The confusion between anxiety and stress!
Find the start of the cycle to find the end of it!
In this article
Anxiety and stress are two words that are becoming more and more apparent in today’s language. This is good and bad…
Good in the way that emotional health and well-being is becoming more recognised allowing people to understand what they feel internally.
Bad in the way that ‘more’ people are experiencing anxiety and stress as part of their every day lives and are cracking under the weight. Unfortunately in some cultures anxiety and stress seem to be an epidemic.
However, upon asking the majority of people (“What is the difference between anxiety and stress?”), the usual response is vague and generalised.
Upon research, the answers can be… “It’s when I feel tired or grumpy” or “It’s when I am depressed”. Although these are true in a sense, these are also vague and do not really answer the question. So let us look closer at this whole situation, because the mind will often fear what it doesn’t understand!
What is anxiety and what is stress?
“The imagination is very powerful.
It can be a devil and an angel…
A powerful servant, but a terrible master”
Inside our sub-conscious mind we have a metaphorical cinema screen. This is often known as the internal cinema screen. It is on this screen that you will play and replay your
(3) imagined future scenarios.
It is this 3rd area that we need to be aware of.
The actual definition of anxiety is a negative pre-projection of the future. This pre-projection is created in your imagination in full detail then projected onto the internal cinema screen.
However, because the internal cinema screen is in your sub-conscious mind (and not your conscious mind) your mind will assume what it sees on this screen is actual reality as that is the only reality it knows. This is because your sub-conscious mind has no idea of the difference between imagined reality (in your mind) and actual reality (outside of you).
For example, have you ever had a letter come through your door and even before reading it…you imagine it is a bill that you can’t pay? But then found out that it was a letter selling windows or doors? (negative pre-projection)
Or have you ever had your partner be in a quiet mood and assume that they are going to break up with you? When in reality they just had a project to finish and they were distracted? – When you have felt things like this you have experienced anxiety! (negative pre-projection)
Anxiety is a negative pre-projection of the future!
So then…what is stress?
Stress is the strain you feel in your body after your body gives you extra energy by releasing adrenalin into your bloodstream. The purpose of this is to make you faster and stronger and able to deal with the threat.
Stress happens in the following way…
- Once your sub-conscious mind has assumed that the imagined future or actual future (on the internal cinema screen) is a reality, the mind goes through a powerful process.
- It will firstly look at how confident and capable it assumes you are based on your past experiences…
- If it feels that you can cope with this situation (real or imagined) there will be no stress trigger. There will be no release of adrenalin because it knows you can cope and do not need extra energy.
- However, if your mind assumes that you cannot cope with the situation (based on past experiences and how you feel in the moment (e.g. you do not know how to pay the bill, cope if your partner leaves you, the financial pressure, the loss of a job etc..) your mind will then release adrenalin into your blood stream. Again it does this to speed up your mind and body to deal with the potential threat.
- Stress therefore is the physical body experiencing the release of powerful stress hormones (adrenalin) that are making your heart beat faster, your limbs feel shaky, your mind race and many other feelings and thoughts of a stress reaction.
It is important to know that there are two types of stress…
Acute stress is the body keeping us awake and alert to daily situations, this is healthy and a natural part of life. The body and mind need a base level of stress to function.
Chronic stress is where the body has been exposed to a continual amount of high level stress and is not getting time to recover.
Being in a state of chronic stress is dangerous and when we feel physically uptight and or exhausted we also feel more vulnerable to physical situations as we have less energy to deal with them.
Where do stress and anxiety start?
As we can see anxiety and stress could be seen as a chicken and egg scenario… which one comes first?
It is true that when the body becomes overwhelmed and in a state of hyper stress the physical stress alone can trigger feelings of despair and vulnerability.
But in reality actual start of all of this…is in the sub-conscious mind and the internal cinema screen.
In the self help world today you can find many programmes and meditations to sooth the physical body. Although this is very important to learn to relax the body as this removes tension and aids recovery, it is also (if not more so) vital to keep a check on what your internal cinema screen is showing you on a daily basis.
If your mind is jumping to assumptions that the next big disaster is just around the corner. If you do not take time to stop and become aware of that anxiety thought (and ask if it is a reality)…then adrenalin can be released you will continually be in a state of stress.
If you take time to keep a check on your thoughts (follow the steps below) then you can be in control of the levels of stress hormones that your body releases. Without anxiety triggering you, you will not have adrenalin being released to imagined negative pre-projections. But be aware…this may take time so be patient!
Top Tips To Stop The Cycle
Changing your thought patterns may seem challenging at first, but it is possible. The unfortunate truth though is that many people will give it a few goes and then give up, Then they may announce to others that “nothing works” and just be in a continual cycle of anxiety based stress.
For this to work you have to practice ALL THE TIME until it becomes a habit. You are in control of your results on this…the more effort you put in the quicker the habit will build!
Here is a step by step guide to get you started…
1. Recognise the trigger
This is where your internal cinema screen shows you a potential disaster. Sometimes this may happen so quick that you do not see it. So if you do not see it but get the pang of stress, ask yourself, what did I just think about that made me feel this way?
2. Take a breath
A slow steady deep breath is very important. Firstly it will allow your physical body to calm down by bringing more oxygen to your brain and it will also give you a moment to stop and think about what the trigger was.
3. See reality
Remember, your internal cinema screen is just helping you be prepared for future threats, it is not trying to hurt you, it is trying to keep you safe. It is like a child over thinking things and panicking. So it is your responsibility to ask yourself. Is my internal cinema screen correct? Is this potential disaster going to happen? Then ask yourself… What is the reality of this situation…and do I need to be so alert? Train your mind to see reality!
4. If it is a threat…look for a solution
In some situations your internal cinema screen could be right and it is warning you of a very real threat to you or your loved ones. So after following the above 3 steps then ask yourself…”This is a real danger, so what can I do about this to stay safe?”
Millions of people all over the world suffer from anxiety and stress because they do not take time out to stop and ask themselves what is really going on in their mind and what are they thinking about.
Anxiety is the main cause of stress in the body, but also there are other factors that do not help such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and erratic sleep.
Your health is your responsibility
Anxiety and stress can be controlled but it is you that must take control. Do not fall prey to the group of people that wear their “I’m stressed” badge all day long. Your health is your responsibility, so if you are not in the place you want… what are you going to do about it?