Stressed and Anxious: Understanding the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety
The terms stress and anxiety are more widely accepted than in past times and are now used interchangeably. Stress is a precursor to anxiety, but they are certainly not the same. This blog will explore the causes, symptoms, and holistic approaches to managing stress and anxiety.
Stress: The Body’s Natural Response
Simply put, stress is any shift, pressure, or challenge in our external environment that triggers a natural response. We tend to forget that all stress isn’t bad stress. Some stressors are good (eustress), such as planning a wedding, relocating due to promotion, or going off to college. Good stressors lead to our advancement or growth. Toxic stress on the other hand tends to overwhelm us, may be prolonged, and leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. Nonetheless, whether eustress or toxic stress our body will respond with survival mechanisms.
Symptoms of Stress:
- Tension and muscle stiffness
- Heart palpitations and shallow breathing
- Increased alertness and jumpiness
- Emotionally responsive or over-reactive
- Temporary increase in energy levels
Anxiety: The Body’s Alarm Response
Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness, fear, or worry about future events real or imagined. Whilst stress may be due to a specific situation, anxiety can be due to general circumstances and may be ongoing. Anxiety can be crippling, and interfere with our ability to function in all areas of our lives. There are different types of anxiety and it may be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.
Symptoms of Anxiety:
- Constant worry and overthinking
- Restlessness and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle tension and headaches
- Sleep problems
- Nausea/Gut issues
- Lightheadedness, sweaty hands and feet
Approaches to Anxiety and Stress Management
- It is important to first understand your survival responses to stress
- Identify the source of your anxiety and instead of trying to get over it, work through it
- Focus on now and less on the future events which you cannot control
- Use box breathing
- Nature is medicine spend more time outside
- Avoid caffeine and sugar
- Get sufficient sleep
- Use essential oils such as Bergamot, lavender and vetiver
- Listen to bilateral beats or sound baths
Approaches to Anxiety Management
Managing anxiety requires a multifaceted approach, one size does not fit all. You will have to test out various self-soothing strategies until you find what works best for you.
- Body scan meditations
- Foot massages/reflexology
- Body-based therapy such as somatic experiencing, EMDR, or EFT Tapping
- Talk to your body, yes, talk to it, your body Listens
- Yoga/Qi Gong
Remember, stress is a natural response to external pressures but is not always a bad thing. Anxiety is your body’s way of telling you to be vigilant about the future, but it often comes with irrational fears and is ongoing. The meaning you give to stress and anxiety will either make them seem manageable or leave you feeling helpless. Don’t forget some therapists specialize in stress and anxiety management, you don’t have to do it alone!
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At Emergent Counseling & Consulting LLC, services are person-centered, culturally sensitive, stigma-free, holistic and strengths-based.
Our services are tailored to meet your needs and help you develop the skills needed to get rid of anxiety and depression, and enhance your quality of life. Our methods are non-invasive, short-term evidenced-based techniques such as Brainspotting, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping), which simple and focused on reducing the intensity of distress associated with anxiety and depression.