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Stress and anxiety are sometimes used interchangeably by people who either suffer from one or both of them, and while overlap between them does exist, their causes and effects are different, and to properly overcome each one, it’s important that you learn what these differences are and how to identify them. While both are a natural part of the human experience, their lasting impact in our lives very dramatically.
To better differentiate them, we’ll tackle each independently first, so we know what to do with them. But we’ll also reference the other to help illustrate where they overlap and what methods work best when trying to cope with them. Another important aspect to remember is that stress and anxiety treatments can vary depending on the person.
Stress is not completely negative in and of itself, because it’s a natural reaction to external forces and stimuli that can actually help us learn things, like being more resilient, adapt our problem-solving skills to different situations and overcoming the challenges we might encounter.
Stress becomes a problem, however, when we can’t cope with it healthily, thus leaving it unresolved. It can also turn negative when it’s intense or recurring to a much higher degree than we know how to deal with. It’s at this point that stress eats away at our peace of mind, behavior, and finally our health. Worthy of note, too, is that while some of them overlap, stress and anxiety symptoms are not all the same, which we’ll cover below as well.
Depending on the severity of the stressor, there are a variety of techniques better suited to deal with it than others. The first thing you’ll want to try is using a relaxation technique like taking short, shallow breaths while expanding your belly, which can help you have a better degree of control of your stress while you deal with the stressor.
Exercise is also a good way to deal with minor stress levels because it lowers the stress hormones in your body and makes you more resistant to it over time. It also releases endorphins, a natural relaxant.
However, If the stress is too much to handle, therapy is always an effective and healthy choice to deal with the negative aspects of life. Combined with regular meditation, this can form a powerful combo that changes your perspective on things and tackle the source of stress in a more effective way.
While stress is caused by an external source, anxiety is a more base reaction, a fight-or-flight feeling that has no obvious cause but won’t leave on its own even when you rationalize it.
Getting rid of the stressor means that our stress levels will gradually diminish until it’s gone, but that’s not the case with anxiety.
Anxiety can be more broadly defined as the negative feeling created by a person getting scared or paranoid but without a clear stressor (or with no stressor at all, depending on the severity). It’s an uninterrupted experience of stress that has no clear cause, and therefore cannot be tackled in the same way and its effects are also different, manifesting themselves as dizziness, an oversensitivity to pain, and sometimes panic attacks.
It may be surprising to learn that embracing anxiety is one of the first steps to deal with it. It’s really important that you do. This is to get rid of the idea that life has a singular “normal” state, and that it’s one of perpetual relaxation and happiness; accepting anxiety as a natural, occasional state of being can make handling it all that much easier. You’re taking power away from the struggle and stop it from controlling you.
While not the main causes for it, anxiety feeds on poor habits, like over-indulging on junk food, poor sleep, lack of exercise and irresponsible alcohol use. On top of that, if you start worrying about how you’re letting go of yourself by making these habits a part of your life, choose one to focus on during a week and track your progress.
Let’s say you choose between going to bed at 10:00 PM every day, then you make a habit of it, and your next goal is to exercise for an hour at least four days a week. Small steps cover great lengths!
It might also be that you just need to take a break from your routine and spend some time with yourself. Think over every major aspect of your life and how you relate to it, and maybe you’ll discover what’s giving you anxiety and how to deal with it. A therapist is a good choice if you want an outside perspective, but the work and effort to get over that feeling comes from you, so embrace proactivity!
Stress and anxiety are two of the most common sources of distress for people, which explains why they overlap and get used interchangeably, but there are many more causes and solutions out there than what is covered in this guide. You can use our resources and let us help you find how to better deal with these obstacles and reach a more wholesome version of yourself than you ever thought possible.