Updated: Dec 3, 2019
By: Marie Hartzel, LPC, LCADC, ACS
Everyone struggles with stress and anxiety. Whether you are an employee, a student, or a stay-at-home parent, stress and anxiety are experienced during your life. From an outsider’s perspective, stress and anxiety may be difficult to differentiate because they share similar physical and emotional symptoms.
Here’s the main difference between stress and anxiety: stress is your body’s response to an external threat and it is generally a long-term experience. Anxiety, on the other hand, has internal origins. It is a persistent condition and is a sustained mental health disorder. Anxiety is usually a specific reaction to stress. Stress is a common trigger of anxiety.
Common symptoms of stress are muscle tension, sleep disturbance, irritability, frequent headaches, and back or neck pain. Symptoms of anxiety may include the symptoms of stress already mentioned but also include difficulty controlling worry, restlessness, exaggerated startle response, and difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
It is essential to build a toolbox of strategies that can be utilized to deal with anxiety. Having a variety of tools is important because a strategy that may have worked in the past may not have the same effect in certain situations. In addition to having a variety of strategies, it is crucial to practice them even when the anxiety is under control.
Although we take breathing for granted, controlling your breathing will cause your body to relax naturally. Try the 4-7-8 technique, which uses long and slow breaths from the abdominal area. Start by breathing through the nose for 4 seconds, then holding your breath for 7 seconds. Finally, release it for 8 seconds.
This is just one strategy that you can use in your toolbox to help manage anxiety. Check-in regularly and more will be posted. It is also important to be aware of the things that trigger your anxiety and identify the best strategy that will work for you.