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Self-Care and High-Functioning Anxiety: Taking Care of You For Once

high functioning anxiety

Self-care does not mean you are eating while being productive at the same time... Find out why...

Hey there, amazing soul. If you're someone with high-functioning anxiety, you're probably used to the hustle: always moving, always planning, often being that pillar for everyone. But today, let's take a gentle pause and focus on you. Yes, just YOU. Because beneath that constant motion and endless to-do lists, you, my dear, deserve care and nurturing.

Quick! What is high functioning anxiety? I have heard others mention this…

High-functioning anxiety isn't a recognized medical diagnosis, but it's a term often used in popular culture to describe individuals who live with anxiety but can function reasonably well in various aspects of life. It's the paradox of appearing successful on the outside while internally dealing with significant anxiety, like freaking out on the inside while remaining cool and collected on the outside.

Characteristics of High-Functioning Anxiety:

  • Perfectionism: A constant need to perform flawlessly and meet exceedingly high standards, fearing mistakes or judgment.

  • Overthinking: Continually analyzing decisions, conversations, and situations, worrying about potential outcomes.

  • Restlessness: A sense of unease, even when there's no apparent cause for concern.

  • Busy-ness: Feeling the need to always be engaged in an activity or task, finding it hard to relax or take downtime.

  • Need for Validation: Seeking continuous affirmation from others to confirm self-worth.

  • Physical Symptoms: Examples include stomachaches, headaches, or muscle tension, even if subtle.

  • Sleep Difficulties: Struggling to fall or stay asleep due to racing thoughts.

  • Procrastination: Fearing failure or judgment to the point of delaying tasks.

  • Over-preparation: Going above and beyond, preparing excessively for meetings, events, or tasks to mitigate fear of unforeseen problems.

  • Avoidance of Certain Situations: Steering clear of scenarios that may trigger anxious feelings, even if they're seemingly mundane.

  • Multi-tasking: You feel the need to do many things at once to accomplish more. Like the image in this blog, eating while working is not self-care. Eating is essential and you are distracted while doing it. Multi-tasking does not give quality, it gives quantity with less than desired quality.

Why It Might Be Overlooked:

Many people with high-functioning anxiety appear successful, driven, and on top of their tasks. Their achievements often mask their internal struggles, making it harder for others to recognize or understand the depths of their anxiety. This exterior of competence can also lead individuals to believe they don't "qualify" for help, or they may feel guilt about their internal battles since they can "manage" daily tasks.

Okay… let’s get back on track with self-care.

Why is self-care important?

Self-care isn’t just an indulgence; it's essential. It’s “refilling your cup”. With high-functioning anxiety, your brain is constantly on overdrive. Like a car engine running without a break, without proper maintenance, it's bound to overheat. By practicing self-care, you’re giving your mind the necessary 'cool-down' time, the necessary maintenance for you… I know, it would be easier if we all came with a dashboard that had a “check engine light” or more like “self-care is low” light.. Self-care replenishes your mental reserves, reduces the risk of burnout, and fosters a healthy relationship with oneself.

Warning Signs of Slipping Self-Care:

  • Sleep Pattern Changes: Too much or too little sleep, or constant feelings of fatigue.

  • Decreased Motivation: Tasks that used to excite you now feel like burdens. You may find that tasks that take a few minutes are daunting and take more time to initiate.

  • Decreased Energy: It may not be a matter of motivation but more about the energy you have to give. This can happen when you have depleted your energy sources, meaning physically, emotionally, or even mentally drained.

  • Physical Manifestations: Frequent headaches, clenched jaw, shrugged shoulders, “brain fog”, stomach issues, or unexplained aches.

  • Irritability: Snapping at loved ones or having a short temper.

  • Blunted Mood: You may notice that you are not irritable but feeling blunted with your emotions. You have spent your reserve when it comes to the tasks or others you have been putting before yourself.

  • Neglecting Passions: Setting aside hobbies or activities you once loved.

Myths About Self-Care:

  • It’s Selfish: Taking time for oneself isn’t selfish; it ensures you’re the best version of yourself for everyone. You want to show up for others and responsibilities at 100% at all times…. Why not do that for yourself? I know, 100% is a large ask right away, we can get there.

  • It's All About Spa Days: While pampering is great, self-care encompasses mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

  • No Time Means No Self-Care: Even 5 minutes can be transformative. It’s quality, not always quantity.

  • Self-Care Has To Be Productive: Nope, nope, nope. Self-care is different for everyone and will be different for you at times too. Just because you are sitting watching your favorite show does not mean you are not taking care of yourself. Self-care is not a productive tasks, it is meant to be a time to recoup, recharge. You don’t consider your phone being “productive” when it is recharging, it is doing something that it needs to do in order to function. Same goes for you.

  • It’s Expensive: Some of the most effective self-care practices are free! Maybe you prefer a spa day or a coffee, but your self-care is up to you to define.

Incorporating Self-Care:

  • Schedule It: Make it non-negotiable. Mark it in your calendar.

  • Start Small: Even a 5-minute meditation or a brief walk can be impactful. Set up your self-care by putting your phone away, you do not have to respond for 5 minutes to someone.

  • Digital Detox: Allocate specific times to disconnect from screens. Sometimes even moving an app that takes alot of your energy away, move to your second screen so it helps break the habit of always clicking on it.

  • Learn to Say No: It’s okay to prioritize your well-being over other demands. Yes, FOMO is real, but would you rather be present and able to enjoy the activity or push through and be exhausted? Sometimes taking just 1 thing off our plate makes a world of difference.

  • Finding the Right Self-Care for You…

    • Experiment -Not everything works for everyone and consistently. It’s okay to try and discard methods. You will find new things over time and replace other self-care things.

    • Reflect - Consider times you felt most relaxed or rejuvenated. What were you doing?

    • Consult - Friends, family, or professionals can offer insights.

15 Examples of Self-Care:

  • Reading a comforting book.

  • Journaling your feelings and thoughts.

  • Nature walks to breathe in the fresh air - notice the weather, what the season has brought to the environment, are there new and refreshing smells, what do you hear on your walk…

  • Mindful meditation.

  • Physical Activity: Be it dancing, yoga, or a gym session.

  • Cooking/Baking a favorite meal.

  • Creative expression: Painting, drawing, crafting.

  • Listening to your favorite music - create a playlist that you can click whenever you need that self-care time

  • Warm Baths with calming scents.

  • Deep breathing exercises.

  • Gardening and connecting with the earth.

  • Limiting caffeine or other stimulants - especially if you find it impacting your sleep, even if it is not having caffeine after a certain point of the day.

  • Sleep Routine: Consistent bedtime and wake-up times.

  • Mindful Eating - what does this bite remind you of, what are you enjoying about this bite?

  • Gratitude Journaling.

How Can a Therapist Help With Self-Care?

Therapists aren’t just there for crisis moments; they're wonderful supports for your mental well-being. They offer tailored advice based on your needs, challenges, and patterns. They can help identify self-care methods that resonate with you, provide tools and strategies for better mental balance, and offer an empathetic ear when things get tough.

Self-care isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. So, take that well-deserved break. Breathe. Reset. And if you ever feel overwhelmed, know there are hands waiting to hold yours and walk you through.

Looking for a therapist to help with anxiety and with better self-care tools? Discover the convenience of online therapy with Better Minds Counseling & Services. We specialize in assisting adults with anxiety through our virtual mental health solutions. Brittany Webb, LPC CCATP, a certified clinical anxiety treatment expert and licensed professional counselor, is ready to help you enhance your self-care toolbox! Schedule your free introductory session with her today!

Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.


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