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High Functioning Anxiety- a well kept secret

I’ve talked about anxiety on this blog multiple times, but often as a side note to another topic. This time, I’m going to focus on that anxiety. I have been dealing with high functioning anxiety for most of my life. It stems from my childhood, mostly from my relationship with my father. I know, I know… It’s like, we get it Danni- you’ve got daddy issues! And you’re absolutely right- I do. Big ones! But while they may be the initial cause of my anxiety, it got increasingly worse from other areas of my life as I grew older.

There are so many people in our world today who, daddy issues or not, suffer from anxiety and its destructive nature.

A lot of those people are high functioning, and do such a great job at hiding it that you would never know. On the outside, they probably seem calm, collected and totally on top of things. But on the inside, they may be feeling overwhelmed, crazy, and completely out of sorts.

Anxiety shows up in a lot of different ways.

Sometimes, it looks like perfectionism. Other times it’s overthinking, people pleasing, procrastination or over explaining. Constantly needing external validation and still thinking that no one likes you or worrying about failure are also symptoms. Basically, it means you’re always worrying about something.

Many times, we try to get ahead of things in order to feel more in control. We think about every possible scenario or outcome and try to have a plan for each one, no matter how slim the chances of it happening are. No detail is too small and it’s very easy to get frustrated. Our stress levels are high and panic attacks aren’t uncommon. But asking for help often feels out of the question.

We want to be able to do it all.

While people with anxiety often need reassurance and maybe even praise, it’s not exactly something easy to ask for. There is usually a worry that asking for help will make us look needy or weak and we end up taking on too much instead so that no one will realize that we don’t actually have it all together. Often, our standards for ourselves are too high and we’re too critical. But to those looking in, we just look like overachievers who can do anything. This is usually what we think we want and we try to convince ourselves that being viewed as perfect is worth the burnout, the sleepless nights, the stress and the panic.

If there isn’t anything to worry about in the moment, our minds will probably create something.

Often, those of us with anxiety struggle more than we don’t. We struggle with saying no and even when we’re buried under a long list of tasks, we feel like we aren’t doing enough. We’re afraid to tell people how tired or scared we are and instead suffer in silence, always putting others first. Wondering if people are still thinking about that comment we made earlier or if someone is mad at us because they didn’t text back soon enough. Being afraid that things are going too well and the other shoe is going to drop soon. Setting unrealistic expectations and setting ourselves up for failure or taking the blame for things outside of our control…

Basically, we bully ourselves.

If any of this sounds like you, you may be suffering from anxiety (though you probably don’t want to admit it). Please know that you are not alone and while the adjustment is hard, there is hope! The internet is full of anonymous support groups and helpful articles. I have also found journaling, breathing exercises and affirmations to be extremely helpful. But the most beneficial thing I’ve found so far would be therapy. Speaking with someone who has expertise and experience in guiding the anxious into a state of calm can be so helpful! I know for me, I started learning how to say no and it was a game changer.

There is no magic pill or switch to flip.

It will take time and your instincts might still pull you towards anxiety. But if you continue to practice, it is possible to get better control over it and find that the calm starts to last longer. You’ll find longer stretches of quiet in your mind and learn to give yourself grace. Once you recognize that you struggle with anxiety, it becomes a lot more manageable. You can learn to take breaks, whether it’s a walk outside, a nap or even just a few moments of alone time with deep breathing and a cup of tea. Pay attention to when the anxiety starts creeping in so that you can pause and remind yourself that you’re doing well. To figure out why you’re feeling anxious so that you can help yourself to find a solution.

Being able to ask for help or to explain your needs and feelings to those around you can also be very helpful.

For example, if you know that you’re someone who needs a lot of reassurance in your relationship, you can let your partner know. This will help prevent you panicking or getting upset that they aren’t giving you what they don’t know you need. In the same way, your friends or family may not realize that you’re stressed out and can’t take on that favor they think is no big deal. You have to learn to let them know. Things like, I’d really love to help you with that but unfortunately I just can’t take it on right now.

Once you learn how to say no, how to ask for help, how to take a step back and how to be a little more patient with yourself, your whole outlook on life can change. Realizing that you don’t have to be perfect or liked by everyone is like opening a window and getting a breath of fresh air for the very first time. Again, it’s hard work to get to that point. But it really is worth it and there are so many resources out there to help you on your journey.

You deserve to have some peace of mind and to feel good about yourself and the life you are building. You matter and are worthy of love, regardless of how productive you might feel or how much you are able to do for others at any given time. I hope  you remember that.

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