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The Pain of High-Functioning Anxiety


There are some painfully hidden sides to being a high-functioning anxiety-sufferer, especially at work. Check the following and check off boxes in your head for some familiarities to your behaviors.


    • High-achieving

    • Proactive 

    • Social 

    • Ability to appear calm 

    • Always meets or exceeds deadlines 

    • Highly organized 

    • Hard worker 

If you nodded your head to any of the above, you may have even done so with a smile on your face. It’s easy to take a glance at that list and see it as a stack of attributes and sought-after qualities. Something to be admired. Well, I’m not saying it’s not admirable, but I am concerned when I hear people list those qualities because there are two sides to every coin and the other side to that coin usually looks something like this.

    • Fear of failure and judgment 

    • Perfectionist tendencies 

    • Self-critical 

    • Racing thoughts 

    • Often exhausted 

    • Afraid to let others down 

    • Procrastinate when stressed 

Suddenly that first list doesn’t look so glamorous, does it? These are the signs of someone with high-functioning anxiety. Actions are often dictated by anxiety and this can lead to overloading your schedule at work and in your social life. You chance running yourself into the ground because you are so exhausted from saying yes to almost everything, worry about other people’s judgements, and bottling up how you really feel. 

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    High high hopes 

    Sing it with me, “had to have high, high hopes for a living”…ok but seriously, high functioners tend to have very high hopes. This can bring on a lot of pressure, stress and unhappiness. If you suffer from anxiety, speak with a therapist. They can help diagnose any anxiety disorders. If needed, they can also prescribe medication that will help you to lead a more normal life in addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment.

    Aside from therapy and medication, there are other ways to quell your anxiety that you can do right now from the comfort of your home or office.


    When you feel anxiety come on, your senses heighten, your heart races, you may begin to perspire. These are indications you need to take a minute to slow down. Take a few deep breathes, with your eyes closed if possible. After 3 or more, take some time to think about what it is that’s got your anxiety on the rise. Perhaps it’s a work deadline or a confrontation with a coworker. Maybe it’s about a presentation, or you had an unpleasant meeting with your boss.

    Sit with it 

    Wherever the emotion is stemming from, take the time to acknowledge it and accept that you feel this way. Tapping into self-awareness and mindfulness skills will serve you well when anxiety feels like a wave crashing over you. Use a grounding affirmation to bring yourself to the present such as saying, “I am grounded,” “I am present,” or “I am calm.”

    What can you change?

    Ask yourself if there is something you can do or change in this present moment. This may not always be possible, but it doesn’t have to be solving the problem itself. For example, if you are worried about a project deadline and realize you have not eaten because you worked through lunch, take time to care for yourself. Take a break. Go for a walk. Eat. Drink water. Meditate. This will allow you to become more present and get back to the problem in a calm manner.

    Distract yourself 

    If you have done all you can about the thing that is making you anxious, another helpful technique is engaging in a healthy distraction. Take some time to remove yourself from your current situation by doing one of the following.

    • Catching up with a friend
    • Exercising
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Reading
    • Journaling
    • Listening to music
    • Watch a funny movie
    • Do something creative
    • Clean or organize

    Long term

    Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the best ways to deal with anxiety long-term. Some helpful suggestions would be to list out the things that make you anxious, and the specific type of anxiety you experience associated with them. For example, maybe giving a presentation at work leads you to feel judged. The more aware you are of your triggers and emotions, the better adept you will be at handling them in the future.


    If you struggle with anxious, self-critical, racing thoughts and consider yourself an overthinker then don’t worry..I’ve got you…Check out The Overthinking Toolkit.

    Is Your Overthinking Sabotaging Your Success?

    Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success you know you deserve.

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    Take the quiz!

    Is Your Overthinking Sabotaging Your Success?

    Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success you know you deserve.


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    Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success (you know) you deserve.