Hands up if you have high-functioning anxiety?
Hey, you are SO not alone.
But the thing with high-functioning anxiety is you may not even realise you experience it.
Because it allows you to smash goals, stuff your schedule with mountains of to-dos, run a business and a busy household…and seemingly take care of ALL the things like a badass superhero.
High-functioning anxiety gives the illusion that you’re all right.
That you got this.
That you can say yes to EVERYTHING.
People probably have no idea you experience anxiety. They simply sit back and marvel at your high energy, ambition and achievements.
And I get it.
Who doesn’t want to be successful in work and life?
Who doesn’t want to squeeze as much out of life as possible?
Well, as with everything, it’s about balance.
If you can create space for deep focus or fast-paced productivity as well as rest and relaxation, then you’re probably managing just fine.
But if your anxiety is out of control, you may not realise you’re headed to Burnout City until you arrive. And take it from me: it’s a heck of a lot easier to avoid that road, than to try and navigate through it.
So let’s chat real quick about what high-functioning anxiety is – and how to avoid burnout.
Do you have high-functioning anxiety?
Here are some (socially accepted) hallmarks of high-functioning anxiety:
- You’re outgoing and energetic
- You like to keep busy
- You like to be in control
- You strive for perfection
- You tend to dwell on things
- You’re a high achiever
- You love details
- You’re organised and tidy
- You’re proactive and productive
- You’re fiercely loyal in relationships
And here are some ways you might be struggling:
- Making others happy, afraid you’ll drive them away
- Constantly racing mind, unable to shut it off
- Overloading your schedule
- Avoiding alone or ‘quiet’ time
- Addiction to alcohol, prescription meds, or other substances to cope
- Dwelling on negatives or catastrophising the future
- Always arriving early to meetings (or over-planning your journey there)
- Needing constant reassurance (checking the map multiple times, or checking others are OK)
- Pulling your hair, biting your nails or other nervous habits
You probably feel strong surges of energy that drive you forward. Sitting still is rarely comfortable, and you need to constantly be busy, doing, creating, achieving, and becoming better and better and better (to meet your high standards).
Bear in mind that although ‘high-functioning anxiety’ isn’t a diagnosed disorder, it’s a term many women can relate to.
Struggling behind a smile
For me, it looks like ‘struggles behind a smile’.
We give the illusion that we have everything under control. We exude confidence and tenacity. But inside, we’re constantly worried, toggling between a million thoughts. Insecure yet afraid to show our vulnerability.
Perhaps your fear of failure, displeasing people, or being found out as a ‘fraud’ (imposter syndrome) drives you to succeed.
Maybe you desperately want to slow things down, take your foot off the accelerator, but you’re not sure you know how to relax. Taking a day off seems impossible.
And in business – where confidence is king and achievement celebrated – there’s a concern that if we admit to anxiety, or take time off, we’ll appear ‘weak’ or not fit to lead.
You probably mask it well.
I certainly did, for many years (and with many trips to the office loo to cry!)
How to get help
The thing about high-functioning anxiety is you may not like asking for help. You’ve got comfortable figuring things out alone – and using your energy to live an epic life. And because it looks like you’ve got it all together, your loved ones probably won’t notice if you need a hand.
It’s only when anxiety starts affecting your work or life – or your body says “enough’s enough” by getting sick or injured – that you decide to reach out.
But I urge you to reach out.
You don’t have to struggle on alone.
You don’t have to hide behind a veil of success and perfection.
It’s not weak to ask for help. You’re not ‘failing’ if you need support or guidance.
It’s actually a strength. You’re taking a stand for your own mental health and wellness.
Help can be having a coaching session to explore your blocks, and see a clear path to calm.
It can be adding some self-care practices to your day. Like deep breathing, exercise, meditation, journalling or yoga.
Or you could try some self-reflection. Grab a journal, take a few deep breaths, and dive in to these questions:
- Where do I feel anxiety in my body?
- How does anxiety help me in life?
- In what ways does anxiety hold me back in life?
- What do I worry will happen if I stop letting anxiety run the show?
- What’s one thing I could do in the morning to work on my mental wellness?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- Am I eating well?
- What negative thoughts do I have? What’s a more helpful thought I could have instead?
How to thrive
As you begin to explore your relationship with anxiety, you can start to release its grip.
I know it can seem scary to release your anxiety, and step into a calmer, more mindful space.
Will I still achieve all my goals without anxiety?
What if I become a blissed-out hippy and stop caring about my work or life?
It IS possible to thrive without struggle. You CAN be a high-achiever and enjoy the experience at the same time. And you CAN slow down, strip back your schedule, and simplify your life – and still enjoy it abundantly. Wonderfully. Wholly.
And you don’t have to go it alone.
You’ve got this.