Anxiety and stress are natural parts of the body’s reaction to potential threats, known as the “fight or flight” response. This response is designed to keep a person alert, focused, and ready to deal with a threat if one arises and it is a perfectly normal emotion to feel, even if it can become overwhelming at times.
This article looks at the causes, symptoms, treatments, and management techniques for stress and anxiety, as well as how they differ and overlap. Furthermore, it describes the circumstances in which someone might benefit from medical attention.
Anxiety and Stress Are Two Completely Different Entities
Stress and anxiety are both manifestations of the body’s natural “fight or flight” response to perceived threats. When a person believes they are in danger, their body responds by producing stress hormones.
The heart beats faster as a result of the effects of stress hormones, resulting in a greater volume of blood being pumped to the organs and limbs. This type of reaction allows a person to be prepared to fight or flee the situation and they also breathe faster, which contributes to an increase in blood pressure.
Simultaneously, a person’s senses sharpen, and their body releases nutrients into the blood to ensure that every part has the energy it needs to function properly. This process occurs in a very short period of time and is referred to by specialists as “stress”. Anxiety is the body’s reaction to the stress it is under.
Anxiety is commonly defined as “a state of worry, unease, or dread” that a person feels in the days leading up to a significant event attended by a large number of people which keeps their vigilance and awareness up.
When confronted with a physical or emotional threat, real or imagined, an individual may experience the fight or flight response. Even though it has the potential to be beneficial, it can be disruptive to some people’s daily lives.
Both stress and anxiety manifest themselves in a variety of ways that are strikingly similar to one another.
When a person is under stress, they may exhibit the following symptoms:
- A faster rate of breathing and an increased rate of heartbeat
- Concerned thoughts
- Irritability, moodiness, or anger general dissatisfaction a sense of being overburdened with responsibilities
- Nausea and dizziness a case of diarrhoea or constipation
When someone is anxious, they may have the following symptoms:
- A faster heartbeat and breathing rate
- A feeling of unease or dread accompanied by excessive sweating
- Constipation or diarrhoea
How to Tell the Difference
Anxiety and stress both cause the same physiological response in the body and manifest in the same way. As a result, distinguishing between the two may be difficult.
Stress effects are typically transient and manifest in response to a perceived threat whereas anxiety can be persistent, and there may be no obvious cause for it at times.
People who struggle to cope with stress and anxiety may benefit from relaxation techniques such as:
- Breathing exercises while concentrating on a calming word, such as “peace” or “calm,” can be extremely beneficial.
- The exercise includes imagining a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a meadow, practising yoga or tai chi, counting slowly to 10, and so on.
- Physical activity can help people recover from the effects of stress. This could be accomplished through a brisk walk, a cycle ride, or even a run. Yoga and qi-gong are two examples of activities that use flowing movements to help people relax.
- People that discuss their concerns with others, whether in person, over the phone, or online, can feel less stressed. If they feel comfortable doing so, people may choose to talk to someone they trust, such as a friend, partner, family member, or coworker.
- People can learn what makes them stressed and anxious, accept that some things are out of their control, and settle for doing their best rather than striving for perfection.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- Consume well-balanced meals.
- Get enough sleep and incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine.
Is It Possible for One to Transform Into the Other?
Anxiety is the body’s reaction to stress, which is the body’s initial reaction to an external threat.
When should one visit a doctor?
Stress and anxiety can be beneficial in certain circumstances and people need to have these normal, transient reactions in order to stay safe.
If a person notices that they are constantly or frequently stressed or anxious, they should consult with their primary care physician. They could have an anxiety disorder or be under chronic stress.
Some of the following should serve as red flags:
- Excessive anxiety that interferes with daily life using harmful substances or excessive amounts of alcohol to cope with stress or anxiety
- Unreasonable worries
- A significant change in one’s normal sleeping patterns
- A significant change in one’s eating habits and a fundamental shift in one’s approach to personal hygiene practices
- A persistent feeling of sadness
- Self-harming behaviour or thinking about self-harming behaviour
- Suicidal ideation with a sense of being out of control
Stress and anxiety can sometimes push people to their breaking point. When something like this happens, a person is more likely to develop chronic stress or an anxiety disorder. Anyone who feels that these overwhelming feelings are interfering with their daily life should make an appointment with a medical professional.