Stress and Anxiety: Definition, Causes, and Management

Would it be great if you could just relax for once?

But every day there seems to be a new problem or situation that comes up. Perhaps you worry all the time about these things, yet, many are not in your control at all—and that’s really stressful!

You want to have the power to make changes, but nothing seems to work at all. And that only adds to the burden of worry and anxiety that you are carrying every day.

Yes, stress and anxiety are two very different problems; they each have their own causes and how they affect you. Yet, they’re also connected. And, with help, they are very manageable.

Stress – the Good and the Bad

Stress is interesting because, given the situation, stress can either be a good or bad thing. When considering the concept of stress some important words come to mind.

For instance, a quick check of the Merriam-Webster dictionary will include words such as:

On the one hand, these words are not necessarily a bad thing. For example, when you experience stress, it forces you to focus your attention and you feel challenged by what you are doing. This creates change.

A great illustration is someone who lifts weights. Their body feels the tension of the heavy weight, which is difficult. Yet, the muscles need to lift that weight to get stronger. However, too much weight and the muscle will fail.

Now imagine this metaphor for your life and how stress affects it. Are there situations that challenge you to improve and be better? Or does stress overwhelm you and cause you to fail?

Anxiety – the Worries and Fears

Anxiety can also have a good and bad side. For example, if you’re in a dangerous situation, anxiety can alert you to the problem and help you to take action to get out of the way. On the other hand, when you regularly experience anxiety without being in danger, that can be an issue.

With that type of anxiety, the emphasis is on worry and fear. If you have an anxiety disorder, then you struggle with what you think might happen (not what is actually happening). This isn’t a good thing, as anxiety may always cause you to think that something bad is going to occur.

For example, these situations may cause you to feel anxious:

To cope with the anxiety, you may try to use a soothing ritual (washing your hands, repeating a prayer, etc.). And these things might make you feel better, but not always.

Stress and Anxiety – the Connection

While stress and anxiety are not the same, they do, however, interact. And this interaction is a two-way street.

For example, think about a situation that may cause you stress. Let’s say, a situation has come up that is threatening your job security. Working while not knowing if you’ll be out on the street the next day is stressful. At the same time, that stress can also trigger anxiety because you start to worry about what happens if you get fired, if you can’t pay your mortgage, if you have to live on the street, etc.

Conversely, a situation that causes you anxiety. For example, a threat to your physical health (like the coronavirus pandemic right now). You feel anxious because you’re not sure what will happen, if you’ll become ill, and how severe that illness will be. You may take precautions, even overly so, performing specific actions (like handwashing, etc.) obsessively, but the worry and fear are still there. And that, in turn, causes stress!

Managing Stress and Anxiety

Coincidentally, you can use similar tools for managing both stress and anxiety. For example:

Breathing Exercises

Very important for staying in control, breathing exercises ensures that you are getting enough oxygen to your body and that you don’t hyperventilate. In some cases, when people are very stressed or anxious, they forgot to breathe!

Positive Self-Talk

Oftentimes, stress or anxiety reinforces negative thoughts that you have about yourself. To “flip the script” use positive self-talk that emphasizes your strengths, capabilities, or beliefs.

Aromatherapy

Lavender is a natural scent that also has calming properties. Light a scented candle in your home, apply a drop of lavender essential oil to each of your wrists or massage the back of your neck with it, or take a relaxing bath with lavender-scented bath salts or oils.

Tap Into Your Funny Bone

Humor and laughter are great antidotes to cope with stress and anxiety. Laughter is a physical release for your body, which is relaxing. However, it also is healthy for your mindset. Seeing the humor in a situation is much more empowering than always focusing on the negative.

Professional Help for Stress and Anxiety

If you try the above-mentioned ideas to manage stress and anxiety but are still having problems, ask for professional help. Talk to a therapist about what is making you stressed or anxious. Remember that continued exposure to stress or anxiety can be toxic. This is true for both your body and mind.

I’d be happy to help you ensure that stress or anxiety doesn’t get out of control in your life. Please, feel free to contact us, 256-686-9195.

Author
Joshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

You Might Also Enjoy...