The Differences Between Stress and Anxiety

differences between stress and anxiety

What are the differences between stress and anxiety? The simplest explanation is that stress is the body’s reaction to pressure or feeling threatened – external factors. Anxiety is a sustained mental health disorder that goes beyond everyday worries. This can be constant and affect your daily life.

Waters Edge Counseling wants to help you understand the distinctions between the two, and give you the tools to decide if you need additional support.

What are the Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety?

Both stress & anxiety have physical AND psychological signs. Some people experience symptoms including rapid heart rate, accelerated breathing, stomach issues. These can present in both stress and anxiety.

However, some distinct symptoms are attributed to each.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress tends to be short term and comes in response to an identified threat. Symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweaty palms
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Chest pain

Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is a longer lasting issue, and it can sometimes seem as if nothing is causing it. Oftentimes, the feelings of fear or worry are disproportionate to the actual event or concern. Some symptoms include:

  • Difficulty controlling unease or dread
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbance
  • Feeling tense or easily startled
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Muscle tension

discussing differences between stress and anxiety

Triggers for Stress & Anxiety

Feelings of stress are often caused by external issues in your life. These can include:

  • Important life changes, like getting married or buying a new home
  • Being under lots of pressure, like facing work deadlines or preparing for presentations
  • Conflict with loved ones
  • Not having much or any control over the outcome of a situation
  • Having responsibilities that you’re finding overwhelming
  • Everyday worries

Anxiety can exist as its own disorder or can be triggered by drawn out or overwhelming stress.

Anxiety triggers can be different for each person, but often include:

  • An upsetting health diagnosis
  • Caffeine
  • Prolonged financial concerns
  • Interruptions in sleep patterns
  • Social events that can cause social anxiety
  • Conflict (in relationships, at work, and at home)
  • Public speaking

Some stress and/or anxiety triggers can be hard to identify, and our therapists here at Waters Edge Counseling can help you with that. They may use talk therapy or other methods to identify triggers.

How to Cope with Stress and Anxiety

There are many coping techniques that can help manage stress and anxiety. This learning to cope can take time and may involve more than one strategy.

Some coping strategies for these issues that Waters Edge Counseling recommend include:

  • Relaxation breathing: Stress and/or anxiety can cause shallow, accelerated breathing. The simple act of controlled breathing may bring stress relief. There are available Apps with guided breathing meditations for stress and anxiety.
  • Exercise: We always recommend exercise as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. Moving your body gets your endorphins flowing and often has a calming effect. Yoga, running, walking, biking – there are plenty of options
  • Limit alcohol & caffeine: These can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks and anxiety in general.
  • Consistent Sleep Patterns: Sleep can give you the energy to cope with difficult feelings and experiences.
  • Creativity and Hobbies: Engaging in a creative hobby gives your mind a chance to relax. Studies indicate that creative engagement can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances.
  • Music: We recommend listening to slow, relaxing music. This can decrease your stress response.
  • Peer support or Group Therapy: This brings together people who’ve had similar experiences to help each other. Many people find that joining support groups to share ideas about how to stay well and connect with others makes them feel less alone.
  • Accepting that you can’t control everything: This can be a tough one. But try to find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change.

help for anxiety and stress disorders

When to Seek Additional Support

We all know that worry is a normal part of life. But when your worry becomes prolonged and unreasonable, it may be time to see a mental health expert. Our therapists have much experience helping clients cope with anxiety disorders.

People that deal with chronic stress or anxiety disorders experience fear that can debilitate daily functioning.

If you feel that your stress or anxiety is preventing you from living a full life, please give us a call at 912.319.5552 or email us. We are here to help.