Understanding the difference between stress and anxiety is critical for your long term health. This article will help you determine if you’re suffering from stress, anxiety or both.
What is stress and anxiety? And how do we manage it?
Dealing with stress has become so common place in our life that many see it as a norm rather than an exception. Most people go through moments of stress and even experience long-term anxiety due to everyday pressures.
But there are differences between the two.
Stress emerges when we are placed under one or more pressure situations. It can have an obvious effect on our physical and mental well being.
When we talk about being stressed, we are often referring to feelings like frustration or nervousness. There are also physical symptoms that can be present. Things like a rapid heartbeat, chest pains, upset stomach and body aches are common occurrences in stressful situations.
While stress is a natural response to a situation we deem threatening, anxiety is an ongoing reaction to the stress (or multiple incidents of stress). It can remain for long periods of time, particularly in people who are unable to recognize the stress present in their lives.
It is sometimes difficult determining the difference between stress and anxiety because the symptoms are similar. Both lead to restless sleeps, ongoing worry, muscle tension, the inability to focus, irritability and a rapid heartbeat.
Think of it this way, stress is a reaction to an event and is usually a short-term occurrence. And it can be both negative or positive. Stress is helpful when you need to meet an important deadline or compete in a high-performance sporting event. Stress can help you focus and help you perform.
But stress is negative if your reaction to a situation results in lack of sleep, poor concentration or physical ailments.
Stress is a response (good or bad) to an event or perceived threat in any circumstance.
On the flip-side, anxiety is associated with a mental health disorder that may be a result of exposure to stress. Symptoms typically don’t go away once a stressful situation has been resolved. Anxiety is long-term and can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to work, socialize and perform in other areas of social function.
With anxiety and stress being quite similar, it is difficult to know when to simply pause and breath and when to seek professional assistance.
If you constantly experience worrying or fears that are not reasonably grounded, it is likely time to seek help.
What are Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety?
Stress and anxiety produce similar psychological and physical reactions.
Common symptoms of stress and anxiety can include;
- Sore or tense muscles
- Rapid heartbeat
- Short, fast breathing
- Stomach issues
- Sweating and shaking
- No appetite
- Feeling of being closed in or trapped
- Nervous at social settings
- Feelings of panic
- Mental cloudiness
Please pay attention to the recurrence and duration of the symptoms above. If you do not get your stress under control, you are more likely to develop dangerous health issues which include high blood pressure, panic disorders, heart issues and depression.
Common Triggers for Stress and Anxiety
Stress is usually associated with major events in every day living. They can include (but aren’t limited to);
- Expanding your family
- Relocating to a new city
- Death of a close one
- Watching a loved one battle an illness
- Playing a sport
- Performing the arts
- Starting at a new school
- First day on the job
- Battling your own illness
- Moving in with someone
- Writing a major exam
- Giving an important presentation
- Having disagreements
If you have any of the above life events on your horizon, check out these stress management techniques to help calm your mind and body.
Remember, if any of these symptoms remain persistent after an event has passed, you may want to seek medical advice.
Anxiety Related Disorders
It is estimated that about forty million people in the USA live with anxiety. These people have daily with many of the symptoms described above. If you feel any of these are relevant to your condition, please seek help immediately.
The major types of anxiety disorders are;
- Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder) is a disorder that causes excessive anxiety when a person interacts with others. It is common for the person to feel a high degree of self-consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia may be limited to single activities like speaking or eating in front of others. When it is most severe, some people experience anxiety by simply being around other people.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a common disorder where the individual simply cannot stop worrying. Even at times when there is nothing to worry about people feel high degrees of worry and stress.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition that can develop after a person has experienced a highly stressful event where serious harm occurred or was threatened. Common events that can lead to PTSD may include the participation or witnessing of accidents, combat and violent assaults.
- Another anxiety condition is Panic Disorder. It can cause repeating episodes of extreme fear, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness and stomach issues.
- Lastly Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is marked by compulsions (repetitive behavior) or tics. Examples of repetitive behavior can include pacing, cleaning, hand washing and checking things over and over. The hope is by acting on these compulsions it will help make obsessive thoughts go away. Performing these types of activities only provide short term relief while not performing them can often increase the anxiety the person is feeling.
When to Seek Help
If you’re engaged in thoughts of self-harm, please seek immediate medical help. If you are unable to manage your anxiety and it is influencing your daily life, talk to your primary care provider.
You are not in this alone.
Stress Management Techniques
There are many resources to draw upon to manage your stress. Products, books, support groups and wellness strategies can play a key part of managing your stress. Just simply stopping and breathing can help too. QuitStressing.com’s goal is to share with you stress relief ideas that not only helped us, but those around us.
You Can Manage your Stress
Stress can be managed and it’s often not difficult. Life is too short to do anything else.
If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to help you out. And if you have any stress relief tips that work for you, drop me a line and we can share it with our readers who just might be going through the same things we are!
You can do this. Just take a breath.
All the best,