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How is stress different from anxiety

4 Sep, 2019
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How is stress different from anxiety

Our ignorance of mental health issues often leaves us confused about the differences—and similarities—between each. For us, everything comes down to stress, as if it were a blanket term for all mental health issues.

Even though they are used interchangeably, stress and anxiety aren’t the same things. At Thriive, we’ve introduced and reintroduced you to several modalities that help you achieve a holistically healthy lifestyle. 

But how are you to work on yourself when you have no idea what you should be working on? Awareness, therefore, is more important than we’ve been thinking. Point taken that most of it looks and feels all the same, but it is important to look at the finer details, where everything is not the same. You cannot treat a cold with a medicine meant for fever, although the discomfort you’ve been feeling is probably the same.

This blog post focuses on highlighting some of the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between stress and anxiety.

The overlapping story of stress and anxiety

There is no denying that the interchangeability of stress and anxiety is due to the overlap between their symptoms. Here are two lists—for the symptoms of stress and anxiety for an overview of how similar the two can be: 

Symptoms of stress include:

  • Frequent recurrence of headaches
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart
  • Muscle tension
  • Low concentration levels
  • Poor energy

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Social distress
  • Restlessness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating

Stress and anxiety—same but different

What differentiates both fundamentally is their cause and origination. Stress is a reaction to external factors. It could be due to a deadline at work, a meeting that didn’t go as planned, a canceled vacation, or a party you have to plan.

Anxiety is an internal reaction, often triggered by this external stress. Anxiety results in a feeling of lack of control that makes one worried.

Stress is also short-term and a more instant reaction. it is triggered by a situation and often lasts as long as the situation. Stress can also have a positive outcome when it drives you to push yourself and give your best to meet a deadline.

Anxiety is more long-term and is rooted at a more subconscious level. In fact, its effects often manifest long after the situation has passed; it needs some work to understand what situation in your life the anxiety is an outcome of. Anxiety does not go away when the situation fades and can also escalate to other areas of your life. Someone going through an episode of anxiety may often overthink a situation to the extent that they begin to believe they cannot handle it.

Now, while a stressful situation may also make you feel the same way, here’s what is different: The reaction to something that makes you anxious is often stronger than is warranted. Anxiety makes you escalate your situation negatively in your head, much before something like that happens in reality, and your reaction is to how bad could the situation could eventually be.

So, anxiety > stress?

No. In light of these differences, do not think that stress does not warrant as much importance as anxiety. Remember that anxiety is a reaction to stress. So, you don’t know when your stress can escalate to anxiety.

Why is it important to understand the difference between the two? Because of how you will deal with them. For example, to deal with stress, you can start journaling, relaxation breathing, or just move around, do something physical to get out of a stressful moment. Anxiety requires more attention and may need you to go for psychotherapy sessions, start-up on medication, or even call in for a lifestyle change.

With either, it is important that you pay attention to yourself and identify and work on the symptoms. Click here to get in touch with our experts if you think you are experiencing any of these or other symptoms to get the guidance you need.

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