High Functioning Anxiety

Do you suffer from high functioning anxiety? Are you a person that appears to be in control, a perfectionist, very organized and productive but on the inside, you have racing thoughts and worry constantly about the “what ifs”?   Well, you are not alone.  I have suffered from this for many years.  I have always had a fear of failure and just not being enough.  Any form of criticism would push me to do more or be more. 

I could never understand why I just couldn’t “let it go”.  There was always a fear of criticism, failure, and making even small mistakes.  I always doubted myself and would overthink everything. 

As a mom, I did the normal mom things, such as homework, making sure the kids were fed and bathed. I made sure that they got to all their activities, of course on time.  However, that was never enough, I had to also be room mom, PTO president, and athletic director all while working a very stressful full-time job.  I lived on a very tight schedule.  To me this just felt normal.  I could never understand why others were not doing the same thing.  

Sleepless nights or just feeling so exhausted that I could not get out of bed was “normal”.  I have worked from home for many years. So, getting up in the middle of the night or way before the sun came up to work just became something that I needed to do.  I would get 3-4 hours of sleep a night which worked for me. That way I could get everything done and done perfectly.  I mean I had a lot of balls to juggle and keep up in the air.  Who has time to sleep?

Woman Sitting in Front of Macbook

I always wished that I could turn off, but I just couldn’t.   I could never just be okay with where I was, I had to do more and be more.  That meant never saying “no”.  It was and still is very exhausting.  There have never been days of just lying on the couch and channel surfing or binge-watching, there is just too much to do.  Oh, my goodness, don’t let one of those balls that I am juggling fall, what would happen? Would someone be disappointed in me because I didn’t complete a task?  Yes, that is still a real concern of mine.   

I always attempted to self-diagnosis, after all, I am a nurse, I should be able to fix this.  Somedays I thought I had obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Other days I felt that I had general anxiety.  I found out through counseling that I may be suffering from high functioning anxiety. This is a variant of generalized anxiety and can be a blend of different anxiety conditions.  

Most people that suffer from anxiety have moments when they feel nervous, tense, and restless.  They feel a sense of impending danger.  It can make them feel paralyzed and cause them to avoid doing things that can stir up these feelings.  People that suffer from high functioning anxiety are the opposite.  We are driven to act. Instead of feeling paralyzed, we take on more tasks or overdue tasks. 

With some counseling, I found that this started in my childhood and moved with me into adulthood.  I had to please everyone to avoid any conflicts or disappointments.  As I have moved on in my life, I found that I still need to please everyone. 

As I age, I have found myself on a mission to be happier.  To do this I need to change up some of my thoughts and actions.  I need to face my constant need for approval, to be perfect, and calm my overthinking.  I need to say “no” more.  To me this is very scary, I mean what I have been doing has worked for everyone, but now I feel that I need it to work for me. 

Some Lifestyle Changes that May Help with High Functioning Anxiety

  1. Meditation – this has been a huge help to me.  I do this every morning for 20 minutes when I wake up.  The hardest part has been the feeling of not having time.  So, some days I must make myself do it regardless of my schedule.  It calms and clears my mind so the things that I have been dwelling on begin to seem smaller. 
  2. Positive affirmations – some people put this with meditation but for me it is different.  I need to take time to just appreciate who I am, where I am and the wonderful things in my life.
  3. Following a schedule – this has been a work in progress for me.  I now have a schedule and I post it where I constantly see it.  Following the schedule as much as possible has become important to me. I have a set time to wake up, meditate, a set time to work.  I also have a set time for working out, dinner, and bedtime. 
  4. Limit Alcohol – alcohol used to be my saving grace.  Not every night of course I had too much to do.  It was something that I just could not wait to do on the weekends to “relax”.  Now it is something that I just try to enjoy at social events. 
  5. Counseling – this has been great.  I am just able to tell someone my concerns without feeling like they think I am crazy or different.   I can just be myself. 
  6. Change in Diet – I have taken added sugar out of my diet and have limited my caffeine intake.  I do think that this has helped me to be calmer.
  7. Exercise – physical activity releases serotonin and dopamine.  This can improve mood.  It can change your whole mindset. 
  8. Changing my attitude – I try to say no more often (this has been difficult; I’m not going to lie).  After years of being a “yes” lady throwing in some “no’s” from time to time can be very stressful.  I also limit the time in my office and answering emails. 

There is no cure for anxiety disorders, and I am still a “work in progress”.  However, I at least feel that I am beginning to control some of my thoughts and actions.  I find that I smile a little more and I enjoy more of life’s everyday joys.  I can now sit on the couch and enjoy a movie with my husband (I do still get up from time to time) but I am trying.  Just remember you are not alone.  Just try to work on yourself, you deserve to be happy. Implement a few changes. Slow and steady wins the race!

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