We often use the word stress to describe how we are feeling when under pressure. Many times, it is used interchangeably with anxiety, a word that describes the result of a worry. But, what is stress vs. anxiety, and how do they affect each other?
You might be surprised to know that “stress” actually refers to your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.
When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined, the body’s defenses kick into high gear. This rapid, automatic process is known as the fight-or-flight reaction, or the stress response. This response is the body’s way of protecting you. However, without good coping strategies, the body may not be helping in the most beneficial of ways.
People are not always aware of their body’s stress response.
If they are used to being “stressed” most of the time, they may become unable to identify when their bodies have kicked their responses into high gear. In fact, it is not uncommon for people who suffer from GI symptoms such as IBS to say “I don’t feel stressed”, even though their body’s symptoms are obvious.
And what about anxiety- can it be helpful?
In a nutshell, anxiety is a “motivational response” to stress, and a little anxiety can actually be helpful.
Some people approach our practice with the statement “I want to get rid of my anxiety!” and our response to that, “well… let’s re-think that and see how you can perhaps dial it down instead.”
You might have a work deadline coming up, or perhaps you’re planning a surprise party for someone important to you. If you’re a student, you might feel anxious about getting a poor grade in school. Your anxiety spurs you to study more and work harder or find an alternative way of studying.
In these cases, anxiety can be helpful. It motivates you to be proactive or creative so that you can achieve your goals. Anxiety would have a direct impact on what you want that party to look like or to ensure that you are meeting deadlines at work or securing good grades on your exams.
Unfortunately, many people struggle with what is commonly referred to as unhelpful anxiety or unhelpful worries.
As the word unhelpful implies, this type of anxiety or worry causes your mind and body to react in ways that cause distress. As a result, you may feel overall miserable.
How Can Stress Management Through Therapy Help?
With the right combination of skills and tools, it is possible for you to conquer your stress and manage your anxiety to come out on that winning side of it. There is no reason for you or a loved one to continue to struggle with anxiety. Learning to manage it better takes a combination of learning, practice and consistency.
We’ll guide you through approaches that will help you to cope with stress, including lifestyle changes, relaxation techniques, and reframing through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
You deserve to take a breath and enjoy your life without stress absorbing your thoughts. Let’s be in touch to see if therapy is the right next step for you.