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Learn to differentiate between stress and anxiety from this article.

On Edge: Being Able to Distinguish Between Stress and Anxiety

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You’re feeling overwhelmed by work and responsibilities at home, and recognise that you are being pushed past your ability to effectively cope. Knowing if this is a temporary state or a sign of a more chronic condition is important in knowing how best to move forward.

We all know the feeling of stress – something happens and we start to feel the slow rise of a sense of unease, a quickened pulse rate, a churning gut. It might be accompanied by irritability, hopelessness, tears, sweats, aches and tension. Stress makes us uncomfortable for as long as we are exposed to a certain source, or for the amount of time it takes for us to figure out a way to cope. But what about when there is no source of stress, and you are still feeling this discomfort? What about when you are struggling to find a coping mechanism that gives you a sense of ease?

If you are unable to move away from stress, or feel stressed for what seems like no reason, you may actually be dealing with anxiety disorder, a common but challenging mental health condition. It can be hard to tell the difference between stress and anxiety, particularly if you are going through a difficult time where there could be a lot of things factoring in to how you feel. Learning to spot the variations between stress and anxiety can help you determine the type of help you need to move forward and start feeling better.

Understanding Stress

Stress is the body’s physiological response to something it perceives as a threat, or an event beyond our immediate ability to cope with. Stress isn’t always negative – in some cases it can motivate us, pushing us to get going on a pressing deadline, or to get out of a dangerous situation. When it becomes overwhelming though, it can start to work against our bodies, resulting in insomnia, an inability to focus, and negative effects to our physical health. 

Common Symptoms of Stress 

  • Sweating, especially of the palms or feet
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive worrying
  • Tense or achy muscles, especially in the back, shoulders, and neck
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Forgetfulness, trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Rapid or pounding heartbeat
  • Falling sick often 
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Agitation and irritability

Left unchecked, symptoms of stress can contribute to chronic health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and stroke. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is critical for a well mind and body, and essential to a more satisfying life. This typically starts by identifying sources or triggers of stress, then determining what particular coping mechanism to use to handle your response.

Ways to Manage Stress

  1. Deep breathing exercises – consciously slowing down your breath and making deep, purposeful inhales and exhales can help curb your body’s physiological response to stress and bring clarity to your mind. There are many different techniques, so you can try a few to find which one works best for your body.
  2. Getting outside – a breath of fresh air can be powerful medicine for stress. Taking a walk, going for a run, or doing a bit of yoga in the park can relax your body and change your outlook.
  3. Exercise – exercise stimulates a flow of endorphins, a feel-good neurochemical that can counteract your stress. Strengthening your body also helps to protect you from some of the negative physical impacts of stress.
  4. Find ways to relax your mind – whether it’s binge-watching a favourite series, flexing your creative skills, listening to music, or lighting some scented candles, it’s important to be familiar with the things that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. When you identify something that helps you ease out of your stress mode, remember it and use it strategically the next time you get stressed.

When the Stress Won’t Stop: Learning More About Anxiety

If you have tried these tactics and are still not able to get your stress under control, consider talking to a therapist. They can help you determine whether you are just going through an unusually stressful period in your life and need some extra resources to cope, or if you are actually struggling with an anxiety disorder.

If you feel stressed often, and for stretches of time spanning six months or more, this could indicate that your stress is at least partially linked to an anxiety disorder. Symptoms of anxiety are typically intense, disproportionate to the actual stressor, and can result in an avoidance of anything that may trigger anxious or panicky feelings.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Trouble sleeping, including waking up in the night and difficulty falling asleep
  • Feeling a sense of impending doom or danger
  • Uncomfortable levels of tension, stress, and worry
  • Stomach upset
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Body aches, especially in the neck, back, and shoulders
  • Increased heart and breathing rate
  • Panic attacks
  • Being consumed by worry to the point where it is difficult to concentrate on anything else
  • Loss of motivation
  • Exhaustio

How to Treat Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental health condition that requires professional treatment in order to effectively manage symptoms and live a full, healthy life. For many people living with anxiety, some type of talk therapy can be helpful in ascertaining the root causes of anxiety, identifying triggers, and laying out a range of coping mechanisms to handle stress. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one common modality used to treat anxiety.

A change in lifestyle may also be useful in alleviating anxiety. This can include getting more exercise, building in time for relaxation, eating healthier foods, and incorporating better sleep practices. It may also involve cutting out things like caffeine and alcohol, which can actually contribute to more acute symptoms.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms and the impact they have on your daily life, medication may also be prescribed as part of your overall treatment plan. However, these should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor, as side effects may be possible.

Freeing Yourself from Anxiety at The Dawn

Work on your anxiety and learn how to effectively cope with it at The Dawn Inpatient Mental Health Treatment Centre in Thailand.

When you arrive at The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab, you step into an oasis of calm, far away from the triggers of daily life. At The Dawn, we help those struggling with mental health conditions to understand what’s underlying their disorder, and learn techniques to manage it. We offer treatment for a range of mental health conditions, including:

  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Major Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Complex Trauma/Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Dual-diagnosis

Our clients benefit from a compassionate, accessible, and highly-trained professional team that will develop a personalised and long-term treatment plan to respond to your specific needs. Located in beautiful northern Thailand, our facilities are well-appointed with private rooms, lush gardens, and amenities like a swimming pool, fitness centre, yoga and meditation studio. Internationally accredited by the American Accreditation Commission International (AACI), The Dawn offers high-quality care at international standards.

You don’t have to continue to struggle with anxiety alone. Call us today to learn more about how The Dawn can help.

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