When Does Stress Become Anxiety?

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Stress is commonplace throughout everyday life. One’s workplace and coworkers, financial concerns, relationships, and even access to self-care, proper rest, and diet all dictate one’s stress levels. 

However, while stress is an unfortunate inevitability throughout daily life, stress that transforms into anxiety can present a number of new concerns. Determining the difference between stress and anxiety is crucial for identifying and preventing symptoms of anxiety from developing into anxiety disorders. Managing stress is important not only to prevent the onset of pervasive anxiety but also helps to set appropriate boundaries for a healthy lifestyle. 

What Is Stress?

Stress is something that everyone will experience in their lives. While different people may stress about different things, from social or professional obligations or financial situations and personal developments, the feeling of stress can be fairly universal. 

This is commonly experienced as pressure felt within oneself to accomplish a goal, often weighing the consequences of one’s actions to cause additional worry, nervousness, or fear. However, while the source of one’s stress can be unique to their specific circumstances or environment, the symptoms of stress can be shared between people, regardless of the original source. 

For some, stress can feel acute or pass quickly without having a major impact on one’s day. However, left unaddressed, stress can become extraordinarily prevalent, even beginning to become the dominant feeling at all hours of the day. Some of the symptoms of these extreme levels of stress include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Aches and pains
  • Overeating
  • Skipping meals
  • Anger/frustration
  • Dizziness or fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle hypertension
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty managing emotions

While each person will experience their own symptoms or combination of symptoms, these effects of stress still have a major effect on one’s daily life. Identifying and managing these symptoms is essential to preventing the development of other physical and mental health risks, as well as the use of addictive substances as a coping strategy. Stress can continue to build over time and, until the source of one’s stress is addressed or passed, these feelings can continue to fester and even lead to the development of anxiety disorders.

When Stress Becomes Anxiety

Anxiety can share many symptoms with stress, with anxiety disorders even masquerading as simple stress symptoms on the surface. However, the primary difference between stress and anxiety comes from the source of the stressor. For those experiencing stress, one may continue to feel its effects until the stressor is removed from one’s line of sight or passes naturally. Stressing out about a test can come with a huge relief once the test has been taken, or stress in the workplace can subside when one clocks out or reaches the weekend. Feelings of anxiety can instead continue to cause worry, fear, and other symptoms even without an obvious stressor or regardless of how irrational one’s fears may seem. 

This constant sense of worry without an obvious, discernible source can be indicative of anxiety becoming more prevalent in one’s life. On top of the similar symptoms that anxiety has with stress, anxiety can also cause:

  • Consistent irritability
  • Unhealthy substance use
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Self-isolation
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Pervasive sense of fear or dread

Addressing Anxiety

Anxiety can be complicated and enigmatic to cope with as its sources can often seem obtuse or unclear. However, that does not make one’s feelings any less real, leading to a frustrating dissonance in one’s head. Getting together with professionals and supports may be necessary to begin addressing the symptoms of anxiety and discovering the underlying reason behind these feelings. It may also be necessary to address any destructive coping mechanisms that may have resulted from one’s anxious state of mind, such as drinking, smoking, eating disorders, or using drugs. 

Professionals can be instrumental in gaining an understanding of anxiety for each individual. Anxiety can feel illogical, and working to make sense of one’s feelings is necessary while also employing new methods of self-care. Creating structured routines can add a degree of predictability and consistency that can combat the “what ifs” or irrational fears that one may experience as a result of anxiety. This then can create a picture of one’s environment and life that is based on a shared sense of reality and safety. 

Developing an informed routine, complete with self-care outlets, nutritional guidance, and proper rest is essential for beginning to confront either stress or anxiety in one’s life. Personalized outlets and education can help each individual begin to build their own healthy routine to manage not just stress from an identifiable source, but to also manage when this stress takes on a more ambiguous, debilitating form as anxiety

Stress and anxiety can both be equally difficult to manage, but learning the proper skills to balance one’s stress levels or feelings of anxiety is paramount for a healthy daily routine. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we understand the importance of addressing stress and anxiety, as well as exploring the key differences between the two circumstances. We are prepared to help you begin to explore your options to create healthy boundaries and begin implementing essential self-care skills. Your time with use can be personalized with art and music therapy, yoga, mindfulness practices, and more, all provided in a comfortable, home-like atmosphere and a supportive community of professionals and peers. We champion education and transformation, offering not only opportunities to explore stress and anxiety, but also smoking cessation, addiction, parenting, and more to fuel the desired transformations. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us or to speak to a caring, trained staff member, call  (866) 338-6925.

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