July 13 2021
Ryan Mundy on the Importance of Mental Health
You did it – you finally landed the job, bought the house, or met a goal you’ve been working towards. Things feel like they’re falling into place. But then it hits you, you need more. The recent accomplishment was enough for a split second, and now it’s on to the next. You wonder, “did I even deserve the job? What if I lose my job and can’t afford my house?” This constant worry and judgement is a burden.
This feels like second nature to many. But when we fixate on the possible negative outcome, we devalue the present moment. And if we have trouble accepting our accomplishments, we run the risk of a lack of fulfillment with who we are and what we have. This repetitive thought process can lead to high functioning anxiety.
We spoke with therapist Paul B. Williams, LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) on how we can identify and manage high functioning anxiety.
The definition of anxiety according to the American Psychological Association is, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
“High functioning anxiety is the anxiety that pushes and paralyzes you at the same time. It’s like running off of a battery that won’t stop,” says Williams. “That battery is fueled by the cognitive distortions that are telling you that you aren’t enough, you’re going to fail, or that there is always more to do.”
There are many reasons this can develop; demanding parents, traumatic childhood experiences, imposter syndrome or even a highly stressful job.
For a lot of us, success can feel like the only option. We are programmed that way. But despite the success, if we go through life burdened with worry, we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our work, and those around us.
Here are some indicators of how you may feel vs. how others view you if you suffer from high functioning anxiety:
What you’re managing:
Fear of failing
Inability or struggles to say no
Trouble resting and slowing down
Their view of you:
Clutch/performs under pressure
Always available and helpful
Precise and detail oriented
If we are used to consistently feeling this way it may not occur to us how mentally unhealthy this is. And while it is not bad to be a hard worker or loyal, we can’t ignore the fact that we have a tendency to glorify when we overwork ourselves – which will almost certainly lead to burnout.
“The important thing about anxiety, and especially high functioning anxiety, is acknowledgement of triggers and symptoms. Once that is acknowledged, addressing and managing it is more achievable,” says Williams.
Once we understand our triggers we will be in a much better position to handle our feelings. Every accomplishment is worth a celebration. And when we take our success as a consistent level to overcome, we allow our anxiety to overshadow our capabilities.
“Having high functioning anxiety can paralyze you from realizing how well you’re doing and prevent you from staying present,” says Williams. “Psychotherapy with a therapist who understands your symptoms and treats them to normalize your trauma response, is important to your management.”
Take a moment to be proud of yourself today. The Black community has almost everything stacked against it and still manages to be one of the most influential groups on the planet. Imagine the possibilities when we get our collective mind right.
Give yourself a moment to breathe and revel in all that you have done. As Williams said, we can’t run off a battery that won’t stop.
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