? Let's explore. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around 19% of adults in the United States have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stress where our brain triggers an alarm in our body. When we feel anxious we enter into a fight or flight state. This is our physiological response to a threatening or stressful situation. A person experiencing fight or flight might feel hyper-vigilant, agitated, on edge, have an increased heart rate, body tension, numb to physical pain, dilated pupils, and many other things. This is our body preparing us for survival.
With a generalized anxiety disorder, people typically respond in flight mode. Of course not all the time, but we are more likely to withdraw ourselves from the source of our anxiety. Spiders, public speaking, etc. On the other hand, people with high functioning anxiety will typically respond in fight mode seeking control of the source of anxiety. We tend to rigidly focus on overachievement and perfection of whatever is causing us anxiety. On the outside, someone experiencing high functioning anxiety may appear to have their shit together but on the inside are feeling extremely anxious. Some examples of this may be situations like being overly driven at work because you need reassurance. Or being the reliable person who is always helping others because you're a people pleaser and are afraid to be seen in a negative light. Another example is perhaps being very detailed oriented because you are overthinking because you are dwelling on "what if's" or are afraid of making a mistake. There are many ways in which high functioning anxiety can manifest. Those are just a few. FYI I also recently read that people with high functioning anxiety can have nervous ticks or habits. Like wow, I was completely mind blown because I have been a nail bitter all my life so this completely makes sense.
We tend to rigidly focus on overachievement and perfection of whatever is causing us anxiety.
Breaking out of the high functioning patterns of anxiety
It's important to remember that there are always options to treat anxiety. As a high-functioning anxious person, it may be harder to ask for help but there are daily things we can do to help. I think for me it was important to recognize my thinking patterns when it comes to productivity. If you find yourself constantly feeling like you're short on time and can't stop working on things, start to notice these patterns. Start challenging these thought patterns. "What's the worst that can happen if I do this tomorrow?". Secondly, practice better sleep hygiene. Easier said than done I know. Insomnia is actually another symptom of anxiety. Especially with high functioning anxiety. I find myself working on things in the middle of the night. Get some rest!
Schedule time to take a break. If this is something you have a hard time with, I would suggest literally putting time for this in your planner, phone, or calendar. Whatever works for you. Even if you have to leave a note for yourself on your fridge as a reminder. Schedule time to sit and do nothing, or time to literally close your eyes and breathe. Lastly, mental health therapy is also a really great tool always. You don't have to do all this by yourself. A therapist can help you build positive habits. Even a coach like myself 😉 Seriously though if you ever need more tools or resources make sure to visit my website and browse around. I have lots of awesome blogs, podcast episodes, and resources available.
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