A Spoonful of Sugar

Do You Know The Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

anxious or stressed

Most of us use these words interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Why do we mix them up? It could be because they’re so often related: stress can cause anxiety (and anxiety can cause stress, though not as often). But when someone’s “feeling stressed,” they may mean they’re irritable, angry, sad, exhausted or any number of other emotions or sensations that are common responses to a stressful situation. Here are some of the similarities and differences between stress and anxiety:

Stress Anxiety
a situation or event a response to a situation or event
can be “good” (eustress) or “bad” can be adaptive in nature but in modern society, usually isn’t
can trigger anxiety (or other mental health conditions, including depression) can be a source of stress, especially if it has a major impact on your day-to-day life
happens to everyone on a daily basis doesn’t happen to everyone on a daily basis
includes e.g. changing jobs, getting divorced, financial debt, traffic jams includes e.g. generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, situational anxiety, phobias
is generally thought to occur in three stages, over time doesn’t necessarily happen in stages
happens to men and women more or less equally tends to be more common in women

When was the last time you felt “stressed”? How about anxious? Do you tend to get anxious when you’re stressed? Maybe you get irritable or angry or eat more sweets than you’d be proud to admit. Whatever your response, one thing’s for sure: if you’re feeling anxious in response to a stressful situation, one of the smartest things you can do is try to address the situation directly. Deal with the stress and you deal with the anxiety.

further reading

There are a lot of articles on the internet about stress and anxiety. Here are a few:

photo credit: bottled_void

headshot of Chris Roberts, Naturopathic Doctor

Chris Roberts is a Naturopathic Doctor with an anxiety-focussed practice in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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