A Little Stress Or Anxiety? How To Tell The Difference

Everyone has challenges they face every day, but how can you tell the difference between stress from overwork or if you are suffering from anxiety? Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects as much as 18% of the U.S. population, and it usually is combined with the most common mental illness diagnosed in the US, depression. Below, we will outline ways to tell if you’re feeling stress or are too overwhelmed with anxiety.

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What’s Going On Up There?

A pounding heart, tight muscles and racing thoughts are both symptoms to anxiety and stress. So, how can you tell the difference if you’re stressed out from a big job or are experiencing anxiety? It’s all based on your mind. When you’re feeling pressure from stress, you have explicit focus on what is causing the stress. If you’re in debt, your attention is on the bills you have to pay, or if you’re late, it’s an appointment you have to get to. It’s something that can be handled eventually, like unfinished work that needs to be completed. Anxiety, however, has overwhelming thoughts that keep coming, almost as if the person is searching for things to worry about. Thoughts will jump from one idea to the other, until the person feels incapable of getting anything at all done. Follow your thoughts to determine which treatment you’ll need.

If you’re worried about a late deadline or an appointment, it doesn’t help to assume you have an answer for everything. Instead, prioritize which tasks need to get done now and which can wait until later. Making a list lessens your stress by showing what is more manageable and what is not. For anxiety, you are less focused on what needs to be done and instead you are focusing on your failures. You remind yourself of all the times you were in this situation and failed to produce any kind of work. If this is the case, shut these negative thoughts down by completing a simple task, like putting on your coat or opening up your email. Starting out with something small can quiet your thoughts and get you back on track.

What Are You Afraid Of?

As opposed to stress, which we established is based on real, physical things, anxiety is triggered when you are forced to face your fears. Social situations, crowds, or doing something new are all causes of fear, and if a person is triggered, their anxiety may take over. Your feelings will then snowball, getting worse and worse, and even stimulate horrible thoughts of what you think will happen if you enter into this new situation. Instead of letting your thoughts run away from you, there are methods to help yourself feel grounded and present in the moment. Some of these methods are:

breathing in and feeling emotions run through you, negative or positive
● place your feet on the ground. Sometimes, grounding yourself helps by literally
connecting your feet to the ground.
● count how many red objects there are around you
● run through your extreme fears. Sometimes, thinking the worst will help you realize how
ungrounded your fears are.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, the most effective way to fight through your fear of failure is to do your best. Keep your expectations realistic and remind yourself you’re just one person. If you’re struggling with a project, take small steps and don’t expect miracles. You’ll be able to reach your goal soon.

What’s The Outlook?

The last thing to think about to figure out if you’re feeling stress or anxiety is seeing the end of the tunnel. If you’re feeling stress from unfinished business, you often remind yourself of the end of this long process, and know you’ll have the feeling of relief when you finish. However, with stress, you feel like this feeling will never end. This pessimistic attitude drags you down and doesn’t allow you to see the bright side of your struggles. If you’re not a natural optimist and it’s difficult for you to see the bright side of things, it’s time to tackle positive thinking. Positive thinking can help manage both stress and anxiety and allow you to cope with your shortcomings. Some people keep a gratitude journal, making lists of things they are grateful for. Other people can take a beat and think to a happier time, keeping their attitude focused on the positive. This is easier said than done, but you will be happier overall.

Stress or Anxiety: It’s All in Your Head

Whether you’re feeling the looming stress of a deadline or your thoughts are snowballing and you can’t see the way out, there are ways to manage. Find the source of your fear, follow your thoughts, and look on the bright side of how your problems will soon be solved. Remember that feelings of stress are more temporary and focused, whereas anxiety is more drawn-out and based on your worst fears. Either way, you can take a supplement to help keep you calm, try grounding yourself, practice breathing techniques, and fixate on positive thoughts in order to beat the stress or anxiety in your life.