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Is Anxiety Different Than Stress?

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Nov 17, 2015

The words "stress" and "anxiety" seem to be used almost interchangeably in today's society, but are they really the same? Today, let's take a closer look at both emotions.

Stress and anxiety are both emotions that speed up your heart rate and cause muscle tension and rapid breathing. But that might be where the similarities end. The stress we experience includes frustration and nervousness, but anxiety adds in fear and worry. The key difference between stress and anxiety is the sense of helplessness. “When it comes to stress, you can deal with things and master them. By rolling up your sleeves and tackling that stress, you can feel less helpless.” says David Spiegel, Stanford University’s associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

Different Causes

The cause of anxiety is different than the cause of stress. Spiegel, says that you know the cause of stress. When the stressors go away, the stress goes away. With anxiety, the reaction becomes more of an issue than the actual problem that caused it. You may start to feel anxious about feeling anxious. Often, there is no identifiable cause of the anxiety, and because of this anxiety sticks around for a while.

Anxiety can come from fear. Fear keeps you from enjoying what is happening in the moment. Facing the fear head on is one way to overcome the anxiety. Running from it often makes it worse.

Stress comes from external influences. Maybe a deadline or a situation. With stress, you know the cause of the problem. You need to make up your mind and prioritize to do what needs to be done.

Stress and Anxiety are Related

While there are many differences between stress and anxiety, there are also many similarities. Stress and anxiety seem for be linked in many cases. Some possible reasons may include:

  • Poor coping strategies: With stress, the cause is usually identifiable. With repeated stressful situations, the ability to deal with stressful situations becomes harder.

  • Negative thinking: When feeling stressed or anxious, people tend to think negative thoughts. It becomes a negative cycle. Negative thinking makes it hard to cope with situations, and that makes you even more anxious because you aren’t able to cope effectively.

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Frequent stressful events and lack of treatment can take a toll on our health. Our immunity is lowered, our digestive system doesn’t work as efficiently, and our overall mood can be affected. The good news is that you don’t have to be stuck in a cycle of stress and anxiety.

Keep reading to find some tips for managing stress and anxiety.

Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety

When you feel stressed or anxious, there are some things you can try to calm some of the emotions. Try some of these tips recommended by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:

  • Step back and calm down. Take a time out from the situation and think things through.
  • Eat healthy foods. Keeping proper nutrition ensures that you will have the energy to deal with stressful situations.
  • Get plenty of sleep. When stressed, your body needs extra rest.
  • Exercise is a great stress reliever.
  • Take deep breaths and count slowly to ten. This can help your mind relax a little so you can focus on what needs to be done.
  • Do your best. No one is perfect. Try your hardest and be proud of what you accomplish. Accept that you cannot control everything.
  • Laugh. Even in stressful times, a good laugh can make things easier.
  • Keep a positive attitude. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety. If you know the cause or trigger you may be able to prepare yourself for stressful situations ahead of time.
  • Talk to someone. Talk to your friends and family when you are overwhelmed. Talk to a professional if more help is needed.

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Topics: Health Care