EP 280: Thriving With High Functioning Anxiety With The Happier Approach Host Nancy Smith

In This Episode:

  • How licensed professional counselor & therapeutic coach Nancy Jane Smith learned to navigate high-functioning anxiety while building her business
  • How high-functioning anxiety differs from our usual concept of what anxiety “looks like”
  • The strategies Nancy uses to help herself (and her clients) deal with HFA
  • Which of the 3 voices in her head Nancy uses to guide her action and keep moving forward

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Can we talk about anxiety?

Even if you don’t think of yourself as having anxiety or dealing with anxiety, there’s a good chance you’ve felt pretty anxious over the last 2 months.

I’ve been calling it ambient anxiety.

It’s just in the air.

Everything is in flux. Nothing is in our control. Everyone is on edge.

It’s just really hard to get a solid handle on what’s going on a day to day or even hour by hour basis.

Your response to all of this ambient anxiety might be to slow down—even shut down. You might feel numb or a bit panicked. You might have trouble concentrating or find yourself caught up in worry.

That’s a very normal, very understandable response.

But it’s not the only way that anxiety can manifest.

The other way anxiety makes itself known doesn’t even look much like what we think of when we think anxiety.

And that’s how I initially responded to the anxiety of our present moment.

This month on the show, we’ve been talking about finding support as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavor and the mental health challenges that many of us face don’t make it any easier to feel like you’re not alone.

Which leads me back to how I found myself quote-unquote coping with my anxiety a few weeks ago…

Instead of shutting down, I turned on. I worked long, hyper-productive days. I created new things. I hosted live events. I checked in with friends and supported our members and clients.

My anxiety led me to over-functioning. My subconscious was trying to work my way through the stress and uncertainty. I was trying to control the uncontrollable.

That burst of anxious over-functioning led to a complete collapse. I’m now trying to get back into a more manageable and gentle groove but I’m feeling pretty rotten.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been living a similar story.

Which really isn’t that surprising to me because in the before times, I was having a lot of conversations that started with: “Can I tell you about high-functioning anxiety?!”

You see, I started learning about high-functioning anxiety from our guest today, Nancy Jane Smith. The way Nancy described anxiety was nothing like what I thought of anxiety to be… but was everything about my experience of the world.

I’ve shared on the podcast before that only recently did I realize I was living with chronic anxiety. I had always identified as dealing with chronic depression and didn’t recognize my normal-for-me mental state was one of high anxiety. But the more I’ve learned from Nancy, the more I’ve learned about my own brand of anxiety.

Nancy is an expert in High Functioning Anxiety. Nancy is trained as a licensed professional counselor and therapeutic coach. She’s the author of The Happier Approach book and the host of The Happier Approach podcast. And, she lives every day with high functioning anxiety.

People with high functioning anxiety respond to anxiety by over-performing, by showing up to do all the things, by trying to be so good that nothing bad can happen.

That’s pretty much me in a nutshell. And it’s absolutely how I started off this whole crisis. I figured that I could perform my way into sanity and certainty.

Well, listener, I could not. And neither can you.

Now, Nancy and I recorded this interview before the cancelled events, the lockdowns, and the economic uncertainty. So we don’t talk about this collective experience explicitly. But if you listen between the lines, you’ll hear it. It’s there. We might not have known it was coming yet but everything we talk about applies to this unique period of time because high functioning anxiety is so dang predictable.

In this interview, Nancy and I talk about how she thrives with high functioning anxiety as a business owner, how she’s structured her business to support her with this challenge, and who she relies on for the support she needs.

Whether high functioning anxiety is your normal to or whether you’re listening as someone who is interested in the many ways we find what works for our unique situations, I think this episode will be really enlightening.

Now, let’s find out what works for Nancy Jane Smith.

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