Stress and Anxiety – What’s the difference?

Although it’s hard to describe the sensation when under stress, it is a feeling that naturally all people feel throughout life. Certain circumstances create stress triggers.

Triggers are therefore specific to each individual scenario, but some common stress triggers such as death and sickness are present with everyone. Stress is a natural bodily response activated by release of chemicals in the body that quickly boost energy and awareness in times of perceived danger.

Where stress and anxiety intertwine is where problems tend to occur. When stress is not managed overtime, mental health conditions like anxiety can develop. It is important to understand stress and anxiety, as well as find relief for these experiences. It is important to understand these concepts as stress is the leading cause of anxiety disorder.

Stress – What is it?

Stress is a discomfort that is brought upon by individual situations. Each person experiences stress in different ways much like anxiety. Certain stressful situations to you may not be stressful to another person.

Stress is your body’s natural response to danger and threat. It is a feeling and not an actual diagnoses such as an anxiety disorder. When prolonged it can ultimately lead to different mental and physical diagnoses. It is when a person feels pressure or strain from a particular situation, thing, event, person, and situation.

Stress normally is short term. It lasts to get you through that upcoming exam or, run away from that bully, and then is relieved once the stressor is removed from the immediate situation. Stress can be either positive or negative.

When it is positive, it helps you get through difficult situations. If you had a presentation that was coming up and it was important to you, that stress would help you focus and work toward perfecting and completing your presentation.

If stress is negative, it often presents itself in ways that are negatively effecting you. Such examples include losing sleep, inability to concentrate, and uncontrolled crying.

These negative effects of stress interfere with daily tasks and functioning. It is with this negative component of stress that mental health disorders such as anxiety develop.

Stress and Anxiety – Understanding the relationship

As mentioned, stress is a short term reaction to perceived danger. Anxiety on the other hand is longer term. It can be confusing to differentiate them as from the outside they appear very similar. Having anxiety is feeling stressed constantly.

However, anxiety is a disorder, it is what occurs due to unresolved continuous stress. It does not stop when the event or situation that one is worried about passes, it continues. It happens at times when you may not be expecting and out of the blue. you may not understand why, but that is essentially why it is considered a mental health disorder.

Anxiety disorder is the worry that persists for 6 months and more. Stress, much like depression, goes hand in hand with anxiety.

When you feel anxiety your mind and body are under stress. When you continue to persistently worry and overthink a particular situation, it is that component that is creating the anxiety and giving it a reason to exist.

You can have anxiety, become stressed about something, and once that situation is dealt with, the stress and anticipation of the outcomes eventually fade into existence. If this specific stressful situation continues to the point of interfering with daily life, anxiety will develop.

Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety

Much of the symptoms of stress are the same for anxiety. The difference is that these symptoms resume when anxiety is developed. These symptoms interfere with your happiness and satisfaction in life as they become a daily occurrence.

We are in charge of our feelings. If we do not find a means to control these negative emotions from stress and find means to relieve it, anxiety will develop and take control of our lives.


Psychological signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety include…

  1. Restlessness
  2. Continuous worry
  3. Fatigue
  4. Irritable mood
  5. Insomnia and difficulty with sleep
  6. Memory issues
  7. Overthinking
  8. Confusion or lack of concentration

Physical symptoms of stress and anxiety include…

  1. Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  2. Headaches or migraines
  3. Stomach aches and pains
  4. Heaviness and tightness of the chest
  5. Impaired functioning
  6. Muscle tension
  7. Lack of interest in sex or desire
  8. Possible stammering speech

    If the signs and symptoms of stress are ignored and you think they will just go away on their own, you are mistaken. Alot of self reflection into your own feelings and coping is required.

    Although stress is natural, you have to learn to manage it and learn to be strong through difficult situations in order to preserve a healthy mindstate. A mindstate free of illness and disease.

How to relieve Stress and Anxiety

Relief of stress and anxiety is very likely. If you understand that stress and anxiety are posing a problem in your life, then you can incorporate diverse methods to help you cope with these unpleasant emotions.

Some relief methods are quick and some require more effort. Although many coping mechanisms exist, they too are individual and one that might work for you may not work for someone else. Regardless, it is important to be aware of them and attempt to utilize as many as possible in order to relieve stress and anxiety

Immediate stress and anxiety coping mechanisms:

Breathing Exercises; Relaxation breathing such as deep and slow breaths, in and out while closing your eyes, can increase oxygen to the brain and cells and relieve tension quickly. This can be continued for 10 breaths and then again 15 minutes later if stress is extreme or hourly if the stress is more mild.

Staying Mindful; Disconnect from the internet, social media, and television and take a moment to be present. Sit outside and let your body feel the breeze and the sunrays. Meditate and be present.

Music; Music is an effective stress and anxiety reliever used for many years. Turn on your favorite songs that bring you joy and happiness and put you in a good place, then emerce yourself in those songs and sounds.

Meditate; Take 10 minutes to connect with your inner consciousness where you turn off your mind from your waking thoughts and worries. It is a particular technique to keep the mind clear and be one with yourself, so that you are not thinking of anything in that time. In return, complete relaxation occurs.

Identify stressors: Identify what is causing you stress and formulate a plan to deal with it. See what you can change and what you can do to overcome the stressful situation with a feasible plan.

Take a bath; A nice hot bath can help pull the pressure from your mind and out the body. It helps relax the muscles from tension and gives a sense of relief.

Stress and anxiety coping mechanisms with effort and time:

Exercise; Get a good sweat session. Get the heart rate up with some weight training and/or cardiovascular exercises. Exercise is an effective way of increasing feel good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin that promote relaxation and happiness.

Take a walk; go for a walk for 10 minutes minimum, preferably surrounded by nature. Lush greenery helps boosts mood and relax the mind while the walk helps increase heart rate and release those feel good hormones again. Walking helps the body concentrate on the movement while the visuals on your walk can distract your mind of stressful thoughts. Even a 10-minute walk around the block demonstrates positive outcomes.

Creativity; Get in touch with your creative side. Dive into enjoyable activities such as coloring books, poems, song writing, painting, drawing, making a collage, and creating art. Creativity helps to refocus the mind from stressful thoughts to more relaxing thoughts.

Vacation time; Take a quick trip or a vacation somewhere. Going to a foreign destination or a different surrounding can help you relax and break free from daily routine and things that can remind you of your stressful situation.

Organization; Getting yourself organized and implementing appropriate time management will help you feel more in control of the stressful situation.

Talk it out; Talking to loved ones and close friends whether in relation to the stressor or just to chit chat, helps you get out of your mind and negative thoughts. Socialization makes you feel heard, understood, and supported.

Therapy and/or professional help; Seek help from a professional if the stress is too overwhelming and unbearable. Talking it out with a professional can give you better insight and perspective to overcome any obstacles.

Final thought

As you can see, stress and anxiety are very similar. Stress lasts for a shorter period and subsides when the stressor is removed from the equation, while anxiety is an actual disorder built from prolonged stress. The feelings associated with anxiety are the same feelings experienced during stress, except they do not necessarily go away when the stressor is removed. The symptoms with anxiety can continue and reappear in odd times when least expected.

Signs and symptoms are the same for both anxiety and stress. Stress and anxiety can create negative outcomes. Although healthy doses of stress can result in positive outcomes in order to achieve goals and accomplish tasks, prolonged stress can have negative outcomes that are both psychological and physical.

There is relief for feelings of stress and anxiety in which symptoms can be elevated. There are immediate stress relaxation techniques and techniques that take a little more time and effort to do and practice. However, all the techniques used interchangeably as needed can help to achieve overall stress release.


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