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22 Sep 2022
by Tanya Woolf

5 tips for supporting employees living with high functioning anxiety

While they might seem calm and happy on the outside, one in six people suffering from anxiety that makes every day a challenge. Here’s how employers can help

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The mental health fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will be seen for many years.

Employers and employees across the country have undergone a huge shift in daily life. So much so, that one in six is reported to be experiencing a common mental health condition such as anxiety and depression in any given week in England.

High functioning anxiety is not a recognised mental health diagnosis. Rather, it is a term that refers to people living with anxiety.

To be a high functioning person with anxiety means they have frequent intense, excessive, and persistent worry about everyday situations while on the outside, they appear calm. On the surface, they appear to be successful and put together — excelling in both their work and personal life. However, the way they feel on the inside may be quite different.

The main characteristics include worry, fear, overthinking and overanalysing, which can negatively affect a person’s life. For some, this can be debilitating, and simple tasks or events can now seem much more significant, causing stress and discomfort.

High functioning anxiety can negatively leak into work life and personal relationships. However, people with high-functioning anxiety also tend to have positive traits, including being high-achieving, organised and driven.

What can employers recommend to their employees living with high functioning anxiety?

High functioning anxiety can be helped by ensuring that an individual who might be struggling has the tools to manage these feelings. Here are some top tips to give employees to help manage anxiety.

1. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Identify close friends or family to confide in about how anxiety is affecting your life. As someone who is high functioning, it is not always obvious, so loved ones may miss the subtle signs.

Speaking openly, without fear of being judged, can help massively and will increase feelings of acceptance. You never know, your loved one could be going through the same thing.

2. Recognise the symptoms

A good way of coping with high anxiety levels is to be fully aware of the triggers and symptoms. Understanding that these actions aren’t justified is the first step to overcoming them.

Feelings of anxiety and panic tend to interfere with day-to-day life, making regular activities challenging to control. It’s important to recognise the instances where anxiety levels are heightened so you can start to work through them. Problem solve what you can and leave the rest aside.

3. Stay active

Physical activity has an extremely positive impact on mental health. Exercise can boost happy chemicals in your body, improve sleep and fuel energy. Participate in activities you enjoy and try to go to social events.

This activity improves mental health by increasing your sense of achievement, closeness to other people and enjoyment.  A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with staying active, so it’s important to live by a good diet.

Practices like meditation or yoga may help those suffering from anxiety disorders as they can bring a sense of calmness and a clearer state of mind.

4. Law of attraction

Engaging with anxiety symptoms can be a tough habit to break and the more energy you give it, the harder it can be to break the habit. People can start to change the way they think and perceive these anxious thoughts, therefore, reducing the control these thoughts have over them.

Try not to focus on worries that are not productive. We often think we’re problem solving when all we are doing is tormenting ourselves with ‘what if’ worst case scenarios. Focus instead on things you can change constructively and are more worthwhile.

5. Take small steps

Someone with high functioning anxiety won’t necessarily feel less anxious overnight. They should be encouraged to lay out realistic milestones or goals, no matter the size, and work towards those.

Employees can find support from colleagues and managers who may feel the same, and together, they can work towards a calmer, less anxious life.

6. Ask for help

High-functioning anxiety responds well to targeted therapy and other appropriate interventions, primarily cognitive behavioural therapy but also occasionally including limited use of medications.

While we continue to navigate through the pandemic, CBT therapists can provide remote therapy sessions in the comfort of your home via telephone or digital channels.

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