The Complex Nature and Relationship of Stress and Anxiety

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on August 23, 2023 12:04 pm

Have you ever been confused by the difference between stress and anxiety? What exactly is the difference between the two? And how can they be effectively managed?

Let’s begin by clarifying the difference between these similar, but very different coping strategies. Stress and anxiety have a comparable effect on the mind and body. Both can manifest through a number of physical and psychological symptoms. They are both effected by one’s biological, psychological and social environments, or as we say in psychology, biopsychosocial environments. While stress commonly has a short-lived or an acute effect upon an individual; anxiety can have a longterm or chronic effect upon the physical mind and body. Stress itself is a reaction. There is certainly a cause and effect that prompts stress. It may be triggered by an event, circumstance, situation, or an internal or external response to something occurring in one’s life. It can be thought of as an unwarranted tension with adverse effects. Whereas, anxiety often encapsulates an obsessive quality or component that intensifies as one feels an overwhelming sense of being without control. The individual may experience an impeding sense of doom and gloom. They may feel as though they have no ability of overcoming whatever they are

facing. Anxiety is essentially the manifestation of persistent stress. Initially, the anxiety may have been triggered by a stressor, but it may continue to plague an individual long after the stressor has been removed. It is important to recognize that there are anxieties that are known to manifest without a specific cause or reason.

Stress is the internal catalyst informing the mind and body to react now. It is a survival mechanism that informs us of potential threats or danger. You may not only lean upon stress when encountering the probability of a threat, but the possibility of losing out on something. Stress can come in a variety of forms including: a baseball player who sees a ball flying across centerfield; a student who is taking an academic exam; a speaker who’s addressing a large audience for the first time; a couple sharing marriage vows; a physician who’s treating an unfamiliar illness. Please note that a healthy balance of stress is a normal attribute of the human condition.

Another way of looking at the difference is, stress often manifests in relationship to something or because of something. Whereas, anxiety may occur whether or not there is a real-life threat or obstacle to overcome. Anxieties may have been related to a stressful situation, but the event continues to plague the mind and body of the individual long after the event has passed.

Generally speaking, stress is the body’s way of coping and managing events occurring in the moment. While anxiety is commonly an overwhelming sensation that does not dispensate following a stress induced occurrence. Notably, stress and anxiety can both have a profound effect upon the mind and body. The symptoms can exacerbate or be the catalyst of other physical and psychological conditions. These issues may lead to

a generalized feeling of being unwell, a lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns,  excessive worry, increased blood pressure, chronic fatigue, irritability, tension, bruxism (TMJ), and headaches. It may also have a systemic effect upon one’s overall immune, digestive, cardiovascular, or reproductive systems, and a barrage of physical and psychological manifestations.

By the way, you are not alone with your health concerns. There are others facing the same and similar challenges. It is not too late to reach out for help.

The good news is, both stress and anxiety can be effectively treated. You can learn to cope, manage and possibly overcome these issues. Please understand that it is not uncommon to experience some level of stress and anxiety throughout one’s life. It’s how we cope and manage these issues that makes all the difference.

The following are strategies that may help you with your personal stress and anxieties:

  • Regular exercise can have a profound effect on an individual’s mood, concentration, alertness and overall cognition. Furthermore, just 30 minutes of regular exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on self-esteem and cognitive function.
  • Be certain to eat a well-balanced diet and stay hydrated.
  • Consider the possibility of seeking the care of a mental health practitioner.
  • Journaling is an excellent way for you to pen your thoughts, perceptions, and any personal challenges. It’s an excellent opportunity to practice positive self-talk and another way to focus on behaviours, attitudes and perceptions that you might like to improve.
  • Scientific research has shown that controlled and concentrated breathing is a beneficial way for managing stress and anxiety.
  • Meditation can provide you a place of balance and an overall sense of control.

There are many methods with which one can eliminate, manage, and cope with stress and anxiety. It’s important to recognize that you are ultimately in control. Do not allow your mind to convince you otherwise. Adapt the skills mentioned above to your own personal routine. Do not feel afraid to adapt skills or to manipulate skills to fit your own life. At the end of the day, it’s all about your mental health and wellbeing.

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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

1 comment on “The Complex Nature and Relationship of Stress and Anxiety”

  1. Biomedis says:

    Can you provide more insight into the benefits of regular exercise, controlled breathing, and meditation in managing stress and anxiety?

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