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  • Writer's pictureTammi Kirkness

'Because I was achieving so much, I couldn't possibly be anxious'

Originally published by 9Honey.

Many years ago I saw a psychologist for my worry and she frustratingly said that because I was achieving so much, I couldn't possibly be anxious. This led me to stop our sessions and investigate further.

Turns out I have something called 'High Functioning Anxiety' which is where a person has anxiety-based symptoms but continues to outwardly perform and succeed.

It's when they are excellent at covering up their struggle through achievement and have perfected the art of looking like they've got it all together. Essentially, instead of an outward struggle, it's a secret struggle.

Anxiety Hangovers are a thing

Of the times when I've had a fully-fledged panic attack (three in my life) and the times I've been close (many more), the day after each event I've been exhausted. Not like a could-use-a-nap kind of way, but a just-ran-a-marathon kind of way. I now refer to these as an anxiety hangover.

During a panic attack the body's muscles tense up while a deep sense of losing control sweeps through the mind. The physiological effects on the body are so strong that it needs time to balance out the tension, the hormonal rush and the physical pain that has occurred.

These next-day anxiety hangovers will cause my muscles to be achy and I need to move slowly, potentially cancel commitments and try to have an Epsom salt bath to calm my system.

When I forgive myself my procrastination reduces

I previously thought procrastination was the sign of a lazy person, however as I delved more into the world of the anxious brain, I came to understand the reverse. As it turns out so many of us procrastinate because if we get average results from something we did ahead of time, it's hard not to personalize the 'failure'.

However, if we leave things to the last minute, we can blame any 'poor' performance on the time frame we gave ourselves.

Research by Dr Joseph Ferrari shows us that when we forgive ourselves for all the previous procrastination we've done, it sets us up to do it less moving forward. That is, when we release ourselves from ruminating on our previous last-minute moments, we can more easily reduce our procrastination and in my personal experience this has absolutely been the case.

Perfectionism is a joy-killer

I remember getting ready for a friend's party where a guy I liked was coming and in my mind I thought that if my makeup was perfect, everything would work out.

About half an hour before the party started, I was putting the finishing touches to my makeup and in my quest to make it flawless, my hand started shaking while putting on mascara. As any girl with a shaky hand and a mascara wand knows, you end up needing to start all over again.

Because I had to fix the mascara smear across my right eye, I ended up missing the fun pre-party rituals and it sucked the joy out of the moment. It was through a series of similar moments that I pieced together that the common denominator in leaking and losing fun was perfectionism.

Meditation is non-negotiable

When I don't meditate I tend to worry more, tense my muscles, grit my teeth and run on a nervous energy. If I've taken time to breathe slowly and focus on releasing tension and worry, my anxiety melts away more easily.

As a life coach and meditation teacher, I know logically how important it is to keep up this habit and yet I still resist it and require phone reminders to make it happen. Regardless, this is a non-negotiable ritual.

The importance of surrendering control

When we feel in control, there is a sense of confidence that flows through. We're the master of the ship, the captain of the plane and in charge of our destiny. This is where things feel possible.

On the flip side, when we're feeling like we can't control things, mayhem breaks free in our minds and bodies. It's that sometimes-breathless, shoulder tightening sensation where it feels like something is just beyond our grasp.

To help combat the urge to constantly control my surroundings, I regularly practice a visualization of seeing everything I want to manage or control being sucked up into the sky through a vacuum tube and out of my hands. The relief that comes from surrendering attachment and control in this way is instant.

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