Anxiety is a word that we encounter more and more in this modern, high-paced world. We all feel tense at times and we all have to be able to deal with stress and pressure, no matter our lifestyle and life choices. High-functioning anxiety is when a person is seemingly able to lead a normal life, despite high levels of anxiety. They suffer just as much, but they are high-achievers and their anxiety is, to most people in their lives, a hidden disability. This level of anxiety is incredibly common although it manifests in different ways in different people. Here are some of the warning signs that you may be suffering from high-functioning anxiety:
1/ You have uncontrollable anxiety (but nobody else knows).
Chances are high that you work hard every day to cope with your anxiety. You use breathing exercises, affirmations, meditation, yoga, tai chi… you name it, you’re trying it out and practicing regularly to try to keep everything under control. And whilst your mind is still reeling and your pulse is beating overly fast, you are outwardly cool and calm. No one else has any idea of the efforts you make to get through each day without melting down.
2/ You are a perfectionist.
Some hear the word “perfectionist” as a compliment but it really isn’t. A perfectionist doesn’t do everything better than everyone else. They just worry, obsess and torture themselves with details that are otherwise unimportant and do nothing more than cause high levels of stress.
3/ You worry excessively.
Worrying is a normal part of life, but if your level of worrying becomes disproportionate to events and situations, then you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. And if worrying is a big part of your day and is severely affecting your life, you may need to consider getting help. Psychotherapists stipulate that if your anxious state of mind lasts for more than fifteen days a month for more than six months of the year, it could be classed as a generalized anxiety disorder. This would then warrant professional medical assistance.
4/ You have trouble falling or staying asleep.
Anxiety can often manifest as an inability to fall asleep, your mind racing and heart pumping as you go over everything that has ever given you reason to worry, in the past, present and future. Or perhaps you fall asleep quickly but wake a few short hours later, sweating and worrying and unable to get back to sleep. Guided meditations found freely on the Internet can greatly ease this type of anxiety-provoked insomnia. Easing you back into a refreshing sleep and thus helping you feel more relaxed and in control the following day.
5/ You can’t concentrate.
Anxiety takes a toll on concentration, making us more likely to have problems with working, studying and memory. Worrying actually takes up a lot of energy and while the brain is busy with this, in the background or the foreground, it has trouble focusing on the here and now. You may find yourself re-reading a page in a book because you’re distracted by preoccupations and worries, both real and imagined. The regular practice of mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and increase concentration.
6/ You suffer from constant negative self-talk.
Although it can be said that we’re all our own worst critic, those with high levels of anxiety often have a continual and steadily worsening stream of negative self-talk. This is sometimes known as our inner critic. Simply noticing this self-talk and using positive affirmations can go a long way to quietening and slowly silencing this form of self-destruction.
7/ You have physical pain.
Stress, anxiety and chronic tension can be the cause of ongoing physical pain such as neck, shoulder and back pain, or digestive distress such as IBS, nausea and acid reflux. Meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, and massage can all help relieve these physical manifestations of mental stress.
8/ You can’t relax.
It’s the weekend, you kick back with a drink and a movie. And yet that gnawing feeling of restlessness just won’t go away. You constantly want to get up and do things… anything, just to find some relief from the tension. Whilst relaxation techniques such as breathing, meditating and yoga will help, you may also find that active hobbies will give you some respite. Almost any sport can be a great choice, as can walking by water or in nature. These activities can release tension, burn off frustration and leave your mind considerably more relaxed afterward.
9/ You’re irritable and impatient.
Living with anxiety means living with a low tolerance for stress. So you’ll find that small things will trigger irritability and test your patience. Even low levels of anxiety can produce stress hormones that will mean you have general tension in your body as well as your mind. This is tiring on your whole system, making your tolerance a lot lower than a person with normal levels of anxiety. Deep breathing exercises can relieve the irritability and impatience, calming the mind and relaxing the muscles of the body.
10/ You seek reassurance from others.
You look to others for reassurance that your worries are unfounded, that your fears are irrational. When you are so inside your head that you can’t see the logical light of day, a trusted friend or family member can help by telling you how things really are, rather than how bad you fear them to be.
Remember that most of us worry from time to time and some of us worry a lot of the time. Each personality has its own patterns, its own triggers for tension, stress, and anxiety. But if you are suffering from on-going and overwhelming anxiety that is affecting your day-to-day life, you may be suffering from high-functioning anxiety. Whilst self-help can be very effective, you may need to also seek professional medical advice.
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