It’s the season for stress, ask anyone and they will be stressed about something whether that is work, family stuff or general end of year stuff, they will be stressed in some area of their life. But what is stress? Is it the same as anxiety? And how can we prevent it?
Stress and anxiety can look similar, and it can be easy to confuse one for another. To put it simply stress happens externally whereas anxiety happens internally. With stress we are worried about external factors but with anxiety it is all internally in our brains. Stress can turn into anxiety and there are overlaps in their symptoms so it can be hard to tell which is which. Stress is more short term and has a trigger whereas anxiety tends to linger and can sometimes have no trigger.
We all experience stress in our lives and while it can be easy to see it as a bad thing, some stress is good. Stress can help us meet deadlines, keep us alert and help us to arrive on time for important events. If we didn’t have stress, we wouldn’t have any motivation or drive to achieve things. Stress is also one of our bodies ways of keeping us safe in situations, such as when we slam our breaks on in the car to stop an accident from happening that’s also stress. It’s when we get too much stress it can start to have a negative impact on us.
Stress can impact all areas of our body but as there are many overlaps with other conditions it can be hard to work out what is caused by stress and what is something else. Stress can take many shapes including:
- Upset stomach
- Racing thoughts
- Changes in appetite
- Avoiding people
- Unable to focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Tense muscles
- Forgetfulness and disorganisation
Stress impacts everyone differently, what may stress you out may not stress another person out. The same goes for how our bodies react to stress and the impacts stress can have on us. Some people thrive under stress and pressure but for others they crumble.
Long term stress can have major impacts on the body and can lead to developing mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. It’s not just long-term stress that can have an impact on our mental health, studies have shown that one off stressful life events such as losing a loved one, divorce or unemployment can lead to depression and anxiety. People who experience anxiety are especially at risk for developing depression after a stressful life event compared to those who don’t suffer from anxiety.
How we choose to handle our stress can also have negative impacts on our mental health, such as turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. Burnout can also be a side affect of stress and is often seen after prolonged exposure when the body can’t handle anymore stress and is in desperate need of a break, so it breaks.
If you notice that stress is impacting you more than usual, and you feel like you are breaking point it’s important to seek professional help such as doctor or a psychologist as there may be more to it.
It is important to learn how to manage your stress in healthy ways so that it lessens the impact on us. While it may be easier to ignore stress or just work through it. Not managing it can lead to worse outcomes overall. There is no way to prevent stress as it’s a part of life, but we can lessen the impacts it has on us, some ways of doing this include:
- Practice and prioritise selfcare
- Say no to things (you don’t need an excuse to say no to things!)
- Surround yourself with people you can lean on
- Practice good sleep hygiene and make sure you’re getting enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily
- Practice good time management and prioritise the important things
Stress can impact us in so many areas of our lives not just our mental health. Try and see stress as a good thing not just a bad thing as without stress we wouldn't be able to function. Talk about stress with friends and family members so you’re not doing it alone. Help hold each other accountable during the stressful times to make sure that you take time out for yourselves and remember that stress will pass maybe not quickly but it will pass.
Feel free to drop by, just say, ‘Hey Barty’ in strict confidence and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or, do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments below any time.
American Psychological Association (2021). What’s the difference between stress and anxiety? Knowing the difference can ensure you get the help you need. [online] Apa.org. Available at: https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/anxiety-difference#:~:text=People%20under%20stress%20experience%20mental.
Barrell, A. (2020). Stress vs. anxiety: Differences, symptoms, and relief. [online] www.medicalnewstoday.com. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/stress-vs-anxiety.
Better Health Channel (2012). Stress. [online] Vic.gov.au. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/stress.
CAMH (2021). 20131 Stress. [online] CAMH. Available at: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/stress#:~:text=When%20stress%20becomes%20overwhelming%20and.
Cleveland Clinic (2021). What Is Stress? Symptoms, Signs & More | Cleveland Clinic. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress.
Gove, W.R. and Herb, T.R. (1974). Stress and Mental Illness among the Young: A Comparison of the Sexes. [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Walter-Gove/publication/275323430_Stress_and_Mental_Illness_Among_the_Young_A_Comparison_of_the_Sexes/links/5cc280d1a6fdcc1d49af104b/Stress-and-Mental-Illness-Among-the-Young-A-Comparison-of-the-Sexes.pdf.
Herbert, J. (1997). Fortnightly review: Stress, the brain, and mental illness. BMJ, [online] 315(7107), pp.530–535. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2127355/pdf/9329310.pdf.
Hurley, K. (2016). Stress vs Anxiety: How to Tell the Difference & Get Help. [online] PsyCom.net - Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986. Available at: https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference.
National Institute of Mental Health (2019). NIMH» 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress.
Pearlin, L.I. (n.d.). APA PsycNet. [online] psycnet.apa.org. Available at: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-02431-008.
Ross, F. (2018). Stress vs. Anxiety – Knowing the Difference Is Critical to Your Health. [online] Mental Health First Aid. Available at: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/external/2018/06/stress-vs-anxiety/.
Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G. and Siegel, S.D. (2005). Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, [online] 1(1), pp.607–628. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/.
Thoits, P.A. (2012). Self, Identity, Stress, and Mental Health. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research, pp.357–377.