• briantohana

Patterns of Anxiety - Over/Under-Functioning

These are insights from Brene Brown’s Podcast episode, “Anxiety, Calm + Over/Under-Functioning:


- We’re talking about day to day anxiety not diagnosed anxiety.


- What is your pattern and how does it affect your decision-making?

- From which parent / primary caregiver did you learn your over/under-functioning tendencies?

Brene Brown shares Harriet Lerner’s work from The Dance of Connection and The Dance of Anger:

We all have habitual ways of managing anxiety that often stem from when we were kids. Over and under-functioning are learned behaviours that aid us in getting out from under fear and uncertainty. Understanding our patterned habitual ways of managing anxiety can help us change those patterns, show up with more integrity and help us develop a calm practice. Understanding these behaviours as patterned responses to anxiety rather than deep truths about who we are can help us understand that we can change.

I can clearly see my OVER-FUNCTIONER tendencies:

- Move quickly to give advice

- Rescue / take-over / push through

- Micromanage

- I won’t feel, I do

- I don’t need help, I help

- Get into other people’s business rather than look inward

- Stay tough and in control, fiercely determined and out of vulnerability by protecting

Reflection Questions:

- Before you jump to help and serve others, what do you need right now?

- What does ‘slowing down to speed up’ look like for you right now?

I can also see more clearly those in my life who have UNDER-FUNCTIONING tendencies as a way of managing anxiety:

- Get less competent, shut down, disconnect or retreat under stress

- Invite others to take over

- Become the focus of family gossip, concern, worry

- I won’t function, I fall apart

- I don’t help, I need help.

- Labelled as irresponsible or the fragile ones who can’t take the pressure

- Stay in control and out of overwhelm by pulling back

Reflection Questions:

- Who can you reach out to right now to share how you’re feeling? (without either of you jumping to problem-solve your emotional state; start with empathy)

- What self-care practice will support you in opening up and engaging right now?

It’s important to note neither of these patterns is bad, wrong, better or worse than the other. Self-awareness simply empowers us to notice how our patterns can affect our personal and work lives so that we can more consciously make decisions that align with our core values.

Daily Practice:

Work to develop calm a practice that centers you and keeps you from defaulting into patterned ways of behaving.

1) Get Perspective - “Do I have all the information I need to make a decision or form a response? Am I making a decision from fear or calm?”

2) Stay Mindful about how anxiety can show up in subtle ways and the effect underlying fear can have on decision-making. Be deliberate in noticing how anxiety shows up in your body and mind so that you can bring calm to anxious situations.

3) Lead with Calm by creating it for yourself first. Anxiety and calm are equally contagious. We mirror / match the cadence, tone and volume of others, so be even more intentional with not just what you say, but how you say it.

4) Manage Emotional Reactivity by being honest with yourself and others where you’re at and how you’re feeling. It's okay to feel how you feel. Comparative suffering minimizes and invalidates our own feelings when we think, "Who am I to feel bad when they have it much worse." Taking time to acknowledge your emotions is an important part of self-regulation and self-awareness in cultivating emotional intelligence.

5) Be Gentle and Patient with yourself and others. It's natural for addictive patterns to arise in sustained high stress situations, so be extra gentle on yourself and focus on allowing and receptivity rather than force and self-discipline.

6) Slow Down to Speed Up, especially for over-functioners. It can take more courage to slow down than to jump into action. So, take the time to pause, check-in with yourself, look around, take a breath and be in the uncertainty before you try and get out of it. Let the dust settle. It's the difference between:"The world has changed, so what are we going to do about it?" versus, "The world has changed, let’s talk about it. How are we feeling team?"

7) Meditate. Find a style that works for you then commit to a daily practice. Guided meditation can be very helpful. It can be useful to view meditation as the practice of being, non-doing or conscious-rest. Many of the ways we "relax" still stimulate our nervous system because we're still intaking information (even if it's calmly reading or watching TV). Real rest incorporates silence and stillness.

8) Connect with your Core Values. When everything outside is uncertainty and changing, living from and expressing your core value gives you an internal locus of control. Mine are 1) Truth - making the unconscious conscious to empower conscious choice-making, 2) Possibility - making the impossible possible through insights, realizations and shifts in perspective, 3) Connection - cultivating deep, honest, vulnerable, and present relationships, and 4) Service - providing value to the world that raises our collective consciousness.

9) Focus on Baby Steps. Small things matter and add up. Practice awareness of your breath, exercise, maintain a routine, hydrate frequently, express yourself with creative outlets, genuinely connect with people, rest or lie down frequently, get outside frequently no matter the weather (even a quick walk around the block), eat well and avoid junk food. What one small change will make all the difference?

10) Ask for Support, create a sense of comradery and accountability with your friends, team spouse, etc. to help you do what's common sense, but not always common practice. The things that are easy to do are just as easy not to do. It's okay to need and ask for support.

#anxiety #situationalawareness #leadership #selfawareness #emotionalintelligence #calm #corevalues