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 are 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 often viewed as a negative response to something.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is used to describe nervousness, fear, unease or worry. It is often triggered by imagining a future negative outcome that 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 that 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 do not address it quickly, there are some consequences we will experience, which 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 start noticing the signs of an anxiety attack. As always, prevention is the best cure.
Here are five things we can do to overcome any anxiety attack, which will ensure we stay composed and calm, which in turn, 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 are less likely to get distracted and will have evidence that we making progress, which means we will 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 is 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 are healthy mentally, emotionally and physically, then we are 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 are constantly engaging our bodies via exercise or regular movement.
- Do not hold things in your mind for too long. Whenever we start predicting things that have not occurred yet, that triggers a response, which dictates how we feel. We should always remember that 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 just focus on the present moment.
- Bring more joy into your life. In order to prevent experiencing anxiety, we have to generate joy through daily events or experiences. Having meaningful conversations with people we are 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 very 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 on a consistent basis 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 are strong mentally, emotionally and physically, which dramatically reduces the chances of us feeling anxious about things that have not yet occurred.
Question: What could be another simple way to overcome an anxiety attack?
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