What Is Stress?
Stress is easy to spot, the causes are often very obvious, like money worries, pressure at work, time restraints, problems with children/boss/spouse. Things that pile up, overwhelm us, make us feel we can’t cope, that there aren’t enough hours in the day, dollars in the bank, there’s just not enough of you to go round.
Then there’s the stress of being ill. As you grow older the worry that it takes longer to recover. Will I ever recover from my illness? What will my family, my children, do without me?
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety on the other hand often seems to be more nebulous. Sometimes even seemingly coming out of the blue when things are going well. Though this is never the case. A truly happy relaxed person who takes everything in their stride and sees problems as challenges does not get anxious. They may have temporary stress but certainly not anxiety.
Anxiety is always there, at the bottom of everything you do or think. It doesn’t go away when a task is completed and no amount of money will alleviate it. If it would then it’s money stress and not anxiety. In fact, if money solves a problem it’s not really a problem at all, it’s an expense.
It’s like stress is a noun, something heavy you could put into a wheelbarrow and anxiety is an adjective, something that describes everything, which is what it feels like when you have anxiety. Everything you do is coloured, described by your anxiety.
The Physical Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
The physical symptoms of stress and the physical symptoms of anxiety are very similar because when the body is called to action the same hormones are released thus causing the same physical symptoms.
Lump in the throat
But when stress turns to anxiety another list of symptoms, the mental and emotional symptoms of anxiety, gets added -
Inability to think clearly
Fear of the physical symptoms
Feelings of unreality
Feeling out of control
And even more fear
And these then create a terrible feedback loop which feeds back on itself causing even more anxiety which is why the loop has to be broken in order to gain relief. Unlike stress there is no job that can be completed, or sorted out, that will deal with the anxiety or alleviate the symptoms. Everything is doomed, everything is scary, there seems no way out of the anxiety
Having said that there is one physical thing you can do to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety immediately and that is to breath properly. Deep abdominal breathing, when you can really feel your lower abdomen expand under your hand as you breath in, feeds back onto the entire system and helps to reduce the amount of adrenalin being released within minutes which in turn helps to relieve the unpleasant physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. Learn how to breathe properly to overcome anxiety.
Once stress has collapsed the energy system and anxiety has set in you need to address this very specifically and systematically with some powerful techniques that are now available. You can find some effective self help anxiety treatments here.
But of course if you are still at the stress stage the best thing to do is to manage your stress using some of the techniques here on this site. Act now before your stress turns into anxiety. Make a habit of destressing daily by picking one or two of your favourites and build them into your to do list every day.
It’s a lot easier in the long run to spend a few minutes a day destressing than untangling the anxiety feedback loop.
Book mark this site and come back often to prevent stress turning into anxiety.
And if it turns out you do need an anxiety expert, you know where I am.
Author, Life Without Panic Attacks