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Can you remember a time when you felt anxious?
Your heart races, shortness of breath, and fog brain. It can even turn into a panic at times if the anxiety is severe. Now, what about stress?
It can bring on the same type of symptoms and both can cause disruptions in your life.
Disclaimer: If you struggle with anxiety, please seek support from a qualified mental health professional.
At some point or another, a person will experience stress and anxiety but at what point does it become unhealthy or even debilitating?
It can be difficult to differentiate between the two or to know which one comes first.
In this post, you’ll learn how to tell the difference between stress and anxiety. Also, how they can negatively affect several aspects of your life that you may never have thought of before.
You’ll learn the signs and symptoms to look out for and discover 10 proven techniques to effectively deal with stress and anxiety so you can take better control of your life.
What is Stress?
This is a loaded question, right?
Stress may feel like your kids not listening to you, your partner not putting the dishes in the dishwasher, and your team at work not meeting the deadline. Those are stressors. According to the American Institute of Stress, the most common definition of stress is a physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension.
However, this definition makes it seem as though all stress is bad and that just isn’t the case. If you have ever felt this sense of nervous energy before taking an exam, running a marathon, performing in front of an audience, or giving a presentation then that’s considered to be a good form of stress. That nervous energy is what will help you do your best.
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It becomes unhealthy when the stress level is so intense that it feels debilitating and keeps you stuck to the point where you can’t function in your everyday life. If you don’t take anything else away from this post remember that stress is not necessarily bad it’s how you deal with the stress that really matters.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s response to stress.
It’s that feeling of worry or nervousness. It is a natural and common feeling that we all experience at some point in our lives. It becomes a disorder when it’s chronic (lasting 6 or more months) and it begins to interfere with your daily activities.
Are you starting to see a pattern here? Both are natural feelings but if we don’t effectively deal with stress and anxiety, they can quickly become a problem. So, the difference between the two is that one is that stress is the cause and anxiety is the effect.
Symptoms of Anxiety
If you are aware of what your body does under stress and anxiety than it gives you a better chance of preventing it in the future. Here are some signs and symptoms of anxiety to look out for.
#1. Feels like the End
The smallest things seem to feel like the world is coming to an end – this is called catastrophizing. You know the saying, “making a mole out of an anthill?” That’s exactly what catastrophizing is.
You are constantly plagued by things that may seem like small potatoes to the average person.
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#2. Starting and Stopping Projects
Do you have several different things you’ve started but none of them are finished? Or do you find yourself on Sunday morning working tirelessly all day but then at the end you have nothing to show for it? That’s probably because you’re having trouble focusing on one thing at a time.
Multitasking is not real, my friend. We cannot give our all to several things all at the same time without our attention being divided.
#3. Trying to control things that aren’t within your control
Do you find yourself trying to “control” the weather, traffic, other people’s behavior or actions? These are all things that can be completely frustrating, but we can’t control any of them. That worry becomes a wasted emotion and all it does is exacerbate stress and anxiety in your life.
Believe me when I say there’s no judgment here! This is coming from a recovering perfectionist as Brene Brown says. I want you to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring things to be just so, organized, color-coded, and tidy.
It becomes a problem when the perfectionism is preventing you from experiencing new things because you’re afraid of failure or worried that it won’t be perfect. Most of the time these are things out of your control. Perfectionism can also make it hard to make any decision in your life, especially the important ones.
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#5. You’re often sick
Stress and anxiety can manifest in ways you wouldn’t think about. One of the ways is through illness. Having flu-like symptoms, fatigue, frequent stomach aches, headaches, and mood swings are just some of the ways your body tells you it’s time to rest.
How to Deal with Anxiety Attacks
A big part of dealing with anxiety attacks is understanding your body and your triggers. If you know the people, places, or situations that may cause you to have an attack try to steer clear of those or at least keep the time spent there to a minimum. Before you enter a situation that you know will be intense do your best to guard yourself.
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- Get a good night’s sleep before attending the event or being around the person you know is a trigger for you. Feeling rested will make you less vulnerable to being irritable.
- Remind yourself that this is not a permanent situation and decide on an amount of time you’ll spend there before you even leave the house.
- Do a relaxing activity before you leave the house such as Tai Chi, yoga, deep breathing, or cooking a nice healthy meal.
- Ask a friend or another family member to go with you as a buffer.
- Plan in advance. Depending on where you’re going try scheduling a time to go where there aren’t a lot of people to cut down on the anxiety.
How Stress and Anxiety Can Affect Our Relationships
Remember how I mentioned that stress can show up in your life without you even recognizing what it is?
Well, relationships are one of the places stress and anxiety can negatively show up.
If you’ve ever had a bad day at the office and come home to take it out on your partner, then you know what I’m talking about. When we feel stress, we tend to be on edge, and it doesn’t take much for us to become irritable.
This can easily start an argument in a relationship. The argument may seem like it’s over something insignificant then later you realize that it was actually you being stressed over something that happened earlier in the day. You may be thinking, “well this doesn’t apply to me because my relationship is rock solid.”
Stress can even take a strain on a healthy relationship.
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Being under a heavy amount of stress and anxiety can cause you to be less patient and understanding that maybe you typically are with one another. Moreover, when our bodies are under stress it produces a hormone in our body called cortisol to be released. High cortisol levels can affect the libido. So, a couple that typically has a healthy sex life may notice a change in their intimacy level.
Before you run out and think that medication is the only way to deal with your stress and anxiety level, I want to give you some other options.
10 Ways to Deal with Stress Naturally
There is nothing wrong with taking medication. In fact, medication can be helpful in the reduction of stress and anxiety but it’s important to note that the way of treating it looks different for everyone.
It’s important to consider your current lifestyle. Evaluate what your day-to-day routine is and what could be the culprit of stress. Of course, the easiest thing to do would be to eliminate the stressor altogether, but that may not be possible. So here are 10 proven techniques that healthline.com suggests for how to reduce stress naturally.
#1. Exercise Regularly
If you’re like me you may be dreading that word but even just 30 minutes of some sort of physical exercise will help get your heart rate up and can help lower the stress hormone, cortisol.
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#2. Burn A Candle, Oil or Incense
Your stress and anxiety level will easily go down once you smell relaxing scents such as lavender (which is known to help you also sleep), orange or sandalwood.
Whatever your favorite scent is light it up in a pretty diffuser and just sit back. Try closing your eyes and taking 5 deep breaths. Use visualization to imagine yourself in a place that you enjoy going to. If you haven’t been to that place physically that’s ok, go there in your mind.
#3. Limit Time on Social Media
It’s easy to get into this vicious cycle of mindless scrolling, comparing, then beating yourself up because you don’t measure up to what you see on the screen. Social media is an amazing platform but with everything else in life, too much of it can be toxic to your emotional health.
Be intentional about following pages that uplift and motivate you and keep things in perspective. The pictures and videos you see are merely a snapshot of their lives. They have struggles, disappointments, and even compare themselves to others just like you.
#4. Put it on Paper
Try to deal with stress outside of your mind. If your head is so full of thoughts that it feels as if it’s going to explode try writing it down. You’d be amazed how much better you’ll feel after doing a daily brain dump to help stop overthinking.
Start writing in your journal every night to help you sleep better, too!
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#5. Laugh Out Loud
Literally, not digitally! As corny as it sounds laughing truly is the best type of natural medicine. I challenge you to even laugh when you just don’t feel like it. Eventually, you’ll trick your brain you’re happy at the moment.
Open up YouTube and watch something that makes you laugh, whether that’s a crazy cat video or a random segment of late-night television.
#6. Set Boundaries
You need to start setting healthy boundaries in your life, includes communicating your needs to others (they can’t read your mind) and wait for it…saying “no.” Click here to read more about how to set energetic boundaries and gain respect from others.
Don’t feel bad or guilty for setting aside alone time either.
#7. Manage Your Time
You can limit the amount of stress you put on yourself by effectively managing your time. Creating to-do lists, completing the most daunting tasks first, paying attention to the time of the day you have the most energy, and getting organized are just some examples.
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#8. Eat Healthy Meals
Do you find yourself skipping meals and running on empty? Stop it, even if you’re busy, you need to make time to eat healthy meals. Keeping a balanced diet, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner can reduce stress before it even starts. Stop going through the day feeling “hangry” (hungry x angry).
#9. Stretch it Out
Take some time either in the morning when you first wake up or at night before bed to breathe and stretch. It makes for a great way to start your day off relaxed, and it can also signal to your body it’s time to go to sleep at bedtime.
#10. Put Some Music On
Do you have a song or playlist that just puts you in the best mood? Put it on, play it on repeat if you need to.
Music has a way of affecting the way we feel and can instantly improve our mood. If you love nature or the outdoors, think about giving a sound machine a try, too. They offer a change from music by providing you with several different nature sounds.
How to Deal With Stress at Work
Dealing with stress and anxiety in the workplace is overall the same as it is with any situation because let’s face it, stress is stress, right? However, there are some extra techniques that can help make things easier for somewhere you spend most of your time at.
These stress-relieving techniques will be especially helpful to you if you’re in a toxic workplace.
#1. Remember You’re Working With People
Keep in mind that you’re working with people that have different personalities, beliefs, opinions, and work ethic than you. This can be frustrating at times. So, keep an open mind and remember that you are not there to make friends but to do an important job. If you make a friend along the way that’s just icing on the cake.
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#2. Always Communicate
Communicate with your supervisor as much as possible so they are aware of what’s going on in the office. He/she may even have some tips on how you can deal with stress that’s specific to your position.
#3. Take Breaks from Your Desk
Set an alarm on your phone reminding yourself to get up from your desk periodically throughout the day to stretch, walk around, or get a drink of water.
#4. Set Boundaries
You need to set boundaries with your colleagues. I can’t stress enough how boundaries are used in all areas of your life. Don’t put more on your plate than you know you can handle. In the end, it isn’t worth your emotional and/or physical health.
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#5. Don’t Skip Lunch
Take time every day for lunch, don’t skip it or just eat at your desk. Get up from your desk and go somewhere else to eat. If you don’t nourish your body, then you won’t be productive and less equipped to deal with stress that comes your way.
#6. Leave Work at Work
I know this can be a hard one, especially those of you that have jobs where people are depending on you. The work is going to be there tomorrow and the next day, so finish what you can and once it’s time to leave go home and engage in something for yourself. Pick back up tomorrow on whatever didn’t get done. If you find yourself consumed with what didn’t get done jot it down so you know what you need to start on when you do return to work.
#7. Stay Organized
Keep a paper or digital calendar of appointments, tasks, deadlines, and to-do lists. Complete the largest task first then work your way down and make sure to only put 2-3 items on the list per day. Otherwise, you start to feel overwhelmed before you even get started.
Spring Clean Your Mind Checklist
Need helpful reminders to take a break and relieve your daily stresses? Get your Spring Clean Your Mind Checklist, it has 12 easy ways to take mental breaks.
Stress is inevitable but knowing how to properly deal with stress and anxiety will help every aspect of your life.
With patience, practice, and consistency you can overcome anxiety and minimize stress in your life.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
More About Guest Contributor
Maegon is a therapist and coach for empath entrepreneurs and founder of The Aligned Lifestyle Program. Having spoken on numerous podcasts, panel discussions, and at events related to domestic violence and women’s rights. Maegon writes her blog about navigating the waters as an empath entrepreneur in the online space.
She believes self-care is not a one size fits kind of thing. That’s why she creates individualized ones that the hundreds of women she’s worked with have been able to adapt to a lifestyle in order to create more freedom in their business and life.
Learn more about her coaching program, Aligned and snag the free Self-Care Course for Empath Entrepreneurs here.