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Stress vs. Anxiety: Do You Know the Difference?

Posted on July 12, 2017 at 10:10 AM

 The terms anxiety and stress are often used interchangeably, and it is true that they are related conditions with many of the same symptoms. Feelings of stress--even chronic stress--are not the same thing as an anxiety disorder, although they can contribute to developing one. Anxiety and stress are categorized by separate feelings.

The stress we experience in our day-to-day lives is associated with frustration and nervousness, where anxiety often comes from a place of fear, unease and worry.

1. What is Stress? Stress results when we’re overcome with life’s pressures—a deadline at work, rushing to get to an appointment on time, a crisis at home with the kids—it causes the sudden release of adrenaline, a hormone that negatively impacts the mood and emotions, and elevates the blood pressure.

2. What is Anxiety? While anxiety is not the same as stress it can result from being put under stress. This negative stress response will overcome all other stress responses with intense fear, worry, and disabling dread that the individual will be literally incapacitated by jitters, chest pains, dizziness, shortness of breath, fainting, and a panic attack.

Mental health professionals differentiate stress from anxiety because anxiety continues even long after the stressor is removed (or you remove yourself from the stressful situation). The feeling of doom can set in suddenly and without any recognized stressor, which usually aggravates the anxiety level and causes an attack.

The key difference [between the two] 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. Anxiety converts fear into feelings and people who suffer from it tend to avoid what’s making them fearful, which can make it worse.

Tip 1: Identify the sources of stress in your life

Tip 2: Replace unhealthy coping strategies with healthy ones

Tip 3: Practice the 4 A's

  • Avoid unnecessary stress It’s not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
  • Alter the situation If you can't avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
  • Adapt to the stressor If you can't change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain you sense of control by changing you expectations and attitude.
  • Accept the things you can't change Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. 

Categories: Stress/ Anxiety