Why you’re forever anxious even though you’re highly functional
And how to get rid of all that anxiety without enslaving yourself to medication
High-functioning anxiety looks like…
Constantly trying to hold everything together but constantly feeling like you’re making everything worse.
From the outside looking in…
You look normal like everyone else, just living your life.
But the truth…
On the inside, you are at war. Suffering from never ending cycles of nail-biting anxiety.
Though, you manage to function well enough as a doctor, professor, teacher or manager, it’s taking brain clamping energy and willpower to survive each day.
Because inside, you constantly feel like a fraud…
So you pretend. You put in late hours with a smile. Trying your best to stick to the high standards you believe everyone has for you.
Your heart is palpitating dramatically, leaving you on the verge of tears.
High functioning anxiety feels like a roller coaster you can never get off.
Because you tell yourself this is the only way to be strong.
You tell yourself that you’re just overreacting, there’s nothing wrong with you, Just get your sh***t together
But, can I be honest with you for a second…
Your struggle isn’t just in your head!
High functioning anxiety is a real condition.
It’s defining factor is that…
- You experience low level to disturbing levels of anxiety on a daily basis.
- You become an expert at pretending that you are coping with life
- You often push through your responsibilities even when doing this is killing you.
- You’re terrified that people will see through the cracks and find out who you really are.
And from my professional experience, high functioning anxiety often tags along with a number of other conditions like…
Low self-esteem, perfectionism, social anxiety, depression,PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, ADD, ADHD, agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, MS and ME.
Now this is important…
As someone who struggled with high functioning anxiety because of my social phobia, I can tell you that it’s a serious problem.
Because if you give high functioning anxiety a free reign in your life…
It will ruin everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It will ruin your relationships, it will ruin your career. It will wear you out and leave you with so many physical and emotional health problems. Eventually making it impossible to function at all.
And now you’re thinking…
So, what do I do to avoid this impending doom?
Fortunately, there’s a solution…
You see to start coping better emotionally with high functioning anxiety…
You must tap into something neuroscientists have called neuroplasticity.
This is simply the fastest and only way to break out of the negative roller coaster of anxiety.
But what does neuroplasticity really mean?
How to 10X your ability to cope better emotionally (Backed by the science of neuroplasticity)
Neuroplasticity simply means plastic neurons or mouldable brain cells. The term was first coined by a neuroscientist called Jerzy Kornorski in 1948.
You see, prior to this discovery, the popular theory was that once our brain fully develops, it became an unchangeable structure. They believed development stopped somewhere around age 38.
Now, science has revealed many evidence that the brain is always developing. And the changes to its structure continues right up until old age.
These changes occur as you interact with the world around you. Your brain cells connect together to form neural pathways as you think, act and get exposed to situations.
Thicker neural pathways result in automated thinking and behavioural patterns. And the automated behavioural patterns contribute to our habits and personality traits.
Mark plans and structures everything in his life in order to avoid mistakes. Now he feels jittery and vulnerable inside all the time. And he wonders why he can’t stop doubting himself. But never links this sense of weakness to his reliance on structure.
Essentially, the stubborn weaknesses you see in yourself have only become hard to break because of repeated use.
That’s why they have become automated.
It’s got nothing to do with you being too weak to change.
And here’s the great news!
The GOOD NEWS of neuroplasticity is that your neural pathways are not set in stone.
You can reverse any neural pathway. And gain freedom from those stubborn weaknesses for good.
The trick is to work on reversing the correct neural pathways. and do this repeatedly.
This is the most important point of this article so it bears repeating.
To start coping better emotionally, your efforts must be repeated. And your efforts must address the correct neural pathways.
And the crucial benefits of this is that…
You can build yourself a better stronger brain so you don’t keep feeling like a nervous wreck.
You can build a brain that helps you feel more in control of yourself.
You can build a brain that helps you become emotionally resilient.
And you won’t have to keep up the facade that you are coping anymore because you’ll actually be coping.
But to show that I am not just talking rubbish…
Watch this true-life testimonial of a lady who achieved remarkable changes in her life by working with her neural pathways.
As you watch, look out for how she discovered the correct neuropathways for her problems. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised and encouraged.
Then I will walk you through how to use neuroplasticity to conquer anxiety problems.
Video: How this woman literally changed her brain using neuroplasticity
Amazing, isn’t it? Seems almost like a miracle.
How can you harness the power of neuroplasticity to win your personal battles against anxiety?
And how do you know what the correct neuro pathways are?
I will be revealing that in a moment…
First I’d like to highlight 5 huge mistakes that will turn neuroplasticity into a powerhouse against you.
These mistakes will drown you in a sea of self-destructive thoughts and habits. And turn you into a revolving therapy slave for years.
Here are 5 costly mistakes that could cripple you emotionally when struggling with high functioning anxiety.
Mistake 1: The false safety trap
Do you get those “almost healthy me days?”
For days, weeks, or even few months, you feel like your anxiety’s better.
You still sense that low buzz of anxiety, but you feel stronger in yourself. You are able to function better because your internal uneasiness is not as debilitating.
Then you make the mistake that so many people make.
“If I keep asking for help whilst I am clearly not so bad, people will think I am faking it. “
So you get on with your life, doing your best to ignore anxiety.
You sack your therapist and ditch those annoying anxiety techniques you picked up on the web.
But the question is. Are you really better?
This is an insidious trap…
Because like most people discover, one-day anxiety will attack you again out of the blue.
The anxiety attack may be because you got promoted, so you’re traumatized by multiple unknowns that threaten to expose you.
Or the anxiety attack may be for no rhyme or reason. You just wake up and that horrible twisting feeling in your gut is there again.
But there’s an even bigger trap here.
You’ll never overcome anxiety problems.
Not because you are weak.
And not because strategies don’t work.
But because your “almost healthy me days” stop you from practising any strategy consistently enough to master them.
And the result…
Neuroplasticity feeds off this cycle, forging your anxiety into a persistent bully overshadowing your existence for life.
Mistake 2: The commitment trap
“I need to try harder to overcome my weaknesses… Because weaknesses will hold you back if you don’t overcome them.”
Clara, a 2nd-year university student told me,
She reeled out her weaknesses.
“Repeatedly getting into problems with friends because I always avoid confrontations. When someone says something bad about me, I never stick up for myself. So, lots of people take advantage of me and treat me like rubbish. But still, I never do anything about it.And I am forever thinking about how I am not doing well enough with my studies.
I understand that thinking situations are going to take a turn for the worse is not going to make anything better. But my understanding this doesn’t seem to help me change my bad thinking habits.”
Like many people, Clara’s attempts to cope better became frustrating and energy draining.
Nothing changed no matter how hard she tried.
But then we noticed something rather bizarre…
When we dug deeper into Clara’s attempts at coping, we discovered she was committed to using the same strategies in the same ways. Even though they were not working.
She consistently used breathing techniques. She always had mints in her bag. She ran a lot, wrote endless lists, planned everything she did.
Despite all this, she could not stop over worrying. She could not stop feeling vulnerable. She could not stop thinking she wasn’t good enough.
Why was Clara sticking with strategies that were not working?
Here’s what we discovered…
The strategies gave her some relief. They made her life bearable so she religiously relied on them.
Unfortunately, these solutions only offered temporary benefits. Because they worked like putting a small plaster over a leg fracture. The roots of her anxiety remained untouched. As such her feelings of dread always returned.
Now here’s the more important question…
Are you making a similar mistake?
Because, If in spite of screaming at yourself to toughen up. And in spite of all the breathing techniques, mindfulness, yoga or anxiety medications you rely on…
You still get bombarded by uncontrollable internal panic.
Could this be because you have fallen for the commitment trap too?
Because, If your strategies don’t tackle the roots of your anxiety issues, anxiety will eat it’s way into the core of your personality, ruining everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Mistake 3: The serial dater’s trap
It sounds strange. Here’s the connection.
Do you often feel like you’ve tried everything to cope better emotionally, but nothing works?
If you do, there’s a high chance you have fallen for the serial dater’s trap. This trap makes people fall into a pattern I call STRATEGY HOPPING.
like a cheating boyfriend hopping from girl to girl, never finding satisfaction. You keep hopping from technique to technique never finding emotional freedom.
And just like the serial dater who’s unable to commit and stick through the rocky road of building a strong relationship, You pick a strategy from a self-help book or from therapy, and you try the suggested technique…
Maybe ONCE or TWICE…
Then you give up on the strategy because it’s not giving you the outcome you want immediately.
And then you hop onto another strategy, give that a try….
And on and on it goes…
You fail to commit to any strategy for long enough to see if it works. And you keep following this pattern day after day, week after week, year after year.
I have seen people who have unknowingly followed this pattern for over 50 years.
Imagine living with your anxiety for over 50 years.
But it get’s worse…
The biggest curse of strategy hopping is that you convince yourself that nothing will ever work for you. Neuroplastcity fools you into believing that this pain is the only life you’ll know. And you’ll become totally despondent and suicidal.
Mistake 4: The domino effect trap
Here’s another question…
When a technique fails to work, does this mean that the whole strategy is faulty? Maybe it just works for other people but not you because your situation is different.
Or is it possible that you are just not applying the strategy correctly?
Here’s why I am asking…
You see, any given strategy worth its salt tends to be multi-stepped. As such, you’ve got to be doing the correct things in each step of the strategy.
One strategy for dealing with negative thoughts requires that you go through the following steps:
Step 1: Observe the negative thoughts and predictions you experience.
Step 2: Catalogue the thoughts and predictions.
Step 3: Identify the feelings these thoughts generate
Step 4: Identify the negative reactions and outcomes you have because of these thoughts.
Step 5: Challenge the thoughts and predictions. find the evidence for and against them.
Step 6: Produce rational and functional thought and predictions.
Every step of this strategy is vital. If you do any one of the steps incorrectly, the whole strategy collapses like a pack of dominoes.
So, no matter how long you try this strategy for, you’ll always experience defeat because of that one incorrect step.
Now, assuming that you are following each step of the strategy correctly. The rule of thumb is to try repeatedly at any given strategy for at least 30 days before giving up on it.
Doesn’t that sound like a lot of work?
If you’ve got to master each step of a strategy first and then practice for at least 30 days to get results. Think how many years that would take.
But even more worse is that…
If you’ve got high functioning anxiety, you’ll most likely have to learn and master more than one strategy.
For example, If you’ve got to deal with low self-esteem and confidence issues. And then you’ve got to deal with feeling drained and demotivated all the time. Then you’ve also got to deal with past hurtful memories that keep haunting you.
Gosh! you could be at it for years with no let-up.
Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?
That’s why later, I will be revealing a far simpler and faster approach. This strategy requires you to master only one simple 2 step strategy.
Once you master this 2 step strategy, all you’ll have to do is apply it to the different facets of your anxiety, and you’ll be set.
But before I get to that, here’s the 5th and most dangerous trap in this list of mistakes.
Mistake 5: The emotional weakness trap
If you’ve got high functioning anxiety…
Chances are that this is because society has brainwashed you to focus all your efforts on demolishing your weaknesses.
So, for example, society tells you to…
“Stop being lazy.”
“Stop being so sad and boring.”
“ Stop worrying so much.”
“Stop thinking only about yourself.”
“Stop being so negative.”
“Stop this… Stop that… Stop this… Stop that…”
And you listen to society because you believe that if you can stop doing all those things, you’ll become emotionally stronger.
But in reality, focusing on your weaknesses in this way will skyrocket your stress. Do this and you strengthen the neuro pathways that work against you.
Now you are thinking,
“But Adewale, it’s helpful that you are telling me what not to do. You are still not telling me how to focus my efforts to cope in the right direction, so I can overcome my high functioning anxiety”
Okay… okay. You’ve twisted my arm.
I am going to reveal the solution now.
You’ll tell me I’ve gone crazy.
You simply won’t believe me.
I certainly didn’t believe it when I figured it out myself.
So here is the solution…
The secrete to harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to win your battles against anxiety
The solution to coping emotionally, and gaining control over your anxiety is to…
- Figure out what your strengths are and then…
- Consistently reduce reliance on specific strengths that weaken you emotionally.
I know it sounds wrong, but over the last 20 years…
This is the only strategy that has consistently freed both myself and my clients from a life of anxiety.
However, note that I said specific strengths.
Because while strengths are great, some of your strengths are two-edged swords.
They act like holes in a bucket of water. They sap your energy and overload you with anxiety whilst pretending to help.
But before you tune me out saying..
“This is total bull s&^%t … How can strengths cause anxiety?”
Here are a few examples…
How strengths cripple you with constant anxiety
Example 1: When kindness becomes a pressure cooker!
Alfred is a kind and loving guy. He believed this was a strength because it gave him meaning in life. It meant he avoided being bad and selfish like his dad. Being kind and loving allowed people to perceive him as an approachable person who they could rely on.
However, being kind and loving also put Alfred at risk of people taking advantage of him. It caused him to give too much of himself. Forcing him into a lifestyle that produced a pressure cooker effect. There was just too much on his plate and this resulted in frequent high levels of panic.
Example 2: When order turns you into a nervous wreck!
Avery loves things to be in order because it helped her feel in control. It made things easy to find and helped her to feel less muddled.
However, having order as a strength made Avery massively reliant on order to stop herself feeling disastrous. Disorder made it difficult to think clearly. Disorder became a threat she couldn’t manage. And because life always brings disorder she was always put on edge.
Example 3: When routine makes you fragile
Edison thrives off routine because it helped him feel secure. It was easy to know what’s coming because everything rotated and was expected. And this helped him feel in control of situations.
But the weaker side to routine was that Edison became more vulnerable and less resilient to unexpected situations. And because life was always full of unexpected situations, Edison was always on edge and stressed.
Example 4: When being strong-willed makes you vulnerable!
Faith had to always be strong-willed. This helped her to be self-reliant. It helped her prevent people walking all over her. It protected her from external dangers, from users and abusers.
However, being strong-willed made Faith put herself in dangerous situations because she never wanted to back down. She didn’t want to appear weak. Sadly, this created a greater chance of getting into disagreements, fights and vulnerable situations. And this placed her under constant anxiety.
Example 5: When intelligence triggers a meltdown
Jarrett was good at thinking and analysing things. And this helped him analyse problems and solutions at work giving him an edge over many people. Because he was able to resolve problems fast. He was able to see 10 moves ahead for many of the problems he came across at work.
However, being a deep thinker caused Jarrett to delve too much into things. And this made him put unnecessary pressure on himself all the time. This became his natural way of life so he could never relax as his head was always buzzing with stuff.
Example 6: When good listening skills makes you indecisive
Harley was a good listener. He saw this as a strength because it gave him more knowledge at his workplace and in life. It gave him insight into how other people perceive things. And this helped him be more open to different ways to change himself for the better. He could base his decisions on other people’s experiences and as such avoid mistakes they made. He believed this protected him from possible threats.
However, being a good listener fed into Harley’s anxiety. Because whenever someone hinted on a potential threat, Harley would latch onto this and imagine the worst-case scenario. This strength made him indecisive as he would listen to too many different perspectives and become overwhelmed by all the potential mistakes.
(Not yet convinced? See here for 36 more examples).
Now, here’s why this is all so crucial…
Hack your strengths down to reap a calmer brain!
Can you see the trend?
The trend with all these strengths is that they can all fuel anxiety.
And if you don’t know this, you’ll naturally conclude that your personality is just to be anxious, so you stick with this status quo.
But this is how Neuroplasticity crushes you.
Everything you are doing to survive keeps feeding your anxiety so anxiety becomes a way of life. To the point that you may even start to feel anxious if you don’t feel anxious.
However, if you reduce reliance on these strengths. You’ll find that your anxiety will reduce naturally. And the tension in your body will also dissipate.
Reducing reliance on strengths like these is the secret to working on the correct neuropathways. It’s the secret to breaking free from anxiety problems.
But a word of caution.
As you work at this…
You’ll be bombarded by voices telling you that you’ll never get good at this… Voices telling you that you’ll fail like you always do… Voices telling you that you’re not good enough.
If this happens, please take courage…
Be mindful that beating high functioning anxiety at its game is an extremely complex process.
So, as you work through the process…
You’ll make mistakes. You’ll pick the wrong strengths. You’ll push too far in reducing the strengths. And this might make your anxiety 20 times worse to start with.
The truth though is that…
These early teething problems are essential badges you must earn if you are to ever become a master over your high functioning anxiety.
But, now armed with the knowledge from this article, you can safely navigate yourself through the emotional jungle of high functioning anxiety. Because you now know whether traps are hidden. You know what steps you must take to avoid the nasty traps.
And you know how to fully equip your brain to build better lifestyle habits.
Habits that make you feel secure without any hassle.
Habits that make you feel resilient without any sweating.
Habits that make you feel bulletproofed without even trying.
Originally published at www.stresstherapist.net.