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What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?

Stress and anxiety are two words that are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to different experiences. While stress and anxiety can both be negative, they have different causes, symptoms and treatments. Understanding the difference between stress and anxiety can help individuals better identify and manage their emotional experiences.

Stress is a response to a perceived threat or demand. It can be caused by a variety of external factors, such as work demands, financial pressures or relationship problems. When a person is stressed, their body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body for action. It is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Symptoms of stress can include physical symptoms like muscle tension, headaches and fatigue, as well as emotional symptoms like irritability, impatience and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Anxiety on the other hand, is a feeling of fear or apprehension about the future. It is often characterized by excessive worry about potential dangers or negative outcomes. Anxiety can be triggered by a specific event, like a job interview or public speaking engagement or it can be a general feeling of unease that persists over time. Unlike stress, which is a response to a specific external factor, anxiety is a more internal experience. Symptoms of anxiety can include physical symptoms like sweating, trembling and heart palpitations, as well as emotional symptoms like restlessness, irritability and difficulty concentrating. All of these symptoms are included to the fight or flight” response.

While stress and anxiety may seem similar, they require different approaches to treatment. In the case of stress, addressing the external factors causing the stress can be helpful. It might involve making changes to work schedules, seeking financial assistance or seeking support from friends or family. Relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing or yoga can also help reduce stress levels.

In the case of anxiety, however, treatment may involve therapy and medication. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns that contribute to their anxiety.

Here are some connections between CBT and transformational breath® (TBF). CBT emphasises helping individuals learn to be their own therapist to help them move forward in life, while TBF uses powerful coaching exercises to focus on a clear and positive outcome by creating an intention for each breath session. Additionally, both CBT and TBF involve engaging in diaphragmatic breathing, which can be easily taught and used to return to a state of emotional and physical regulation.

Tapping (EFT) is a very effective and safe technique as it helps send signals to the parts of the brain that control stress and anxiety. Moreover, one hour of tapping decreases the stress hormone cortisol by 43%.

Research shown that tapping and diaphragmatic beathing help in statistically significant reductions in anxiety and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in a variety of populations.

While stress and anxiety are often used interchangeably, they are distinct experiences that require different approaches to treatment. Stress is a response to external factors and can be managed through stress-reducing techniques and changes in external factors, while anxiety is an internal feeling of fear or apprehension about the future and may require therapy and medication to manage. Medications can be helpful in some cases, but they are often overprescribed and never address the root causes of the issues. Alternative therapies such as CBT, EFT or TBF can used as a stress and anxiety-reducing techniques as they can be tailored according to your needs. It's important to understand the difference between these experiences to help identify and manage your emotional wellbeing.

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