4 Ways to Tell the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety

Most people understand what is meant by stress and anxiety; that said, not everyone is able to identify which is which, even when they are experiencing these feelings. It’s true that there are some similarities between stress and anxiety, but it’s important to realize the differences.

Stress is very common, and many people experience it every day. For example, when someone puts pressure on you in your work or in your relationship, it changes your expectations and makes you feel frustrated. Anxiety is more fear based where you feel like you’ve lost control.

Stress is mostly external

Stress is more often related to external circumstances rather than internal worries. Of course, stress and anxiety are closely related, but the differences are often in the attitude and expectations someone has around the stressful issues – whether internal or external.

Negative self-talk and perfectionism can lead directly to stress, but so can overwork and high expectations from others. If you feel under pressure because of external events, you are probably suffering from stress, but this should resolve when the external pressures dissipate.

Anxiety is a reaction to a situation

Unlike stress, anxiety does not disappear when the stressors dissipate; instead, the anxiety you feel comes up when you find yourself in particular situations. For instance, if you have social anxiety, you will probably experience anxious feelings in groups of all sizes.

In general, stress is something you have some control over. It’s possible to change your attitude or the external situation to reduce your stress or resolve it. If you’re dealing with anxiety, you have some deeper emotional fears that can’t be resolved with simple changes in attitude.

Anxiety can make you freeze

Unlike stress, anxiety can make you freeze and inhibit your ability to function and carry out normal tasks. For example, let’s say you attend a class and your educator gives you some work to do. You might add this workload to your pile, which adds pressure to your life – this is stress.

Then, the educator asks you to stand up and contribute to the class. Someone with stress should be able to handle this – even if they are feeling overwhelmed. However, someone with anxiety might freeze and be unable to stand and contribute. So, the brain enters fight or flight.

Anxiety causes feelings of dread

Stress is always located around a stressor that is either internal or external. And stress can be affected by your attitude and expectations. While both stress and anxiety make you feel uncomfortable, stress is more related to feelings of frustration and anger rather than fear.

On the other hand, anxiety is rooted in fearful emotions. Unlike stress, there is often no specific stressor you can identify; instead, ideas about the self and the future cannot be resolved rationally. However, bringing your mind into the present moment makes a difference.

Finding help for your anxiety

Stress and anxiety seem like the same conditions on the surface, but there are some crucial differences to be aware of if you want to find the best treatment methods. First, monitor your experience and decide whether your feelings are stress or anxiety. If you are experiencing significant anxiety, contact me because I’ve helped people just like you!