Our hustle culture can actually reward things like perfectionism, high-functioning anxiety and even burnout. So it’s no wonder that some of us don’t even recognize this as a problem.
When you hear or read the term “high-functioning anxiety,” what comes up? Maybe you feel like high-functioning anxiety in motherhood isn’t that bad (you’re still meeting your day-to-day demands after all, right?) or that it’s even a good thing.
To be high-functioning means that you’re still appearing normal, showing up for your kids, and not dropping the ball despite feeling anxious much of the time.
That’s why many might dismiss it, allow it to go undetected, or even think it’s a good thing! That self-talk can sound like, “I don’t feel well but it’s not like I’m in bed all day. I packed the kids’ lunches, met the deadline, cooked a nutritious dinner… I’m doing well!”
Our hustle culture can actually reward things like perfectionism, high-functioning anxiety and even burnout. So it’s no wonder that some of us might internally pat ourselves on the back for being “such a perfectionist,” or “so anxious, but high functioning.”
But struggling with your mental health doesn’t feel good, does it? It doesn’t feel easy or sustainable. So let’s scrap the idea that we should be glamorizing high-functioning anxiety in motherhood and instead recognize it as a problem.
In order to do that, you may need to get honest with yourself and learn to spot the signs of this type of mental health difficulty. Here’s a few signs you or a friend may be struggling:
1. You look like you’re holding it all together—impressively so
Others might seem impressed or outright admire your ability to do it all, be everywhere, and hold down the show no matter the circumstances. You’re the mom who has her sh*& together. Every day. All day. Always.
But that might just be what it looks like.
On the surface, you appear to be thriving but beneath that, you may always feel like you’re barely just keeping it together day by day. Feel familiar? Been there. Remember: Just because someone (you, your strong friend, your sister in law) presents as though they have it all together, doesn’t mean that they actually do. This is how we might fail to recognize suffering.
2. You research everything related to motherhood
Are you like a walking encyclopedia of all things related to motherhood? Check in with yourself right now. Have you read all the books, all the blogs, been to the parenting experts, followed all the right parenting and nutrition accounts?
There’s such a thing as too much researching. High-functioning anxiety in motherhood often shows up as someone wanting to procure all the knowledge. While you may think that you’re just studying up to be the best mom you can possibly be, you’re actually fuelling your anxiety with information overload.
Think about it. There’s always going to be another book, a new parenting tactic, a different way of doing things. Let enough be enough and learn to let go.
3. You’re a perfectionist and tend to be hard on yourself
As mentioned earlier, society tends to reward perfectionism. We can think we just have high standards or are hard working or want the best for ourselves and our families.
The intention is great of course but there are two problems. Firstly, having unrealistically high standards often just means setting yourself up for failure.
Secondly, when you don’t live up to the sky-high expectations you set for yourself, you tend to be hard on yourself. That can look like self-critical thinking, allowing our self critic to go rogue, and tossing self acceptance out the window. That doesn’t just affect you, it impacts those around you. Is perfectionism really so great if this is the outcome?
4. You’re always on the go
You’re the mom volunteering at the field trips, you take the kids to soccer practice during the week, and your home looks like the set of a West Elm shoot. The go, go, go, lifestyle fuels anxiety because you never actually get a chance to recharge and take time for YOU!
It also sets a pace that ends up being unsustainable and often just results in burnout. What if you were to light a candle, drink some tea, watch a movie with the family, or order in for a change?
5. You look like a go-getter and struggle to say no
If the word “no” isn’t really in your vocabulary, you may be part of the large group of women who struggle with high-functioning anxiety in motherhood. Saying yes to everything means that your to-do list ends up being miles long and your plate is heaping full.
When you’re feeling anxious, you want to take things off your plate… not add to the chaos. This might be the time to reflect on why you say yes to everything and have a tendency to people please. There’s that saying, “Let it be easy,” which refers to allowing yourself space to breathe and giving yourself breaks. What can you say no to next time?
Being a perfectionist or being someone with high-functioning anxiety may be praised or even glamorized at times. It can be easy not to recognize this issue as a real problem that needs addressing because of this societal attitude.
What’s more is that those with high-functioning anxiety may appear to be doing well and therefore their issues may be dismissed, misunderstood or not seen as severe enough. Anxiety of all kinds is something that calls for additional support. Let this be a reminder that even if someone seems like they’re thriving, that may not actually be the case.
And if you’re looking for that additional support, my course Mama Calm is all about teaching moms how to get a handle on anxiety. It’s self-paced, self-directed and you get lifetime access for when life starts to feel chaotic. Learn more here.