We all have our moments where we feel stressed at the moments life throws at us that wear us out. It is important not to confuse being stressed out with anxiety as anxiety is a serious mental illness that needs to be treated. By understanding the differences between anxiety and stress, this will better explain your constant states of worrying and will give you a better idea of whether or not to seek treatment.
Knowing What Stress Is
The Oxford Dictionary defines stress as “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” The one who coined this term, Hans Selye, believed that stress could be either good or bad for you as it would motivate you to change your behavior in order to do what needs to be done. Stress is about how we cope with what is occurring around us. Whenever we feel pressured, we develop stress such as if we have a deadline to meet, you have too much that you have to complete at once, taking care of someone, etc. The more pressure we feel, the more stressed out we are.
Knowing What Anxiety Is
The Oxford Dictionary says anxiety is “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.” Anxiety is very different from feeling stressed in that anxiety is formed mentally. We focus so much on what might happen, if we can handle it, if you have what it takes to fix the problem, and worrying if things do not turn out okay. We worry more about the potential danger than the actual danger itself.
Experiences Vs. What Might Be
One difference between anxiety and stress is that stress comes from our present experiences. We may have a deadline to meet or other expectations that we need to fulfill. Anxiety comes from worrying about the potential experience we may have and wondering how we will cope. For example, someone with anxiety could be waking up worrying that they will run into traffic before getting into the car without actually getting in the car and seeing the traffic for themselves. Someone who sees the traffic while on the road may develop stress and not have it be anxiety.
Present Vs. Future
Another difference is that stress is worrying about something happening in the present while anxiety is about worrying about the future. We may experience stress if we have a paper to write that is due tomorrow and have not gotten started on it yet. This worrying is based on a present demand that you have been told to do instead of something that you might be told to do later. Anxiety is about what we might experience or feel. For example, we could feel anxiety about what will happen after you graduate college. You could be feeling scared that you will not get that job in your field that you want or that you will be in debt by the time you graduate. These events have not happened yet, but you worry that they will.
Staying Vs. Going
Because we experience stress based on when life demands us something that we are afraid of failing at, our stress can go away once the problem is solved. For example, some people may experience stress when they take a test knowing how hard it will be. But then once they finish taking the test, the stress goes away and they can relax. Anxiety, on the other hand, stays with you despite the problem being over. There are those where even if they get a good grade on their test, their anxiety will still follow them for the next test of the intense worry they may experience in the unpredictable results. You cannot listen to relaxing music or go to the beach to take your stress away as anxiety involves more intense treatment than that.
Reason Vs. No Reason
Stress comes to you because a reason is being presented to you in why your heart is racing. A stress-related thought can be that you are at work and your boss gives you an important assignment that you have never done before. You could be having thoughts that you will not present your best work and that you will be fired. This is a reasonable thought as you are taking on a stress-inducing task. Anxiety works differently in that you are worrying for no particular reason at all. For example, you could be going for a job interview and you are in the waiting room. You have all of these thoughts in your head that your future boss will already not like you and tell you that you are not qualified for the position. These thoughts are unreasonable because you have not even gone in for the interview yet and you are thinking the worst.
Stress Leads to Anxiety
While stress and anxiety are two different things, stress can often lead to anxiety when chronic stress stays with you. For example, you may feel stressed in having to cook a big meal for your family and it comes out wrong. That stress can persist and turn into anxiety where you think you will not be able to do anything right going forward. By noting whether or not you have anxiety, you will be able to get help more quickly and learn how to relax during your everyday activities.
Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will be ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.