Stress and anxiety is unavoidable. In fact, there are times when stress is actually beneficial. It can be divided into two categories, “good” and “bad.” Good stress, or eustress, motivates you. Eustress happens when you’re enthusiastic or even slightly overwhelmed by life events. Think of the nerves and excitement you feel as you prepare to move to a new city or get married.
When most people refer to stress, however, they are generally describing distress.
Classified as the bad type of stress, distress pushes you beyond your resources and sends your body into flight or fight mode. Distress is reminiscent of being dropped in a cage with a bloodthirsty lion: your blood pressure rises, your breath quickens, and your defenses ready to face the danger ahead.
If you remain in distress for too long, other problems arise. Too much stress can create a domino effect, complicating everything from your productivity to your relationships and physical health.
Your mind and body send silent signals when stress is becoming too much. Here are some of the most common signs.
Signs of Too Much Stress
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Experiencing a decline in sex drive
- Eating too much or not enough
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Becoming angry or irritable easily
- Using drugs or alcohol to ‘numb’ symptoms
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Experiencing anxiety or constant worry
It’s hard to talk about stress without bringing up the subject of anxiety. Are they the same?
Difference between Stress and Anxiety
One of the major concerns about dealing with chronic stress is that it makes you more susceptible to anxiety. Although anxiety and stress have many of the same physical symptoms, they have different causes.
Stress is your response to a situation. Anxiety is more ambiguous. You may feel anxious and not know exactly why. It’s often the body’s way of responding to acute worry or fear.
Let’s say you’re all freaked out because you’re extremely behind on a work deadline. As you’re headed out to work, you get into a fight with your spouse. Your kid calls en route claiming he left his gym bag at home and he needs his gym bag. As you figure out what to do, your head starts aching, your chest tightens, and you can’t help but think: “I’m going to lose my job. I’m going to lose my job.”
In this scenario, the experience of life stressors culminates into full-blown anxiety. With stress, you can often brainstorm feasible solutions—ask your boss for an extension on the deadline, resolve things with your spouse, ask if your spouse can drop off the gym bag. With anxiety, the solution isn’t so obvious.
Resolving anxiety often requires restructuring the way you think about and perceive stressful situations.
Fortunately, when you increase your stress-tolerance, you can decrease anxiety in the process. Perform relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation. Or, sweat it out in the gym to reduce stress and improve your mood all at once.
If you feel bogged down by chronic stress or anxiety, you need to create an action plan.
I have many years’ experience working with clients just like you to keep stress in check and get rid of overwhelming anxiety.
Sources: https://brocku.ca/health-services/health-education/stress/eustress-distress, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-causes-and-effects.htm, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-chronic-stress.aspx, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987, https://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/25/stress-anxiety-difference_n_4833172.html, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201603/10-crucial-differences-between-worry-and-anxiety