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BOOKS: Moving beyond 'high-functioning anxiety'
BOOKS

BOOKS: Moving beyond 'high-functioning anxiety'

We’ve all been there. A deadline looming and your computer decides to go rogue. You call about a wrong charge on an account, are rooted around the world and back, repeating your story to four or five different people and then after waiting on hold for an hour are cut off. You run into a high school frenemy and find out s/he just signed a multi-million dollar deal to a book about those high school days and how mean everyone was — giving you a knowing look.

And that’s just the small stuff. But Tammi Kirkness has you covered when you’re hit with high stress situations. An Australian-based life coach and wellness consultant, as well as an international speaker, she specializes in working with people who grapple with high functioning anxiety.

That typically refers to those who seem to function well but are often overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, are sure something bad is going to happen, compare themselves negatively to others and tend to be workaholics and perfectionists.

To overcome anxieties, Kirkness incorporates well-researched and proven psychological treatments and Eastern techniques of reducing anxious states, such as meditation and breathing from the core, sharing her insights in her extremely easy to use book, “The Panic Button Book: Relieve Stress and Anxiety Whenever They Strike” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2021; $15.99).

Kirkness has many characteristics of someone with high-functioning anxiety.

“A big part of my journey was working way too hard, being a perfectionist and putting way too much pressure on myself,” she said.

Not only wasn’t it good in the short time, but she couldn't keep it up for a long time.

“There are things that we can do to help calm down our nervous system and still create success with sustainability,” Kirkness said. “I think taking time to pause and do some soul searching is generally the first step.”

Other components include learning to take deep breaths, which are calming and relaxing. Journaling — putting your thoughts down on paper — and meditating (there are free online apps for that) also make a difference. But what I found most useful about the book were the decision trees Kirkness developed.

Dividing the book into sections, she covers "Living and Working," "Socializing," "Relationships" and "Parenting." Each has related scenarios such as “Do you have a difficult conversation coming up?” “Do you feel your partner is taking more than giving?” and “Are you not reaching your own expectations?” Then on the opposite page are the techniques you can take to help.

As an example, one decision tree starts with the question “Are you trying to make something perfect?” Her two-step activity to counteract that need is to remind yourself that "done" is better than "perfect." The second is to establish a clear timeline on finishing, such as I’m giving this another 40 minutes and then I’m sending it in.

Not all are simple two-steps like the above, but all are designed to provide relief from the immediate anxiety of situations and produce feelings of being more in charge of your emotions.

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