When Over-functioning Due To Anxiety, We Often Take Ourselves Out Of The Equation
Anxiety causes us to over-function in the world, and in our drive to do it all, our own needs often get ignored. From the outside it looks as if we’re high-functioning: the bills are paid, the house is clean, we’re killing it at work, etc. But, there is often an underlying fear that it will all fall apart if not done at a rapid rate, taking everything on ourselves while taking our own needs out of the equation.
Sometimes this can come from a history of seeing family members unable to do it all, or witnessing others achieve without knowing how anxious they were internally. In many ways, our culture also promotes this type of anxious over-functioning, requiring us to over-function online, in the workplace, in relationships, in friendships, with family, and as parents.
However, you can care for yourself, and care for others or your responsibilities. Taking time to be kind to yourself and address your own needs, alongside larger, broader needs and the needs of others, is a way out of over-functioning.
How can we do this? We need kindness with conditions. Conditions keep us safe, and are imperative for healthy relationships. With conditions, we create a structure so we can balance our needs so they do not get left out, and we can give attention to all parts of our relationships with ourselves and with others.
Kindness With Conditions Is Radical
When you’re over-functioning, anxiety leads, but you are leading when you are being kind toward yourself, so that you can care for others. It isn’t selfish or even another form of over-functioning to address your own needs.
And this is radical. Why? In our society, we undervalue being present, forcing ourselves to function on a high intensity level on our devices, in work, in our friendships and relationships, etc. We are being unjust to ourselves when we ignore our own needs and like any social injustice, it is radical to counteract that by checking in on our own needs and wants.
Particularly with the intensity required in our lives in 2019, it can be challenging to be kind toward ourselves so below, I’ve highlighted four ways this can be practiced:
1. Assess Real World Stressors
We often pretend we’re super-human, and can withstand any and all stress. While we can in some ways, anxiety tangles how we experience stress, seeing all the stress at once without portioning everything out. One way to be kind toward yourself is to take space–whether a train ride, a walk, five minutes at your desk–and assess these stressors, as well as what you need: What’s going on? What are the external or internal pressures or stressors? What attention do they need? What needs to happen right now and why? What do and don’t you like to do? Why might you be feeling this way? When we take time to assess, we can think more calmly and decisively about what needs to happen, what can be outsourced, asked for help around, or let go.
2. Slow Down
Slowing down is deceptively simple. We have learned how to multitask and function in such a consistently fast way that slowing down becomes a kind of protest. If you need to stop on the side of the street, stop. If you need to take time for a glass of water, get it. Sometimes slowing down is done by talking, walking, listening to music, looking at nature or art, or simply breathing for a period of time without thinking of ten things at once. Therapy can also be a good place to slow down because it’s a period of time with just one other person without distractions, focusing on what you’re bringing into the therapy room and what is happening in the room.
3. Learn To Ask Yourself What You Need (And Give It To Yourself)
With over-functioning, we go go go, and don’t usually pay attention to our own needs. There’s too much to do, and often not room to even figure out what we might need. In order to be kind to ourselves, we have to make space to learn about our needs. Sometimes, particularly when you’ve been over-functioning, this means bouncing ideas off of a friend, partner, or therapist, or asking them to suggest what you might need (even if you say no to everything). And once you figure out what you need, give it to yourself. Maybe it’s telling your family you need to eat before moving on to the next task. Or perhaps asking a friend for coffee so you don’t feel isolated and can feel connected and loved on a bit.
4. Take Responsibility For Caring For Yourself By Asking For Help
When we are stuck in an anxious over-functioning loop, we aren’t taking responsibility for ourselves, our feelings, or our needs. Often we run from responsibility to ourselves because we are scared to take on more or ask for more from both others and ourselves. But usually, taking responsibility means you need help to step in more, whether a friend, family member, partner or therapist. It isn’t always easy to admit you don’t know something, need something, need to go slower, or get clarification, but it’s both vulnerable and kind to yourself to ask for help. By taking responsibility to ask for help, you become a leader, and in this day and age, not going it alone is radical.