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Is it Stress or Anxiety?

Can you tell the difference between when you are feeling stressed out or anxious? There is definitely a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a deadline for work or a fight with a significant other, or long-term such as chronic illness, being unable to work, or discrimination.

People under stress experience both mental and physical symptoms such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping. Anxiety on the other hand is characterized by persistent, excessive worries that don't go away even when the stressor is gone. Anxiety leads to a nearly identical set of symptoms as stress: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability. If you are feeling unsure of what you might be experiencing, you can start by exploring here:

Stress is usually short-term and occurs due to a threat that is recognized. Stress is a response to that threat. Recognized threats can include work deadlines, a school presentation, a long to-do list, etc.

Anxiety on the other hand is typically longer-lasting. The triggers to anxiety are not always recognized. For example, we may experience anxiety but may be unsure as to why we are feeling anxious. Anxiety is an internal reaction to stress and can be experienced as feelings of fear and dread.

While both stress and anxiety are both unpleasant experiences, there are different ways that we can manage our symptoms and ease the discomfort. In sessions with both my coaching and psychotherapy clients, I help them to explore ways that they can manage stress, explore the root causes of anxiety, develop healthier ways of coping, develop a healthier relationship with their nervous system, and invite more balance into their life.

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