Sleepless nights, exhaustion, excessive worry, lack of focus, and irritability—from the outside looking in it can be difficult to spot the difference between stress and anxiety. Even physical symptoms, like rapid heart rate, muscle tension, and headaches, can impact both people experiencing stress and those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
So while thesymptoms of stress and anxiety can appear to be interchangeable, it’s important to know that they are two different experiences:
Stress is your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience (days, not months).
The symptoms of stress can vary and change over time which is why learning to identify it early is key, as is building out your own “stress reduction toolkit”. Whether you turn to relaxation breathing, yoga, physical exercise, meditation, journaling, or calling a friend—find what works for you so you can be ready next time stress kicks in.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is asustained mental health disorder (6 months+) that can betriggered by stress but doesn’t fade into the distance once the initial trigger has gone.
When stress no longer feels manageable and is interfering with your day-to-day life, you may be dealing with the symptoms of anxiety—don’t brush it off, and don’t be afraid to seek an evaluation from a licensed mental health practitioner if this is the case so you can get the appropriate support.
Most of us will experience difficult emotions in one form or another—research shows that 31% of adults in the US will experience anxiety at some time in their lives, and 75% of adults regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. But now that you know the difference between stress and anxiety you can be in the driver’s seat of identifying whatyou need to best navigate life’s challenges and enjoy vital health along the way.