Stress & Anxiety, Do You Know the Difference?

Many things in life can be challenging and they seem to be out of your control at times. Unexpected mistakes in your job that interfere with your day-to-day routine, relationship problems, bad grades, or feeling of envy for someone else’s accomplishments can change our state of mind from peaceful into stressful and anxious.

Stress is a natural response to a real or perceived threat

In simple words, stress can be defined as a natural reaction of the body to prepare or face uncomfortable or harmful situations (either real or perceived). When you feel threatened by something or someone, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that triggers injury-prevention acts; this reaction is commonly referred to as fight or flight or stress response. In such condition, common physical symptoms include increased heart rate and blood pressure, quick breathing, and tightened muscles. All of those are like alarm systems to prepare your body for any endangering or negative outcome. Once the threat is gone, the alarm systems turn themselves off so your body returns to a normal state.

Unfortunately for some people, their alarm systems rarely shut off due to pressure from modern competitive life. Although all people have the same symptoms during a stressful episode, everyone has a different threshold to trigger the alarm; what causes stress in someone is probably a little concern to another. Also, some people cope with stress better than others. This is what we call bio-individuality. Many (if not most) people associate stress with a threatening situation, but stress is not always a bad thing. In some cases, stress can be life-saving too; when you are driving and within close proximity to a road accident, stress response triggers your reflex to pull the handbrake lever and swerve the steering wheel to avoid getting involved in the accident.

The human body is designed to handle and cope with small doses of stress all the time, but the increasing demands of modern life can put too much strain. Despite the fact that stress is a normal physical and psychological reaction, the human body is not well-equipped to handle a long-term stressful situation without consequences, and this is where stress management is important. Without proper management, stress can cause you to always be on high alert and can lead to some health problems.

Excessive and persistent worry could be a sign of anxiety disorder

Stress and anxiety are very much related with symptoms that could be associated to both. Anxiety is also normal in a small dose. You probably have an anxiety attack minutes before an important job interview, being surrounded by new people, during an examination, etc. Being anxious in such situation is perfectly normal, and even expected. The feeling usually subsides and disappear after the event.  However, when you feel worry and fear all the time to the point where those feelings interfere with your life, you are having an anxiety disorder.

People with anxiety disorder have excessive and persistent worry about normal situations. These feelings are difficult to control and they often cause sudden panic attacks. Some circumstances in life can indeed cause concerns, but people with anxiety disorder take the situations to out-of-proportion level and can’t manage the associated emotions. There are some known types of anxiety disorders including but not limited to:

– Generalised Anxiety Disorder
–  Anxiety Disorder
– Specific Phobias
– Separation Anxiety Disorder



The exact cause of anxiety disorder is not fully understood yet. Past experiences including traumatic events often appear to be a trigger. The condition can be one of the inherited traits as well, but anxiety can affect anyone. Medical treatments using certain drugs can also trigger anxiety as one of the side effects, but this is usually in small scale and symptoms stop when the treatment is discontinued. 

“My advice as a health coach is that In a period of stress it is important to take the time to slow down and reflect to identify the triggers and identify actions that can be taken.

If you don’t feel well and things get out of hand, speak to someone you trust or seek professional help through a therapist, doctor or a health coach to set a plan in action that takes in consideration your situation and priorities.”

Valérie MARIN
Article was written by Valerie Marin – Integrative Nutrition Health & Wellness Coach



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