Whether we’re dealing with stress, anxiety, or mental health issues, most of us would rather be calm. However, when you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, finding your calm can be a challenge because there are so many physical symptoms of stress.
To make it easier to deal with the feelings associated with stress and anxiety, it’s important to understand stress, anxiety, and the difference between the two.
When you understand the difference between anxiety and stress, you can also try to manage them more easily, whether that be with medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, seeing a psychologist, or utilizing talk therapy, there are ways to help you feel better.
What Is Stress?
Stress is tension. You can feel physical tension (headaches, dizziness, chest pain, high blood pressure, digestive issues) and you can feel emotional tension. Both are considered stress.
Stress can be caused by an event (resulting in PTSD or traumatic stress disorder) or even a thought or behavior. The things in your life that cause you to feel nervous, frustrated, angry, or overwhelmed are sources of stress. Another word for these thoughts and events is a stressor (like a work deadline, everyday life stress, loss of sleep).
Our body experiences stress by reacting to stressors. The stressors present a challenge, and our bodies rise to the occasion. Without stress, it would be difficult for us to perceive danger and react accordingly.
In short bursts, we are often thankful for stress as our bodies save us from harm (thanks to adrenaline). In cartoons when the character approaches a cliff and falls because they didn’t realize they were in danger, it’s funny. In real life, if you were to find yourself suddenly at a precipice, your body would react in an effort to save your life.
That feeling of being at the edge of the precipice is a lifesaver, but the body’s reaction is exhausting. It’s understandable why prolonged stress can become exhausting and even detrimental to your overall health, resulting in mental illness or common anxiety disorders.
There Are Two Types of Stress
Stress is part of life, and there are two types of stress. You can experience both simultaneously, and it’s important to understand the types of stress so you can understand your own experiences with stress.
Acute stress is that stress we feel “in the moment”. It’s immediate, and it triggers your fight-or-flight response. Some examples of this stress are job interviews, a close call while you’re driving, a haunted house, a surprise party, or getting a speeding ticket. These events are manageable for healthy people, but a severe incident can cause problems later.
Chronic stress, as its name suggests, is stress that lasts and occurs over a prolonged period of time. When stressors are ever-present, they can have a negative impact on even the healthiest person. One example of chronic stress is prolonged financial struggles. If it is a constant in your life, it becomes harder to identify it as a stressor. Another example is having a social anxiety disorder, which constantly adds stress to your life.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a sense of fear or uneasiness. If you have ever dreaded something, you’ve felt anxious. One example of anxiety that people are familiar with is stage fright.
The fear of being on stage creeps in, and the person with stage fright may experience sweating despite a comfortable temperature in the room. The anxiety may also cause restlessness. This is often depicted in shows by pacing or leg shaking. Feelings of tension set in, and the heart rate increases.
This anxiety can be a normal response to stress. Many of us feel anxiety before an event, and once we have gone through the event, either by overcoming the anxiety, avoiding the event, or simply by the passage of time, the anxiety dissipates.
Usually, anxiety works with you like your response to stress to help you focus or boost your energy. However, for some people, anxiety is overwhelming and impairs their performance. Their cortisol levels are out of control. Unfortunately, for some people, anxiety lingers. Their fears are not temporary and can be overwhelming. This is known as an anxiety disorder.
What Is an Anxiety Disorder?
A disorder is a disturbance of the normal functioning of the mind or the body. Therefore, an anxiety disorder is when a person’s anxiety disturbs the normal functions of their mind or body. This exceeds the temporary fear or worry that comes with typical anxiety.
An anxiety disorder can cause a person disruptions in their relationships, job performance, and other activities. There are several types of anxiety disorders.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders have several types. People with anxiety disorders may experience more than one, and it’s often imperative to speak with a medical physician to develop a treatment plan for coping. Anxiety disorder types are usually classified as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and a wide array of phobia-related disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
This anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive anxiety that occurs on most days for six months or more about a number of concerns. As the term suggests, their fear and anxiety are generalized.
Symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling on edge
- Feeling easily fatigued
- Struggling to concentrate
- Muscle tension
- Difficulties with sleep
Things such as relaxation techniques and avoiding stimulants (such as caffeine and alcohol) can help people with generalized anxiety disorder.
Panic disorder refers to people who experience repetitive and unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack can come on quickly from seemingly nowhere, and it is characterized by intense fear.
For some people, they can experience panic attacks from a trigger. For example, a victim of abuse can experience a panic attack from the scent of cinnamon chewing gum if their abuser was prone to chewing it. The person may or may not be aware of their triggers.
Panic attacks can cause the person to experience:
- Heart palpitations
- A feeling of being short of breath
- A strong sensation of dread
- Feeling a loss of control
Panic attacks can also cause anxiety for the person because they don’t know when the next attack could occur, so the sensation of fear and anxiety can persist between attacks.
A phobia is an intense fear of an object or situation. The person experiencing the phobia may be fully aware that their fear is irrational, disproportionate, or unrealistic. That does not mean they can control the effects of their phobia. Treatment is often necessary.
Phobias can cause:
- Irrational or excessive fear
- Extreme situational avoidance
- Immediate and intense anxiety upon encountering
- Intense anxiety that lasts for the entirety of the encounter
Phobias can range from fear of certain objects (spiders, darkness, holes) to certain situations (social interactions, open spaces, separation).
What’s the Difference?
People often classify stress and anxiety as the same thing. This likely occurs because they share similar symptoms such as:
- Struggling to concentrate
- Muscle tension
Additionally, stress and anxiety often respond to similar coping techniques. However, there is a marked difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is the body’s response to a stressor. Anxiety is excessive worry in the absence of a stressor.
Tips for Managing Them
Whether you’re managing mild stress or mild anxiety, there are some common tips to make what you’re dealing with a little easier.
1. Learn To Meditate
Meditation gets a lot of eye rolls, but it’s shown promising results for people. The effort to focus and experience mindfulness helps bring about mental clarity and emotional calmness and stability. Focusing on breathing helps oxygenate the blood and gives the mind something else to fixate on besides what’s worrying or stressing you.
2. Prioritize Self-Care
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go take a bubble bath. Although, who doesn’t enjoy a good bath? It does mean that you should put your own health and needs back in the list of things you’re prioritizing.
When we struggle with anxiety or stress, it’s easy to let our own needs fall out of our sight. We don’t eat or exercise the way we usually would. Sometimes we even let our own hygiene take a back burner. There’s no shame in it, but there is healing in taking time for it again.
3. Supplement Your Efforts
The truth is you can do a lot to try to alleviate your stress and worry, but it’s hard to convince your body to follow your lead very quickly. Sometimes, when you’re doing all that you can do to manage your stress and anxiety, you need to supplement your efforts with a supplement.
A supplement can naturally enhance your management efforts. That is the intention of supplements. We often take them to complete our dietary needs or improve our consumption of a necessary vitamin or mineral.
When it comes to stress and anxiety, we can do all the diet, exercise, meditation, and stress management techniques and still have that feeling of dread. Adding an effective supplement like Complete Calm De-Stress Gummies can be one of the quickest ways to handle your stress and anxiety, and who doesn’t enjoy a treat when you’re feeling a little too much like an adult?
When you’re dealing with stress and anxiety, all you want to do is improve your ability to handle them. It’s nice to know that there’s a supplement like Complete Calm De-Stress Gummies with clinically proven results that’s plant-based and climate positive. So, there’s one less thing to worry about.
Stress and anxiety often go hand in hand in the conversation. They share many of the same symptoms, and they both are a response to events or thoughts. While stress is the reaction to stressors, anxiety is the concern we feel about potential stressors. Your approach to either stress or anxiety can usually help treat the other in some cases.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Dr. Jay Cowin, Nutrition Expert
Founder of Functional U, a Nutrition, Performance & Optimal Health practice.
Dominick Gauthier, Performance Expert
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)