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Healed & Whole. In Mind, Body, and Soul

my authentic me May 24, 2021

May is mental health awareness month.  If this past year has taught us anything it is to pay attention to the importance of good mental health.  It usually comes as a shock to others when I tell them I have suffered from high functioning social anxiety my entire life. Their responses are normally “you look so care free/relaxed, you do not act like you are anxious, or you seem like such an extrovert.”  These statements are true.  However what you do not see is the battle raging on in my mind. 

What Does "High Functioning" Mean?

Hearing "high functioning" may make it sound almost as though this kind of anxiety is a good thing, that it somehow makes it easier to do things or be successful. That's not quite right.

When "Functioning" or "high functioning" is included in a diagnosis or the name of a condition, it relays information about the kinds of people that have it and the ways in which it impacts their day-to-day lives. People with these conditions are not prevented from achieving great things and the condition may be at least in part because of the great things that they are able to achieve. This does not mean that they don't have problems and it certainly doesn't mean that the condition is the cause of their success.

Individuals with high functioning anxiety may not experience anxiety attacks or may not experience them in the traditional way. The kinds of anxiety attacks experienced by people with high functioning anxiety have been called “silent anxiety attacks.” Anxiety attacks of this kind may not include the physical symptoms like shortness of breath but do include the emotional symptoms like feelings of loss of control.

In the person with high functioning anxiety, this fear can drive them to always work or always work harder. As a result, they may experience success in their professional lives but don't have time or energy left over to maintain healthy relationships or to take care of their own physical or emotional health.

I am sharing a portion of my story to make others aware that you cannot always see those suffering from mental disorders.  It is time we stop putting a stereotype on what mental health looks like.  It is time we start educating ourselves and checking up on those around us.  Stop labeling and start helping to heal and treat individuals  that are suffering. 

Below is a list of some signs/symptoms of high functioning anxiety:

  1. People-pleasing in order to create an environment that makes me feel safe and less anxious
  2. I endure long periods of hard work, then experience burnout, then I procrastinate
  3. I overthink that I am not doing “enough” or I fear failure
  4. Poor sleep—I don’t sleep enough hours, I wake up and cannot seem to get back to sleep, or I have trouble falling asleep
  5. Racing thoughts that make it difficult to relax
  6. Overly busy due to fear of saying no
  7. I use alcohol and substances to cope
  8. My anxiety, not ambition, is driving me to complete tasks
  9. I seem like I have it together, but internally, I am struggling
  10. When my routine gets disrupted, I get upset

If this sounds like you or someone you know I am proof that there is hope. You can become whole and healed. The good news for high-functioning anxiety sufferers is that things can be turned around in a hurry. By making some changes in the way they think and behave, they can soon bridge the gap that separates them from a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. 

To help control their anxiety and restore their freedom and peace of mind, people with high-functioning anxiety should:

  1. Learn to recognize their symptoms for what they are. Anxiety loses some of its hold when sufferers put it in the proper perspective. Recognizing anxious reactions as illogical and unreasonable is the first step to overcoming them.
  2. Refuse to engage their anxious thoughts. Anxiety tends to get worse when it’s resisted or denied. Acknowledging it is not the same thing as giving in to it, and anxiety sufferers who can perceive their anxious responses as optional will begin to assert control over their actions and reactions.
  3. Act before (over)thinking. Too often anxiety sufferers talk themselves out of going with their first instinct. No one should be thoughtlessly impulsive, but when something feels right anxiety sufferers should try doing it or saying it without excessive reflection, and over time that approach can become the new normal.
  4. Embrace a healthy lifestyle. Good diet, regular exercise, and other healthy practices like meditation, yoga, or immersion in nature can help anxiety sufferers find a calmer state of mind and improve their self-esteem.
  5. Find trustworthy confidantes. Finding people they can share their thoughts and feelings with, openly and without restriction, can help lift their burden while proving that others will accept them despite their flaws and frailties. Having even one person to confide in can help enormously, and loved ones are usually happy to fill that role.
  6. Remember that little successes add up to big changes. People with high-functioning anxiety are already participating in the world, and that gives them endless opportunities to score small victories in their fight to overcome anxiety. Anytime anxiety is overcome it will be helpful—over time those small triumphs will lead to real, sustainable progress.
  7. Ask for help, and accept it. Mental health professionals can help high-functioning anxiety sufferers understand themselves and change their relationship with anxiety, and people who suffer from it can enjoy significant improvement in their symptoms if they put a real effort into recovery.

Again, I am sharing this because I know I am not alone in the struggle to find healing for my mental health.  I started implementing these (and other) techniques during this last year and I can truly say that I look forward to being around others.  Situations that once paralyzed me with feelings of anxiousness and fear, now I embrace and thrive in. Where I once kept shut away from others, I now need/desire the company of friends and family. I no longer worry or ponder over every scenario when I step out into the world. I am relaxed and can just be me.

During my progress of healing I saw improvement in all areas of my life.  It was like if my mind was right I felt better in my body and soul. They all were connected.  I have come to truly believe that good health starts in the mind.  When we are able to heal our minds, then we can heal our souls and bodies as well.  So today I can say I am healed and whole in my mind, body, and soul.  








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