On the outside you seem like the most “together” person there is. You’re successful, driven, people see you as a leader and feel as though they can depend on you because you can handle it all.
On the inside however, you feel like you’re not living up to those expectations, like you can’t say no or they will see you for the failure you really are. The truth is you may secretly feel like you’re drowning in worry and stress.
If you’re known to be the hustler, the people pleaser, the perfectionist, the do-er, you might be struggling with high functioning anxiety (HFA). If you’re familiar with high functioning anxiety and what it is then you’re probably wondering “okay, so what do I even do about it? How do you treat anxiety? Is high functioning anxiety treatment a thing? How do I get rid of anxiety?”
If you’re familiar with generalized anxiety disorder, you may understand how people with generalized anxiety may be feeling. However, high functioning anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder and requires a separate diagnosis because they aren’t the same. Coping with stress and anxiety is different when you have high functioning anxiety.
Those with HFA might even believe that they have developed coping mechanisms over the years to control their feelings of anxiety. But those coping mechanisms could be causing you to feel more anxious and stressed.
For example, you may try to combat your people pleasing by creating boundaries and saying “no” more often. But the fear of telling someone no and them being upset with you causes that anxiety to rise within you.
That’s why people pleasing might seem like the easier answer. Thus starts the vicious cycle of actually coping with anxiety and thinking that you’re coping. You may start living in secret, never letting anyone know that you might be struggling with mental health anxiety or trying to reduce anxiety on your own. The truth is, living in secret makes things much harder.
In reality, there isn’t a specific kind of treatment for anxiety but people with high functioning anxiety can learn to cope with it so they can live a more joyful life. I know what you’re thinking, but dealing with HFA and improving your mental health is not impossible. It just requires a new way of looking at things and addressing them.
As a high functioning anxiety coach and anxious person myself, I of all people understand the cycle of beating yourself up for taking on too much and then beating yourself up the one time you say no. When it comes to things that help with mental health and HFA, the list could go on and on, that is why I have come up with practical strategies to address the anxiety that you may be struggling with.
It may sound simple but the first step in coping with high anxiety is to acknowledge that something is going to make you feel anxious. And that’s okay. Part of addressing HFA is acknowledging how you’re feeling, what’s making you feel that way, and telling yourself it’s okay.
If you find yourself overthinking a conversation you had, wondering why you said yes to that work project when you have a million other things to do, or becoming overwhelmed with a simple decision, stop and breathe.
I always encourage people to practice A.S.K:
It seems simple but that’s the point. If we can recognize simple solutions to our HFA then we may be able to gain better control over it. Simply acknowledge how you feel, why you feel this way, and don’t shame yourself for feeling anxious.
If you noticed a friend or family member struggling, you would probably check in on them, right? It’s important to prioritize checking in on yourself as well. If you feel that you are starting to experience the weight of HFA, look at yourself in the mirror and say “how are you doing?” I mean REALLY look at yourself. Make eye contact with yourself in the mirror and say ‘Hey there, How are you doing today?”
The more intune we are with ourselves, the more likely we are to build a kind, loyal relationship with ourselves and address our anxiety.
Give yourself permission to feel without having to justify, prove or defend the feeling, and notice when unhealthy coping mechanisms take over. . When we get in touch with ourselves we have the ability to stop looking outside ourselves for answers.
Sounds counterintuitive, right? However, it makes sense if you think of it this way. People who live with HFA have often developed coping mechanisms to help them not feel anxious. For example, if you’re a classic people pleaser, you may tell yourself that you need to stop people pleasing.
But then that feeling of saying no to create healthy boundaries suddenly turns into anxiety when you think about how you may have let someone down or made them upset. See what I mean? Then the coping of creating boundaries really isn’t helping, it’s just creating more anxious thoughts.
In order to address HFA, you also have to address the coping mechanisms that you use and how they could be causing you more anxiety. So the fear of saying no may cause you to start saying yes again because people pleasing seems easier than addressing your anxiety.
Rather than actually helping you cope, it’s acting as a distraction from actually dealing with your anxiety and now your to-do list that was causing you anxiety earlier is that much longer. That is why we want to recognize the coping strategies we set in place for ourselves and ask ourselves if we’re really dealing with our anxiety.
We all have one. Even as a mental health coach, I have often talked about my own Monger and what it tells me on a daily basis. The trick isn’t to ignore it or treat it, but it’s to recognize where it’s coming from.
That thing in your head that keeps telling you things like “I better take on this project or they will think I am incompetent” and then “why did I take on that extra project when I have so much going on” or “I should’ve said no, why didn’t I just say no” she likes to increase the volume when you’re in periods of stress and anxiousness.
Notice when she starts talking. From there you can find the source of the anxiety and remind yourself of the big picture.
If you are looking for more help with high functioning anxiety, I offer coaching programs that may help! Sometimes going it alone can be one of the hardest parts of having high functioning anxiety, especially if you feel you can’t talk to anyone about how you feel.
I’ve designed my coaching program to make it easier to talk through your feelings and guide you through coping and how to treat your high functioning anxiety.