Are You Experiencing Anxiety or Stress?
Anxiety is a mental health condition. Even though it’s become normal in our society, it’s not a normal state of being for the human body. In contrast, stress is normal, at least to some extent. Every animal can experience stress, and humans are definitely no exception. However, this can make things very confusing. You might feel like you’re just under normal stress when you’re actually trying to power through anxiety.
First of all, it’s important to understand that anxiety and stress can look very similar. More than that, if you undergo stress for too long, it can turn into anxiety. Therefore, it’s not surprising if you don’t know the difference. Some people feel embarrassed to go to a therapist and say, “I have anxiety,” because they think that maybe it’s just stress. Both conditions can be distressing, and you can rightfully seek help for either of them. Your therapist can help you identify whether you have anxiety or stress and help you utilize your inner strength to get past either one.
Generally speaking, stress is a reaction to a specific event or set of events. Stress can come about as a result of bad things but also from good things.
For example, many people are thrilled and excited about their upcoming wedding, but they also get stressed by it. Travel, children, and new jobs are other potential sources of positive stress. Stress can stack up; when too many challenging things happen at once and life gets overwhelming, you might feel stress. As a general guideline, stress is a short-term thing. You can usually look at your life and identify a pretty clear cause for the stress.
In contrast, anxiety doesn’t necessarily have a source. Sure, certain things can trigger anxiety. However, the feeling tends to be persistent, long-lasting, and present regardless of changes in circumstance. For example, the wedding is over, but you can’t stop obsessing about that one stupid mistake you made in your vows. The stressor (the wedding) is done and it’s your anxiety that’s causing you to mentally keep obsessing.