What Is The Difference Between Anxiety and Stress

Stress: What is it?

Life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so common that it has become a way of life. When you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. You can protect yourself by recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.

What is stress?

Stress is your response to any physical, emotional, or intellectual demands.

Everyone faces many forms of stress, such as moving, friends, school, new aquantances, intimate relationships, work performance and demands, financial concerns, and much more.

The optimal level of stress challenges you but still allows you to succeed (for example, feeling a little anxious before a test may help you study harder). It may allow you to perform better, work more quickly or efficiently, and think more clearly. You may not feel stressed at this point. 

When we say we are stressed, we generally mean that we feel our stress levels are out of balance. This includes not only times when you are feeling overwhelmed by work or personal life but also times when you are bored. 

Slight imbalances of stress force you to adapt, making you stronger and allowing you to grow, but larger imbalances can be very overwhelming. The aim is not to eliminate stress but to use stress to your best advantage. You can do this by maintaining a balance between stress and your coping techniques. You do not want stress to become chronic stress.

Symptoms of Stress:

Mental symptoms may include persistent negative thoughts, indecisiveness, poor memory, worrying, boredom, impaired judgment, loss of concentration, bad dreams, and hasty decisions.

Behavioral symptoms may include unsociability, restlessness, and changes in eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.

Physical Symptoms of Stress:

  • Accident-prone 
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive sweating
  • Indigestion
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Teeth grinding
  • Headaches 
  • Clenched muscles 
  • Rapid weight changes 
  • Breathlessness 
  • Fatigue
  • Vague aches and pains 
  • Constipation or diarrhea 
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, other drugs
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate

Please note that researchers have linked stress and illness, although they have not yet fully defined the connection. Discussing stress with your clinician may allow for better care.

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety 
  • Mood swings 
  • Crying spells 
  • Tension 
  • Lack of enthusiasm 
  • Cynicism 
  • Feelings of alienation
  • Loss of confidence
  • Sense of dissatisfaction

How can I manage stress?

Change Your Mindset:

Develop hardiness, which is an appreciation for challenge, a commitment to living, and a belief that you have control over your life. This can lead to greater resilience.

Talk to friends, family, counselors. Ask for help or just share your feelings.

Evaluate your coping responses. Replace those that are negative (e.g. excessive drinking, smoking, procrastination) with positive responses (e.g. planning ahead, taking care of your body, facing problems). Look for the positive aspects of each stressor.

Practice deep breathing exercises, especially in stressful situations.

Use your healthy coping mechanisms in your daily life.

Remember your body and mind enters into a fight or flight response. This is normal and short term.

Laugh—it’s good for body and mind!

Take Care of Your Body and Mind:

  • Find out how much sleep your body needs, and rearrange your schedule to get it!
  • Eat a balanced diet including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains.
  • Exercise: even a ten-minute walk provides great stress relief.
  • Practice deep breathing and other relaxation techniques.
  • Limit caffeine intake. Excess caffeine can add to anxiety-related feelings such as nervousness, irritability, sweating, and tremors.
  • Avoid using alcohol and other drugs to relieve stress. Drink in moderation (one drink per hour with a maximum of three for women, and four for men) or not at all.

Manage Your Time:

  • Make a “To Do” list and prioritize tasks.
  • Let some of the unimportant tasks go. Don’t just prioritize your schedule—schedule your priorities!
  • Take time to identify your stressors. Plan to minimize or even avoid those that are dragging you down.
  • Evaluate your expectations—are they realistic?
  • Take time for relaxation, fun, and hobbies. How about music or dance lessons, yoga or crafts?

Beat the Academic Heat:

Compete only with yourself. You have no control over how other people perform, only how you perform.

Ask for help when you need it! Advisors, professors, teaching assistants, and counselors are there to help you!

Arrange your schedule so that it fits your needs whenever possible. Think carefully about your preferences—for example, do you like morning or afternoon classes, like the time between classes, have a work schedule to consider, and so on.

Prepare for tests and papers ahead of time so that you don’t have to cram!

Anxiety: What is it?

What is anxiety? We have all felt anxiety—the nervousness before a date, test, competition, or presentation—but what exactly is it?

Anxiety is our body’s way of preparing to face a challenge. Our heart pumps more blood and oxygen so we are ready for action. We are alert and perform physical and emotional tasks more efficiently.              

It is normal to feel anxious when our safety, health, or happiness is threatened; however, sometimes anxiety can become overwhelming and disruptive and may even occur for no identifiable reason. Excessive, lasting bouts of worry may reflect an anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders: 

Anyone may experience these symptoms during stressful times. However, individuals with anxiety disorders may experience them in the absence of stress. More severe symptoms and with several symptoms appearing together at once.

Symptoms of Anxiety:

  • Cannot to relax
  • Unrealistic or excessive worry
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Rapid pulse or pounding, skipping, racing heart
  • Nausea, chest pain, or pressure
  • Feeling a “lump in the throat”
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular breathing
  • Feelings of dread, apprehension, or losing control
  • Trembling or shaking, sweating or chills
  • Fainting or dizziness, feelings of detachment
  • Thoughts of death

What Are The Different Types of Anxiety Disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD):

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience chronic and exaggerated worry and tension. This is much more than the typical anxiety people experience in their daily lives. People may have trembling, twitching, muscle tension, nausea, irritability, poor concentration, depression, fatigue, headaches, light-headedness, breathlessness, or hot flashes.

Panic Disorders:

People with panic disorder have panic attacks with feelings of terror that strike suddenly and repeatedly with no warning. During the attacks, individuals may feel like they can’t breathe, have lost control, are having a heart attack, or even that they are dying. 

Always remember, if you are having symptoms of a heart attack or believe you may be experiencing one do not wait. Dial 911 or get to your nearest ER for prompt care.

Physical symptoms may include chest pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating, tingling or numbness, and a racing heartbeat. Some people will have one isolated attack, while others will develop a long-term panic disorder. High anxiety often occurs between attacks because there is no way of knowing when the next one will occur. 

Panic disorders are twice as common in women as men, and often begin early in adulthood. Many people with panic disorder also suffer from agoraphobia (abnormal fear of open or public places.).


Phobias are irrational fears. Individuals with phobias realize their fears are irrational. Thinking about or facing the feared object or situation can bring on a panic attack or severe anxiety.

Phobias are often fears of a particular object or situation. Commonly feared objects and situations in specific phobias include animals, tunnels, water, and heights. The most common specific phobia is the fear of public speaking.

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social phobia have a fear of being judged by others, being embarrassed, or being humiliated. This fear may interfere with work or school and other ordinary activities.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD):

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is characterized by uncontrollable anxious thoughts or behaviors. 

Individuals with OCD are plagued by persistent, unwelcome thoughts and images or by the urgent need to engage in certain rituals. Some OCD sufferers may only have obsessive thoughts without the related rituals. 

The disturbing thoughts or images (e.g., fear of germs) are called obsessions, and the rituals performed to try to get rid of them (e.g., hand washing) are called compulsions. For example, people who are obsessed with germs may wash their hands excessively. The individual is not happy to be performing the ritual behaviors but finds this to be the only way to get temporary relief from the obsessive thought.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects people after terrifying events such as physical or sexual abuse, car accidents, war, or natural disasters. 

Individuals with PTSD may experience depression, flashbacks, nightmares, sleep difficulties, irritability, aggression, violence, and a feeling of detachment or numbness. 

In general, symptoms seem to be worse if the event that triggered the PTSD was initiated by a person. Symptoms can be triggered by anything that reminds the individual of their trauma. This often begins within 3 months of experiencing the trauma.

Panic Attacks:

What is a panic attack? Panic attacks can be caused by heredity, chemical imbalances, stress, and the use of stimulants (such as caffeine or drugs).

Some people experience only one or two attacks and never experience them again. Panic attacks can occur with other psychiatric disorders. In panic disorders the panic attacks return repeatedly and the person develops an intense fear of having another attack. 

Without help, this “fear of fear” can make people avoid certain situations. It can also interfere with their lives even when they are not having a panic attack. It is important to recognize the problem and get help.

The Importance of Health and How it can Help with Stress and Anxiety!

People ask themselves and others what is the importance of physical health as it relates to stress and Anxiety. Is there really a link between the two? 

Here are some reasons as to why your health is important.

  • Eating healthy can help eliminate some of the unpleasant feelings and sensations of stress and anxiety.
  • Helps your body fight off illnesses and heal much better when sick or injured.
  • Gives you a sense of accompaniments and wellbeing when you are mindful of eating habits and exercise.
  • Exercise is an excellent stress reliever. 
  • Enjoyment from cooking as a hobby, or just making a well balanced meal.
  • Stress and anxiety can take a toll on your body. Give your body all the help in needs to stay strong.

Seek Counselling From a Mental Health Professional:

There are many resources available to those who experience stress and anxiety. Sometimes asking for help is hard, or you may even feel embarrassed. Rest assure that there are many individuals going through the same feelings and symptoms you are. You are not alone.

Look up some local mental health professionals. These can be counselors or psychiatrists. Psychiatrists can help with medication that is best suited for your personal situation. The work closely with you for the best outcomes and what you are facing.

Seeking counselling is speaking to a mental health professional about your stress and anxiety. These individuals assist you in working through reasons for your stress, anxiety, and issues such as OCD and PTSD.

Help is always available and the internet can be a wonderful resources of others sharing their stories to help one another. Self-help books and guides are another way to not only inform yourself, but jump start some changes to a better you.