The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety
The good news is that stress and anxiety are a very normal part of life. Everyone will deal with stress and feelings of anxiety at some point in life. Take a minute to learn more about the difference between stress and anxiety.
» What is stress?
Stress is the body’s way of responding to the mental and physical demands of life. Common stressors (events or situations that cause stress) include daily responsibilities and commitments like work, school, and family. Often cause for moderate to high stress situations include traumatic events, the loss of a loved one, or another event that significantly alters your life.
» Are there different types of stress?
Yes. Every-day stress, or short term (acute) stress, can motivate us to focus on tasks, set and accomplish personal and professional goals, and can even boost our immune systems and protect us from infection. Conversely, long-term (chronic) stress is the stress of life that wears on for weeks, months, or even years. Chronic stress can have harmful effects on our physical and mental health and can contribute to or worsen serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes and increase risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety disorders. This is why it’s important to learn and implement stress management strategies to prevent chronic stress.
» Who experiences stress?
Everyone. Stress is not unique to any group of people; however, patterns of high and low stress can be seen across age groups, across industries or workplaces and even across cultures. Just as people grieve differently, people are also affected by and handle stress differently. The key point to remember is that short term stress is very normal, everyone experiences it, and there are many useful ways to manage and control your stress.
» What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, nervousness, or unease about an upcoming event or something with an uncertain outcome. Symptoms usually are temporary and can consist of rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, shaking, restlessness leading up to an event, skin flushing and dry mouth, among others. Typically the feeling of anxiety is short lived and resolves itself once a stressful situation has neutralized or passed; however, if an individual experiences prolonged anxiety or the anxiety becomes too difficult to deal with, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.
» Are there different types of anxiety disorders?
» Who experiences anxiety?
Short lived feelings of anxiety can be a normal reaction to stress and can happen to anyone. College students and individuals who work in high stress jobs may experience the feelings of anxiety more frequently than others.
Top Tips for Managing Stress and Anxiety
Take a moment
Take time to relax
There are many different ways to relax. Not only is relaxation a great option to take your mind off of your stressors, it’s also a great way to decrease the negative effects of stress. Try to set aside time, whether it’s once a day or a couple of times a week, to practice relaxation techniques. Everyone is different and what works for you may not work for others. Cuddle up with a good book in a quiet space. Get some fresh air by going for a walk. Go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see. It’s less important on what the activity is, as long as it works to give you some relief from stress. Here are some other popular relaxation options:
- Clear your mind with meditation
- Take a Yoga class or do some light stretching on your own
- Go get a massage
- Try deep breathing techniques
*If you’re dealing with anxiety: It’s still important to take time to relax, give yourself a break, and practice the stress management techniques listed above. However, it’s not recommended to completely avoid the activities or situations that activate your feelings of anxiety. Many people can and do whatever they have to do while feeling anxious. Learn more myths about anxiety.
Make self-care a priority
» Eat healthy
Eating healthy foods like fresh fruit and vegetables and getting enough nutrients every day is important to your mental and physical health. Try to eat whole foods as often as possible and avoid skipping meals.
» Get enough exercise
To maintain your physical health, it’s currently recommended to get your body moving and keep your heart rate elevated for at least 150 minutes per week or to get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. But exercise has other great benefits like boosting your energy, improving your mood, and helping you fall asleep.
Have limited mobility? Check out some exercises that may work for you!
**If you are new to regular exercise, consult with your doctor before beginning a vigorous exercise routine. Always start slow and build up your capacity slowly to avoid injury.
» Get enough sleep
We can’t put enough emphasis on how important regular sleep is. Most people need at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at full capacity.
» Limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol can worsen or trigger anxiety. It’s best to drink water to stay clear, focused, and hydrated!
» To friends and family
Your family and friend networks are key during a stressful time in your life. Research shows connectedness can protect you from the risk of suicide. Check in with yourself and decide if your friends or family are the right option for you.
» To your doctor or therapist
Be sure to let your doctor know if you have been experiencing prolonged negative stress or anxiety. If you don’t have a therapist, your primary care doctor will be able to provide you with a referral if that’s what you choose to do.
» To a crisis hotline or service
If you’re in a crisis and just need to talk to someone who will listen and cares, call a suicide prevention or crisis hotline. Click here for a list of hotlines.