The difference between anxiety and stress can be hard to decipher. The physical symptoms of anxiety and stress may at times overlap and feel very similar. Anxiety is different from stress, in that it may be a reaction to stress. It’s totally possible to have both at the same time, but it can be useful to figure out which is more present.
Okay, now take a look at your score. Is there predominantly more ones or twos? More ones, advise the it’s likely stress that you’re experiencing. If there are mostly twos, then this is indicative of feelings of anxiety. And of course, an equal amount of ones and twos, are a combination of both stress and anxiety. So now that we’re understanding the source, what are some things you can do?
Stress usually occurs as a result of external circumstances that we are having trouble coping with. Oftentimes we are able to resolve our stressful symptoms when we are able to resolve the circumstances that are causing our stress. Our stress symptoms may have a mental, emotional, or physical component. Common symptoms of stress include anger, irritability, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and digestive issues. Stress can be both good and bad, with good stress acting as a motivator for concentration and the accomplishment of tasks, and bad stress that feels persistent can lead to overwhelm and further emotional and physical difficulties.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, nervousness, or worry. Anxiety can be triggered by feelings of stress, but often does not dissipate after stressful external circumstances have been resolved. Anxiety can also be described as an excessive reaction to a given situation, causing worry and distress that may lead us to have difficulty completing tasks. Anxiety can feel like a persistent feeling of dread, leading us to perceive non life threatening circumstances as highly overwhelming. Symptoms of anxiety may include frequently feeling panicked, insomnia, hard-to-control worry, and avoidance.
Some helpful coping strategies for stress or anxiety may include regular exercise, opening up to loved ones, prioritizing sleep, making healthy choices around eating, and talking to a therapist. Therapists can help to better understand the sources of stress or anxiety and provide you with useful strategies to help your unique situation.
Working with a therapist for anxiety may mean learning to challenge your negative thinking patterns that lead to increased anxiety, or learning how to slowly and safely expose yourself to what causes anxiety in order to gradually challenge your fears and learn skills to control panic.
A therapist can also assist with stress management, and can work with you to help understand your stress triggers and how to cope with them in a healthy way. Both stress and anxiety can bring up difficult emotions, and therapy can provide a healthy outlet for these difficult feelings.
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