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Stress and Anxiety, what is the difference?

Nila finds it hard to wake up, she finds it hard to fall asleep too. She ends up skipping meals or eating on the run. She’s struggling to juggle her social activities, academic work and family responsibilities. She feels like there are too many pressures, expectation and demands on her. She feels overwhelmed by this.

Do you think Nila is experiencing stress or anxiety?

We often get confused between the two, this is because the physical response to both stress and anxiety is  the ‘fight or flight response which includes increased heartbeat, tight muscles, rapid breathing, it also impacts our eating , sleeping and ability to focus.

Stress, is a specific response to an external event, like with Nila and the pressure of juggling her academic work, social activities and family expectations. 

Stress can be positive or negative. Positive stress is called Eustress, it helps you study and meet that deadline. Eustress turns stressful situations into challenges instead of threats and this is why you feel a sense of achievement, excitement and joy from finishing that assignment and meeting that deadline!  When stress starts impacting your eating, sleeping and ability to do the things you normally do its negative.

Negative stress can make you feel overwhelmed, and has many effects on the body and mind, it can even cause anxiety. During  these times of high stress it is important to take small breaks and do things that make you feel better, it could be listening to your favourite music, curling up with a book you love, writing in your journal, going for a swim , dancing around your room, or even watching your favourite TV show.

Knowing the difference between stress and anxiety is key to helping you feel better.

The effects of stress and anxiety. Original image

Most people experience stress in everyday life and it is associated with frustration and nervousness. Stress ends once the event or responsibility that is stressing you out passes. A plan for dealing with the source of your stress may help you feel more in control.

Anxiety is associated with fear, unease and worry. With stress you may be aware of  what is worrying you, with anxiety it may be a general sense of unease. Anxiety can be a serious health condition.

Read this to know more about anxiety.