To understand the difference between stress and anxiety, you will need to know that there is good and bad stress first. Is there such a thing as good stress? You might be wondering why anyone would want more stress in their lives when they already have enough to deal with. Interestingly, some stress can actually be beneficial, while too little can make life dull. So, what distinguishes good stress from bad stress, and when does stress evolve into anxiety?
Good stress, also known as eustress, and bad stress, referred to as distress, can be differentiated quite easily. Generally, good stress is enjoyable and short-lived. Examples include a first date, a sports competition, or riding a roller coaster. These experiences can make you feel alive but don’t last long. In contrast, bad stress is often the result of ongoing issues like relationship problems, the death of a loved one, abuse, or working in a high-pressure job.
Both good and bad stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. Ideally, we need a balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems for homeostasis. However, chronic stress can cause an overactive sympathetic nervous system, leading to memory loss, difficulty concentrating, poor decision-making, and other symptoms. This is due to cortical inhibition, where the amygdala essentially shuts down the neocortex, the thinking part of your brain because immediate action is required in dangerous situations.
Chronic stress can also result in weight gain, irritability, depression, anxiety, heart disease, insomnia, high blood pressure, and autoimmune diseases. Studies have found that 75-90% of all illnesses that people visit a doctor for can be traced back to chronic stress. This staggering statistic underscores the importance of addressing stress as soon as possible.
So, what is the relationship between stress and anxiety? Stress is a physical response to a stressor, activating the amygdala and triggering the sympathetic nervous system, leading to symptoms like dry mouth and digestive problems. Anxiety, on the other hand, is an emotional response that arises when stress persists over an extended period, creating feelings of hopelessness and permanence.
A review of Google Trends data reveals a consistent interest in stress-related searches since 2004. However, searches for anxiety have shown a significant increase, indicating a growing prevalence of anxiety compared to stress. This could be due to prolonged stress or other factors in the past two decades that have contributed to this escalation.
Given the connection between stress and anxiety, it is crucial to managing stress effectively. The remainder of this course offers techniques for reducing stress. While you might not need all of them, trying different strategies can help you prepare for unexpected stressors. Stay tuned to learn more.