Stress vs Anxiety? What’s the Difference and How to Reduce Them

Stress vs Anxiety? What’s the Difference and How to Reduce Them

Stress. In this fast-paced world that values productivity and “busyness” above all else, stress is unavoidable. Anxiety is becoming more and more common, too. But the two conditions, despite seeming interchangeable, are actually quite different. 

How many people are living with stress and anxiety? 

Stress and anxiety are commonplace in society today. 

According to The American Institute of Stress, around a third of people report feeling extreme stress, and approximately three-quarters of people experience stress that impacts their physical and mental health. 

Most individuals have stress because of work, but high stress levels aren’t just reserved for adults: According to the Global Organization for Stress, this condition is the number one health concern of high school students. Additionally, stress is more likely to impact ethnic minorities, women, and single parents. 

However, anxiety disorders—such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder—are also just as prevalent in society today. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States. They affect 18% of the population, and despite being highly treatable, only about 37% of those struggling with anxiety disorders receive treatment. 

Stress vs. Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably. To many people, they are one and the same, but in actuality, stress and anxiety are quite different. Stress is typically a response to an external situation such as a big project at work or a difficult coworker. Stress levels usually lower once the stressful situation has passed. 

Anxiety, on the other hand, is internal in origin. Anxiety is often described as a constant feeling of dread, even in situations that are not stressful. The feeling of apprehension continues even after the event has occurred. 

Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

The main reason stress and anxiety are often confused is because their symptoms are so alike. Stress and anxiety manifest in very similar ways, making it difficult to distinguish between the two conditions and understanding which one someone may have. 

Symptoms of stress include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Digestive problems (e.g., diarrhea and constipation)

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Feelings of dread or unease
  • Digestive problems (e.g., diarrhea and constipation)
  • Sweating 

Based on the symptoms, it’s easy to see why people are always getting stress and anxiety confused. But thankfully, it is possible to tell these often overwhelming conditions apart. 

How to tell if you have stress or anxiety

There are five main ways to tell whether you are dealing with stress or anxiety. 

1. Stress usually originates externally

In most cases, stress is caused by an external trigger, such as an overwhelming workload, a large family event, or a fight with a friend. Anxiety, on the other hand, is usually more internal and is a response to stressors. If you find that the stressors are no longer present and you still have feelings of dread, it is more likely that you are dealing with anxiety, not stress. 

2. Anxiety is an excessive reaction

Anxiety can cause reactions that are disproportionate to a triggering event. For example, if you notice that the anguish you feel is unusual or goes far beyond how others are reacting, this might signal that you have anxiety. 

3. Anxiety can put a stop to everyday tasks

People with anxiety can sometimes find it impossible to function. Regular tasks usually become unmanageable, and getting through the day seems like a chore. Everyday things like work and errands typically fall to the wayside.

4. Anxiety can cause unwarranted distress

Anxiety can cause feelings of dread and unease, even though nothing of significant concern is happening. If you’re in a safe situation where everyone seems comfortable except for you, it may point to anxiety. 

What indicates an anxiety disorder?

While there are ways to differentiate between stress and anxiety, it’s equally important to know the differences between anxiety disorders. The symptoms of anxiety disorders do not look the same. For example, panic attacks may indicate a panic disorder, and unusually high levels of stress in social situations might point to a social anxiety disorder. 

If you have an anxiety disorder, treatment is necessary, but these can sometimes cause side effects that lead to you taking even more medications. 

Medication domino effect

When it comes to any health condition—including stress and anxiety— medications can either help or hurt you. Every reputable physician has genuine intentions to help you when they prescribe medication, but when the amount of medicine becomes overwhelming, it can lead to disappointing results. 

The Founder of Kat’s Naturals saw this first hand when her father went through what seemed like an endless cycle of medications. First, he was put on an antidepressant that caused insomnia and impotence. Then, he was put on another medication to help with that, which caused high blood pressure. From there, he had to take medication to combat that issue, but it caused his body to hurt all the time. He was then diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was prescribed multiple medications. Afterward, he got diabetes and was put on medication for that. 

As you can see, while medications are essential, it is vital that you are informed of the possible side effects. If the treatments for stress and anxiety have side effects that you don’t want to deal with, you should consider other options.

How to reduce stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two conditions that you can alleviate naturally. Even if you are on medication for anxiety, these simple tips can be helpful in restoring your quality ofThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Relax-01-1024x1024-300x300.jpg life. 

  1. Look for natural medicines: There are several vitamins, supplements, essential oils, and herbs that can help you feel calmer. CBD is also a popular remedy for decreasing anxiety. 
  2. Don’t skimp on self-care: For many people, self-care can feel selfish. But you cannot pour from an empty cup. By taking care of yourself, you will be better able to fulfill your responsibilities more adequately and efficiently. 
  3. Face your feelings: Sometimes, burying your feelings can seem like the best thing to do, but facing them head-on can be helpful. You can do this by talking to a friend or joining a support group.

These solutions can work in tandem with whatever medication you’re taking for stress or anxiety. Or, they can work on their own. The most important thing is to find out what works for you.

Stress vs. Anxiety: Similar, but different

It can be challenging to manage stress and anxiety, two seemingly similar conditions, especially in a society where being stressed and anxious are almost seen as a badge of honor. But managing these conditions can lead to a happier and healthier life, so don’t avoid tackling stress and anxiety. Alleviating them will do wonders for your life.

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