At a stress management workshop I once attended, a participant asked if there was a difference between feeling stressed and experiencing anxiety.
While both terms are often linked with each other and also used interchangeably, they’re not the same.
Stress is our body’s way of reacting to an event, experience or situation that causes a physical, mental or emotional change. Stress is typically triggered by negative situations or is viewed as a negative response to something.
Anxiety is used to describe nervousness, fear, unease or worry. It’s often triggered by imagining a future negative outcome we don’t believe we can control or avoid.
A good way to remember the difference between the two is stress is how we react to something happening now, whereas anxiety is how we react to something we believe is going to happen in the future. Our mindset or attitude about life will determine whether we have an optimistic or pessimistic view of our future.
If we experience any form of anxiety and don’t address it quickly, there are consequences we’ll experience, which can include:
- Not being able to concentrate fully on what we are doing.
- Being easily irritable or upset.
- Being unhappy or even miserable.
- Not being able to sleep well at night.
- Not being well mentally, emotionally and physically.
The good news is that we can do some simple things whenever we notice the signs of an anxiety attack. As always, prevention is the best cure.
5 Ways to Overcome an Anxiety Attack
Here are five things we can do to overcome any anxiety attack, which will ensure we stay composed and calm, which will help us reduce stress from our lives.
- Have clear intentions for your day. Starting each day knowing exactly what we want to accomplish will always give us a better chance of it happening than when we don’t. When we know what needs to be done each day, we’re less likely to get distracted and will have evidence we’re making progress, which means we’ll have a better outlook for the future.
- Focus on what’s important, not what’s urgent. Urgent or unexpected things can easily derail our progress and take us away from doing what’s important to us. Urgent things not only increases our stress levels, they can also cause us to lose our composure and momentum in what we were doing. The best strategy is to always focus on one thing at a time.
- Take good care of yourself. If we’re healthy mentally, emotionally and physically, we’re less likely to experience serious anxiety attacks. Taking care of ourselves also include taking appropriate breaks during the day, getting adequate sleep every night, eating the rights foods that will give us sustained levels of energy and making sure we’re constantly engaging our bodies via exercise or regular movement.
- Do not hold things in your mind for too long. Whenever we predict things that haven’t occurred yet, that triggers a response, which dictates how we feel. We should always remember no thought lives in our minds rent-free, which means, every thought that triggers an emotion is doing something to us. Things we can do include writing down things we have to do or ideas we have received, letting go of any experiences with others that caused us pain, and allowing ourselves focus on the present moment.
- Bring more joy into your life. To prevent experiencing anxiety, we have to generate joy through daily events or experiences. Having meaningful conversations with people we’re close to or people we trust is one way to experience joy daily. We can also schedule activities in our calendars that are aligned to our passions or do things we love. Joy and happiness is something we have to cultivate — it rarely happens on its own.
We don’t have to let feelings of anxiety affect how we function. The best thing for us is to take action consistently that will ensure we avoid falling victim to external events or experiences that can trigger an anxiety attack.
The ideas mentioned above will ensure we’re strong mentally, emotionally and physically, which dramatically reduces the chances of us feeling anxious about things that haven’t yet occurred.
Action Step: Reflect on times when you think you felt stressed or anxious about something. Write down what some triggers were, which will help you determine whether they were stressed-related or whether they were anxiety-related. Apply the ideas mentioned above to better deal with both of them.
Question: What could be another simple way to overcome an anxiety attack?