Anxiety and stress can cause uncomfortable and distressing symptoms that can interfere with the quality of life, productivity, and relationships. It can be very difficult to control those symptoms and sensations but learning how to manage anxiety or high-stress levels can be a strategy that improves your livelihood for the rest of your life.
Before you can learn coping strategies, it can be helpful to know what anxiety and stress are and how they are different. This can help you determine how you address the feelings to properly eliminate the negative signs.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s response to a threat or change and it can affect us emotionally, mentally, and physically. Everybody experiences stress, but the level of stress and the way that we respond to it can be quite different. Stressors are the changes or demands that contribute to stress levels.
Common stressors include financial difficulties, work problems, relationships issues, drastic and sudden changes, and traumatic experiences. While stress is often thought of as a negative feeling, there are also positive things about stress.
Stress can help us accomplish tasks and persevere to reach our goals. However, it can become a problem if the stress is too severe or frequent and can cause many different health problems. There is even a correlation between heart disease, depression, pain, poor sleep, and more.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety, like stress, can be normal and is characterized by nervousness, worry, and fear. Stressors can cause or contribute to anxiety and sometimes the anxious feelings only occur with stressful events. However, that is not always the case.
Anxiety can become more worrisome when it gets out of control and starts to negatively affect your life in a plethora of ways. Excessive anxiety and worry can cause emotional, psychological, and physical symptoms and can prevent you from doing the things that you want to do.
Anxiety versus Stress
Anxiety and stress often coincide with each other, but there are certain things that you can think about to help identify the source of the problem.
Stress is generally caused by something outside of yourself like financial struggles, heavy workload, or major life events. Anxiety is more likely to be internal and refers to the way that you respond to worries and stress. If you take away the stressors, but still feel uncomfortable and bothered, that is a sign that you are dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety often involves worry that does not match the stressor. It can be overwhelming even if the cause or the trigger is something minor or easily addressed. Everybody encounters certain stressful situations, but if you respond to those with excessive worry that interferes with daily life then that could be another sign of anxiety over stress.
When suffering from anxiety, it can be extremely difficult to function properly and manage choices, responsibilities, and relationships. Anxiety is also associated with strong feelings of fear or dread, whereas stress is a response to something that is causing the pressure. With anxiety, the reason may not match the situation if there is an identifiable cause at all.
How to Manage Anxiety and Stress
Now that you know the differences and similarities between anxiety and stress, it may be harder to address the problem at hand. Most coping strategies will be effective for both anxiety and stress, but not every technique works for every person, and you may have to try multiple options before determining the best route.
One common method for managing anxiety and stress is slow breathing. When someone is stressed or anxious, their breathing rate increases and the inhalations are shallow. Try to slow down you’re breathing by counting in slowly to three while you inhale and again when you exhale. This can also work well during mindfulness practice if you watch the breaths in and out and allow thoughts to move through your mind unjudged and unimpeded.
Taking care of yourself is another way to reduce anxiety and stress and it is quite easy to get involved. Make sure you get regular exercise because it can keep the mind and the body healthy. You should also try to get enough sleep every night. Most adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night and problems arise when those needs are not met. Lack of sleep can cause worsened levels of anxiety and stress according to research.
You may also find that it helps if you write in a journal. This can help you track triggers, worries, and fears so that you can manage them better. It can also help you get a new perspective on the anxieties and their causes so that you can resolve them.
A lot of people find that their constant worries interrupt sleep, enjoyable activities, work productivity, and life in general. You may find it helpful to set aside a 10- or 15-minute time each day when you are allowed to worry non-stop. This allows you to address the nagging feeling of stress or anxiety in the back of your mind without it causing frequent distractions the rest of the time.
Finally, if you still cannot manage the symptoms of anxiety and stress on your own, there are possible treatment options that can be highly effective. A doctor may be able to prescribe something that can help you find acute relief or long-term change. In addition, therapy can be very effective for eliminating worrisome thoughts and replacing them with positive thought patterns.
Anxiety and stress are common problems, and everybody gets stressed sometimes. However, if it is a prolonged worry that is interfering with your quality of life and does not seem attached to a single trigger, it may be anxiety. Whether you have high-stress levels or anxiety, the methods to manage the symptoms are similar and you may find that they are more beneficial and effective than you anticipated.
About the author
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com.
With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.