My “Stress” Was Actually High-Functioning Anxiety


“Anxiety
is
like
a
rocking
chair.
It
gives
you
something
to
do,
but
it
doesn’t
get
you
very
far.”
~Jodi
Picoult

Many
years
ago,
I
worked
in
the
technology
sector
in
Austin,
Texas,
which
is
a
big
“tech
town.”
I
was
incredibly
focused
on
building
my
career
and
earning
a
higher
and
higher
salary.

I
also
have
two
daughters,
who
were
in
elementary
school
at
the
time.
I’m
divorced
and
am
the
primary
care
giver
for
them.
Like
so
many
divorced
moms,
I
was
doing

a
lot
.

I
would
run
through
a
mental
list
of
daily
to-dos
from
the
time
I
woke
up
and
continue
to
do
so
throughout
the
day.
I
didn’t
want
to
forget
anything.
I
was
juggling
home
life,
work
life,
and
trying
to
have
a
personal
life
too.

Overwhelmed?
You
bet
I
was.

I
frequently
felt
like
I
was
rushing
from
one
thing
to
the
next,
all
day
long.
Rush
to
get
the
kids
and
myself
out
the
door
in
the
morning.
Rush
to
work.

At
work,
I
would
be
focused
on
getting
everything
done
so
I
could
be
out
the
door
in
time
to
get
home
to
make
dinner
and
help
with
homework.
I
usually
also
had
some
sort
of
housework
to
do
in
the
evening.

I
rushed
to
get
my
daughters
to
bed
on
time
and
hoped
I
would
have
enough
time
for
some
“me
time”
so
I
could
actually
relax
and
have
some
quiet
time
before
bed.

But,
I’d
already
be
thinking
about
the
list
of
things
I
had
to
do
the
next
day,
and
the
cycle
would
start
all
over
again.

What
I
thought
I
felt
was
stress.
We
all
hear
the
phrase
“I’m
so
stressed
out,”
particularly
when
we
have
a
lot
going
on.
That
described
me
perfectly.
I
was
constantly
busy,
so
I
was
constantly
stressed.

Or
so
I
thought.

What
I
actually
was
suffering
from
was
high-functioning
anxiety.


High-functioning
anxiety
isn’t
a
specific
type
of
anxiety,
but
rather
a
term
that
refers
to
anxiety
where
the
individual
is
still
highly
functioning,
with
the
anxiety
“just
below
the
surface.” 

Think
of
high-functioning
anxiety
as
hidden
anxiety,
where
others
may
not
realize
someone
has
anxiety
at
all.

Individuals
with
high-functioning
anxiety
are
often
very
successful
and
tend
to
be
high
achievers.
Their
anxiety
doesn’t
prohibit
them
from
accomplishments.
In
fact,
their
anxiety
may
be
part
of
the
reason
they
are
successful.

Their
anxiety
drives
them
to
do
more
in
both
their
personal
and
professional
life.
To
outsiders,
they
will
appear
put-together,
competent,
and
often
appear
calm.

But
on
the
inside,
those
with
high-functioning
anxiety
spend
a
lot
of
time
overthinking
and
ruminating.
They
are
afraid
of
failure
and
worry
about
what
others
think
of
them.

This
described
me
perfectly.

I
had
never
heard
of
high-functioning
anxiety
and
had
a
perception
of
those
with
anxiety
as
people
who
are
fearful,
wide-eyed,
and
maybe
even
shaky
or
jittery.
I
thought
that
people
with
anxiety
couldn’t
function
“normally”
and
that
their
anxiety
would
perhaps
even
be
debilitating.

I
didn’t
think
that
anxiety
applied
to
me
at
all.

But
I
am
high-achieving
and
successful,
and
anxiety
is
a
big
part
of
what
got
me
to
where
I
was
at
that
point
in
my
life.
I
didn’t
realize
that
I
had
anxiety,
and
no
one
else
would
have
either.


That
constant
mental
to-do
list
I
mentioned?
That
was
me
overthinking.
And
it
wasn’t
just
my
daily
to-do
list
that
I
was
overthinking,
it
was
everything.

I
overthought
regarding
my
daughters
and
their
school
work.
I
overthought
about
what
needed
to
be
done
in
terms
of
housework.
I
overthought
about
other
people
and
their
motivations,
why
they
said
specific
things
or
why
they

didn’t
say
things.

My
mind
was
constantly
going,
chattering
away.

I
had
my
sights
set
so
high,
particularly
as
it
pertained
to
my
career,
that
I
was
afraid
of
failure
and
thought
the
mental
obsessions
at
work
were
me
just
“pushing
myself”
or
me
doing
a
good
job.

Truly,
I
thought
that
the
way
I
felt
was
part
of
what
gave
me
my
edge,
and
that
people
I
thought
of
as
less
successful
were
people
who
were
lazy,
or
didn’t
spend
time
thinking
enough
about
how
they
wanted
to
be
and
how
they
wanted
to
get
somewhere
in
life.

The
problem
is
that
those
with
high-functioning
anxiety
are
just
as
at
risk
as
others
with
an
official
mental
health
diagnosis
of
an
anxiety
disorder.
They
are
prone
to
mental
and
physical
fatigue,
and
could
be
likely
to
use
alcohol
or
drugs
as
a
coping
method.

And
I
did
get
mental
and
physical
fatigue.
In
fact,
I
wound
up
developing
a
severe
autoimmune
reaction
that
was
triggered
in
part
by
the
anxiety.
I
had
been
operating
at
a
heightened
state
for
so
long
that
my
body
and
nervous
system
could
no
longer
cope.

My
body
just
“gave
out.”

That
illness
was
a
huge
wake
up
call
for
me
and
led
me
down
a
path
to
healing
myself
that
I
never
could
have
anticipated.
I
took
a
holistic
approach
to
healing
that
included
a
radical
diet
change,
journaling,
and
energy
healing.

I
also
started
to
do
a
lot
less.
I
let
things
go
because
I
had
to.

It
took
me
about
a
year
and
a
half
to
heal
my
body
and
along
the
way,
it
was
my
mind
that
healed
too.

I
started
to
really
assess
who
I
had
been
and
the
path
I
had
been
on,
and
frankly,
how
unhealthy
I
had
been
in
my
mental
churning
and
preoccupations.
I
still
didn’t
realize
that
I
had
been
in
the
throes
of
high-functioning
anxiety
(I
stumbled
upon
the
concept
later),
but
I
did
realize
that
I
didn’t
want
to
be
the
person
that
I
was
before.

I
wanted
to
be
at
peace.


If
you
suspect
that
you
have
high-functioning
anxiety,
know
that
you
can
heal
also.

One
healing
technique
I
often
use,
still
to
this
day,
is
the
“feet
on
the
floor”
method,
which
is
a
very
simplified
but
highly
effective
alternative
to
meditation.
It
can
be
done
either
sitting
or
standing.

With
your
feet
on
the
floor,
focus
on
feeling
your
feet
touching
down.
Feel
your
entire
foot
as
much
as
you
can:
heal,
sole,
ball
of
foot
and
toes.
Still
focusing
on
your
feet,
take
a
few
deep
breaths.

When
you
feel
your
feet
on
the
floor,
you
become
very
present
to
the
moment
and
get
out
of
your
head.
This
technique
brings
you
into
the
moment
and
can
help
calm
you
down,
particularly
when
you
feel
yourself
spiraling
with
racing
thoughts.

Plus,
this
technique
is
super
sneaky.
You
can
do
it
anywhere
and
no
one
knows
you’re
doing
it.
You
can
be
sitting
at
your
desk
at
work,
standing
in
line
at
the
grocery
store,
etc.
and
no
one
around
you
will
have
any
idea
you
are
using
this
technique.

The
more
you
practice
feeling
your
feet
on
the
floor,
the
more
often
you’ll
automatically
do
it
without
having
to
remind
yourself
to
do
it.
Once
you
feel
yourself
start
to
get
anxious,
you’ll
use
the
technique
almost
like
second
nature,
because
you’ve
trained
yourself
to
do
it
and
it
is
so
effective.

Another
way
to
manage
your
high-functioning
anxiety
is
to
make
abstract
art
that
represents
how
you
want
to
feel
instead
of
anxious.

You
don’t
have
to
consider
yourself
an
artist
to
use
this
technique.
A
simple
blank
white
sheet
of
paper
and
some
markers
are
all
that
are
needed.
Just
let
your
hand
flow
with
colors,
shapes,
and
patterns
that
represent
how
you
want
to
feel.
If
you
do
happen
to
be
artistically
inclined,
you
could
draw
a
self-portrait
or
you
in
some
scene
or
setting
where
you
feel
calm
and
joyous.

When
you’re
creating
art,
you’re
accessing
a
totally
different
part
of
your
brain
than
you
use
when
you’re
in
the
midst
of
anxiety.
Being
artistic
is
a
way
for
you
to
tap
into
another
part
of
you
that
is
outside
of
the
anxiety.
Plus,
it
can
be
very
cathartic
to
create.

Use
these
two
techniques
often,
plus
focus
on
making
small
changes
and
know
that
it
will
take
time
to
heal.
You’ll
have
good
days
and
bad
days.
In
working
through
your
anxiety,
focus
on
the
good
feelings
when
you
have
them
and
tell
yourself
that
you
want
more
of
them.

They
will
be
your
anchor.

About

Heather
Rider

Heather
Rider, known
professionally
as
The
Energy
Synergist,
is
an
anxiety
specialist.
She is
a
former
overworked,
overstressed
perfectionist.
While
working
in
the
Austin
high
tech
industry,
she
developed
a
severe
autoimmune
reaction
that
was
triggered
in
part
by
high-functioning
anxiety.
She
now
works
with
high-achieving,
high-stress
women
who
are
ready
to
shift
out
of
anxiety
without
the
use
of
pharmaceuticals,
using
nontraditional,
holistic
approaches
to
healing. www.theenergysynergist.com.

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