High-functioning anxiety is not a recognised mental health diagnosis; rather, it is a term that refers to people living with anxiety, explains Tanya Woolf
The mental health fallout of the pandemic will be seen for many years to come. Employers and employees around the world have undergone a huge shift in daily life – so much so that, in any given week in England, 1 in 6 people is reported to be experiencing a common mental health condition like anxiety or depression.
To be a high-functioning person with anxiety means you have frequent intense, excessive and persistent worry about everyday situations while on the outside, you appear calm. On the surface, you are successful and put together – excelling in both your work and personal life. However, the reality is that the way you feel on the inside may be vastly different.
The main characteristics of high-functioning anxiety include worry, fear, overthinking and overanalysing, which can negatively impact a person’s life. For some, this can be debilitating, and simple tasks or events can now seem much more significant, causing stress and discomfort.
High-functioning anxiety can negatively leak into your work life and personal relationships. However, it’s true to say that there are positive traits of people with high-functioning anxiety, including being high-achieving, organised and driven.
Top Tips to Help Employees Manage Their Anxiety
A problem shared is a problem halved
Identify close friends or family to confide in about how anxiety is impacting your life. For people who are high-functioning, the anxiety is not always obvious, so loved ones may miss the subtle signs. Speaking openly, without fear of being judged, can help massively, and will increase feelings of acceptance. You never know; your loved one could be going through the same thing.
Recognise the symptoms
A good way of coping with high anxiety levels is to be fully aware of the triggers and symptoms. Understanding that these actions aren’t justified is the first step to overcoming them. Feelings of anxiety and panic tend to interfere with day-to-day life, making regular activities challenging to control. It’s important to recognise the instances where anxiety levels are heightened so you can start to work through them. Problem solve what you can and leave the rest aside.
Physical activity has an extremely positive impact on mental health. Exercise can boost happy chemicals in your body, improve sleep and fuel energy. Participate in activities you enjoy and try to go to social events. This activity improves mental health by increasing your sense of achievement, closeness to other people and enjoyment. A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with staying active, so it’s important to live by a good diet. Practices like meditation or yoga may help those suffering from anxiety disorders, as they can bring a sense of calmness and a clearer state of mind.
Law of attraction
Engaging with anxiety symptoms can be a tough habit to break, and the more energy you give it, the harder it can be to break the habit. People can start to change the way they think and perceive these anxious thoughts, therefore reducing the control these thoughts have over them. Try not to focus on worries that are not productive. We often think we’re problem-solving when all we are doing is tormenting ourselves with “what if” worst-case scenarios. Instead, focus on things you can change constructively and that are more worthwhile.
Take small steps
Someone with high-functioning anxiety won’t necessarily feel less anxious overnight. Employees can be encouraged to lay out realistic milestones or goals for the future, no matter the size, and work towards those. Employees can find support from colleagues and managers who may feel the same, and together, they can work towards a calmer, less anxious life.
Ask for help
High-functioning anxiety responds very well to targeted therapy and other appropriate interventions – primarily CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), but treatment also occasionally includes limited use of medications. While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, CBT therapists can provide remote therapy sessions in the comfort of your home via telephone or digital channels.