Is that stress or anxiety?

stress vs anxiety
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Let’s talk about stress

Surely we all know what it feels like to be stressed. Our heart beats faster. We might start sweating. We become more irritable. Maybe we lose sleep. Different types of stress can manifest in different ways depending on our circumstances, experiences, and the stressor itself.

While it may not seem like it at the moment, did you know that the body actually needs stress in order to stay strong, adaptive, and healthy? Not to mention, stress is an essential element of our survival. When we feel threatened, the body releases a cascade of hormones and chemicals that initiates our flight or fight response. When this happens we kick into survival mode – and that’s a good thing.

As long as the body can complete the stress cycle and return to a more neutral baseline, stress is not all bad. When the body gets stuck in the stress response (chronic stress), however, that's when we start to experience complications and eventually disease.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is similar, yet different from stress. Simply put, “stress is the body’s reaction to a threat, whereas anxiety is the body’s reaction to the stress.”

According to the American Psychology Association, “...anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.”

Other symptoms of an anxiety disorder can also include:

  • Feelings of restlessness or being “on edge”

  • Feelings of unease or dread

  • Uncontrollable worry and nervousness

  • Sleep difficulties

  • Nausea or digestive trouble

  • Irritability

  • Faster heartbeat

  • Sweating

Anxiety is a very familiar feeling to many Americans. According to a study in 2013, anxiety disorders (of which there are many) are “the most prevalent mental health conditions,” affecting 40 million people in the United States alone.

Stress is a combination of mental and physical reactions, many of which show up with anxiety. Anxiety is more associated with excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. Just like stress, it is a normal emotion to experience. However, it can become a disorder<