Unmasking High-Functioning Anxiety: Tools for Leaders Under Pressure

As a leader, you bear the burden of so many responsibilities: making important decisions, managing teams, and pushing your organization forward. You’re quiet, composed on the facade, but deep down inside, there is the ever-lingering undercurrent of anxiety that just won’t let you stop scoring high. This is what is referred to as high-functioning anxiety, and it’s very common among executives and leaders

At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, we specialize in psychology-based executive coaching, which allows us to understand not only the unique challenges faced by leaders in the throes of leadership but, also, how to deal with high-functioning anxiety. So this blog will touch on what high-functioning anxiety actually looks like, how leaders typically present it, and what to do about it.

Understand High-functioning Anxiety

High-functioning anxiety is a state in which an individual shows success and competence on the outside but feels perturbed inside. Generally, high-functioning anxiety propels people to better heights professionally but also does great harm to the health of the mental and physical state with a second relentless drive.

What It’s Like to Have High-Functioning

It is the paradox of high-functioning anxiety that the sufferer seems to have everything under control. People with this form of anxiety are generally overachieving perfectionists who can meet deadlines, surpass expectations, and take on leadership roles. However, behind that façade of success lies constant worry, self-doubt, and fear of failure. In their anxiety to succeed, the seeds for trouble are sown.


Signs of High-Functioning Anxiety in Leaders

High-functioning leaders with anxiety establish high standards for both themselves and others, finding themselves living in self-criticism and dissatisfaction with themselves. This could be a strong point or a flaw. It leans towards a demand for excellence but can also push one to a point at which they will never be able to appreciate or be satisfied with just about any level of accomplishment, causing a feeling of inadequacy that never goes away.

The fear of failure or not being up to expectations could lead one to overworking and not being able to delegate. One might view one’s self as approachable and that one’s personal involvement is needed. This can easily lead to burnout, reduced efficiency, and impaired decision-making abilities.

An overdrive to please others for being good and acceptable does not set the boundaries and say no easily. They may take too much work on their shoulders, trying to handle everything, even if it is in order to meet the needs and expectations of everyone. This makes them lose energy, taking their focus off strategic responsibilities.

It is the expectation of perfection that holds back leaders with high-functioning anxiety from being decisive since, despite having the best of ability, there is always the worry of the decision taken not being the best. The pressure of having to make the best choices can leave people in a loop of analysis, thus poorly making decisions or taking very short periods to make them.

Chronic stress and anxiety mostly lead to physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue. Leaders might become dismissive of such symptoms as the expected pain of the job; unfortunately, left unattended, these symptoms grow into much more severe health issues that affect well-being and performance.

While high-functioning anxiety propels productivity and success, on the contrary, it can easily root out signs of burnout, strained relationships, or low quality of life. The effect is rather personal for the leader and organizational simultaneously, as a leader agitated with anxiety will most probably be ineffective in managing their staff, leading to a less cohesive and a less productive atmosphere at work.

Burnout and its Effects

This inability to sit back, relax, and recharge can provoke a physical and emotional wear-out toward one’s goals. Burnout is a very real possibility for high-functioning-anxious leaders. It will affect not only the health but also leadership skills. Decision-making gets fuzzy, creativity drops, and relationships with the team can begin to feel tough, witnessing a bit of a breakdown in the team that causes more stress and anxiety for the leader.

4 Strategies for Managing High-Functioning Anxiety

Acknowledge and Accept: The first and foremost thing in high-functioning anxiety is understanding and accepting it. Realize that having anxiety doesn’t make you weak or incapable. Acceptance allows one to address the issue proactively rather than suppress it.

1. Set Realistic Goals

Learn how to set achievable goals and prioritize tasks. This will help you alleviate the pressure to be perfect in your work and manage your load at the workplace effectively. This way, you break those large projects into small, manageable steps, which helps to attain progress and a sense of accomplishment.

2. Self-care

Relax and spend some time taking care of your body through exercise, meditations, and getting involved in hobbies. Rest adequately and maintain the proper balance between labor and relaxation. Self-care is no longer a luxury but a necessity in making a commitment to live up to one’s highest level of performance and maintain mental health.

3. Delegate and Trust Your Team

You have to trust the team members and delegate tasks. This way, it reduces your burden and empowers the team. Delegation will prompt a more collaborative climate and allow leaders to focus on strategic, high-responsibility activities.

4. Hire a Professional

If you feel that the aforementioned is not enough for you, then hiring an executive coach or therapist might be just the right thing to do. At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, we offer precisely the right type of support and assistance in developing your coping strategies and striking a healthy balance. Professional support can help someone to attain newer perspectives and tools in managing it effectively.


Psychology-based Executive Coaching at The Beverly Hills Therapy Group

High-functioning anxiety is a common yet often overlooked issue among leaders. By understanding its signs and impacts, and implementing effective strategies to manage it, you can maintain your high performance without compromising your well-being. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and with the right support, you can lead with confidence and resilience.

At The Beverly Hills Therapy Group, we are dedicated to helping leaders like you navigate the challenges of high-functioning anxiety. Our psychology-based executive coaching provides the tools and support needed to thrive both personally and professionally. If you’re struggling with anxiety, don’t hesitate to reach out and take the first step toward a healthier, more balanced life.

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