4 Ways to Start Addressing Your High-Functioning Anxiety

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While I'm looking for the right therapist, how else can I get some anxiety relief?

In my last post, I discussed a few ways to begin noticing whether high-functioning anxiety might be showing up in the lives of NYC achievers. Perhaps you’ve taken stock and recognized that, alright alright, maybe there is a little something going on that doesn’t feel quite so great. Maybe even just that you’d prefer not to have to massage your jaw every 15-minutes.

You’re curious now. Do I have anxiety? Should I seek anxiety treatment? Is this affecting me in other ways? What would my life look like if I was able to relieve my high-functioning anxiety?

Recommendations for managing anxiety

Certainly, I recommend seeking professional assistance with addressing your anxiety. Therapists are specifically trained to help people learn to cope in healthier ways, and so it might just serve you well to let us do our job! But, in the meantime, or in concurrence, here are a few tips for starting to address your anxiety on your own outside of the therapy office:

1.     Observe

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This recommendation drives my patients crazy, when I first suggest it. “Observe?! What the heck is that going to do? I need tangibles! Something to actually DO!” Well, what makes it so difficult for people with high-functioning anxiety to simply observe their feelings, thoughts, reactions, behaviors throughout even a single day is…you guessed it…anxiety. Often, the anxious person in NYC feels compelled to action all the time, filling every moment with some sort of task or motion. This person gets a LOT done, and that’s great, but this person may not be really well attuned to their inner world, most of the time, and that’s where anxiety loves to settle in: the person who is tuning out their inner world. So, start the practice of observing. Put on your neutral, third-party-observer hat, much like a journalist might, and start to get curious about the thoughts, feelings, behaviors that you engage in throughout the day. Don’t judge any of it, that isn’t necessary or helpful, just give yourself the consciousness to start learning about yourself.

 

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2.     Check in with your body

Again, the person in NYC with anxiety is a person on the go, moving constantly, getting it all done. But, this person is not paying attention to what is happening in their body as they navigate their day. To be clear, this is very different from that 5-mile run you dutifully take every morning (I’m glad you do that, by the way, it’s a great method of discharging extra physical and emotional energy that can otherwise convert into anxiety). So, what I mean by this is start the practice of checking in with certain parts of your body that are specifically prone to holding tension: shoulders, jaw, GLUTEUS MAXIMUS (!!!). Set an alarm in your phone to remind you to check in with your body every hour. Where are your shoulders? Oh, they’re hunched up close to your ears? Maybe you should settle them back down to where they belong and tilt your head side-to-side to release the tension that created in your neck. What’s happening with your face? Huh, your teeth are clamped together as if your very life depends on it. Maybe open your mouth up wide a few times and then try keeping your tongue gently pressed against the roof of your mouth. Now for the fun part, what's your butt doing? This often gets a lot of blank stares in response, but (butt) people hold a lot of tension in their rear ends! We clench those cheeks together just like we clench our face cheeks (er, well, jaws) and taking just a minute to consciously relaaaaax the booty can actually have a notable effect on anxiety levels.

3.     Limit the booze

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Yeah, sorry, party-pooper over here. Look, I enjoy a good whiskey just as much as the next woman, but alcohol is definitely linked to anxiety. And, NYC is an alcohol-driven social mecca. Again, I’m not saying you have to dedicate yourself to sobriety but just pay a little bit more attention and maybe try out what it would be like to wait 20-minutes before getting your first cocktail at happy hour. Does that suggestion make you anxious? Well, there you go. Alcohol is notoriously utilized as a social lubricant. If it’s always your immediate go-to, you never give yourself the chance to grow the capacity to tolerate your own anxiety and to realize that it has an arc that will come to an end, or at least come back down to a much more comfortable place after that initial spike. Alcohol also contributes to the next day’s anxiety, as people often have a quiet, underlying dread that they said or did something “wrong” after having even just one too many. So, see if you can consider it at least a temporary experiment to learn more about how you utilize alcohol in your social context, as well as what effect it has on you afterwards. This can be great information to then process with your therapist.

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4.     Hug some trees

Seriously. Or at least go sit in the park, for Pete’s sake. Studies have proven that spending time in nature profoundly impacts levels of anxiety and of happiness. Being near trees, specifically, helps to reset our inner anxiety meter, and New Yorkers are famous for forgetting that green expanses even exist. What’s that you say? Oh, you actually live right across the street from Prospect Park, but the last time you entered the park was when your Great-Aunt Sue came to visit last year and wanted to know if a tree really does grow in Brooklyn? Yep. Go to the park. Fine, bring your laptop and do some work, if you must, but go sit there for an hour, at least once a week. Every day is better, but baby steps.

Hopefully you can begin to implement some of the above strategies for anxiety treatment beyond the therapy office. I’d love to hear whether any of these methods helped to reduce your anxiety, or to talk with you about how therapy in conjunction with these tactics can make a profound difference in your daily experience. Feel free to contact me here to schedule a complimentary 20-minute phone consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.