Stress and anxiety: related, but not synonymous states
We often use the words “anxiety” and “stress” interchangeably. Both are normal, adaptive responses to life’s challenges and share many symptoms ( for example, worry, stomach aches, restlessness, muscle tension, racing thoughts, headaches, sleepless nights, etc.)
But despite their similarities, there are important differences between the two. And knowing the differences is the first step towards finding relief.
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When left unchecked, both stress and anxiety can escalate into more severe mental health conditions.
Anxiety is mostly triggered internally by excessive thoughts (for example, judgments about the past or worries about the future).
Like stress, anxiety can be useful in the right scenarios. The discomfort it makes us feel was designed to alert us of something, precisely so that we listen up and protect ourselves.
Acute stress is the type of stress that comes as quickly as it goes. It can throw you off balance to lose your focus momentarily. Examples of situations that trigger acute stress are intense arguments with a loved one or feeling inadequate after a challenging exam.
Every time you experience acute stress, effective relaxation techniques include breathing exercises, meditation, cognitive reframing, and progressive muscle relaxation.
Worry is the cognitive part of anxiety, with it's repetitive and obsessive thought patterns in our mind. Worry is sometimes essential for us to solve problems or take action, provided we are not stuck in a constant state of worry.
Ways to Handle Worry:
If you’ve ever been severely jetlagged or sleep-deprived, there’s a good chance that you have experienced transient depersonalisation. Think of it like an airbag for the mind - part of the body and brain’s natural response to stress.
Depersonalisation is feeling like you’re ‘in a dream’ or ‘not really there’. Up to 75 per cent of people will feel so at least once in their lives, but it will mostly be fleeting and usually at a point of stress or fatigue. It's a normal response.
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