Are you having trouble sleeping and difficulty controlling your worry? People with high-functioning anxiety experience such symptoms but are still able to get through the day, often due to sheer force. But being high-functioning doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering, and it doesn’t mean you don’t need help, support or to make changes in your daily routine. Here are some signs you may have high-functioning anxiety:
1. You experience the world in a different way
People with an anxiety disorder worry excessively and expect the worst, often without any good reason to do so. This leads to mental exhaustion, with a lot of energy spent on all that worrying. The whole experience is then worsened because those who don’t have anxiety perceive people who do to be irrational or emotional. So a person with high-functioning anxiety is actively doing life’s daily tasks, but on the inside feels like they are fighting a battle to get through the day.
Research has found that this altered perception of the world comes down to the brain’s plasticity — that is, the brain’s ability to change and reorganize itself. People with anxiety often struggle to tell the difference between safe, neutral and threatening stimuli and will overgeneralize emotional experiences.
2. You struggle to sleep well
The constant worrying can make it hard to relax, and that means it can be hard to sleep. People with high-functioning anxiety often find it hard to get to sleep, or wake up in the middle of the night and then find it hard to fall back to sleep. They also generally find it hard to relax, and work or exercise is barely distracting.
3. You can be a bit controlling and negative
Controlling habits can help people with anxiety anticipate problems or changes or variations in life, and feel like they have some control over them. In a similar vein, people can be perfectionists and have excessively high expectations of themselves, whilst overburdening themselves with constant negative self-talk.
4. You have repetitive habits and experience pain
People’s ongoing worry often expresses itself through nervous habits like nail biting, lip chewing, foot taping or other tics. It’s an outlet for all that brewing anxiety. Other people with anxiety unfortunately feel compelled to use alcohol or drugs as an outlet. Research has found that anxiety disorders are a strong risk factor for substance abuse. People with anxiety also often experience physical pain as a knot in their stomach or as neck pain.
5. You struggle to say ‘no’
Related to the patterns of negative self-talk is a fear of letting other people down. You don’t want to disappoint people, and you don’t really want to disappoint yourself either. Combined with the perfectionism, such people often take on more than they can handle, and will rarely say no to extra work or to helping a friend.
Healthy anxiety remedies
While high-functioning anxiety can’t be cured as such, there are all sorts of natural and healthy ways to manage and treat its symptoms.
Meditation, mindfulness, and yoga can all give you the mental tools to learn how to cope, and exercise more control over the way you think. Meditation especially teaches you to observe your feelings in a more neutral way, and in that way helps you to avoid the spiral of being angry that you are stressed, then being stressed because you are angry, and so on.
There is also a range of foods, drinks, essential oils, and other remedies that can help ease the stress. Lavender oil has been compared to prescription anti-anxiety medicine for its ability to lower stress, anxiety, and depression. Frankincense and chamomile are also excellent for fighting anxiety or getting to sleep. Green tea lowers anxiety, heart rate and helps with blood pressure regulation, and lemon balm has been used for hundreds of years to relieve stress and encourage deep sleep.
For meal times, coconut oil is the bomb for lowering stress and for general brain and body health. Also aim to include walnuts, dark chocolate, salmon, chickpeas, avocado, yogurt and chia seeds in your diet, while avoiding food that is heavy in sugar or caffeine, and processed red meat. Wash your food down with the above-mentioned teas, a kale or yogurt smoothie, limited amounts of coffee (it is excessive amounts that will turn the table on you and increase your anxiety), or a tart cherry juice. And always be sure to stay hydrated — a 1.5 percent loss of water can alter your mood.
For many people, exercise, gardening, writing, art or music can be a calming, positive way to vent the stress. Marijuana, in small amounts, has also been found to be a great mood stabilizer, especially when combined with the above diet and lifestyle changes.
Do you think you suffer from high-functioning anxiety? What sort of symptoms do you have, and what have you found to help in combating them? Let us know in the comments!
— Tamara Pearson