Are you anxious or stressed? A psychiatrist explains the difference
It can be helpful to have a good understanding of exactly what is affecting you, so that you can fix it.
You have the sportswear. You have the equipment. You make a nasty smoothie. But if your mind is out of shape, will you go the distance and achieve your goals?
How we feel is just as important as how we work to get results. That’s why Dr Sarah Vohra, Consultant Psychiatrist, is joining my FIT team to help make our minds as strong as our bodies!
Sarah has specialized in mental health for over 10 years and is passionate about sharing her expertise in an easily accessible way. It will help us debunk the myths surrounding mental health and provide us with practical tools to ensure our mental well-being.
Because there was so much in the air in 2020, I thought I would start by asking Sarah to explain the difference between stress and anxiety, and how we can deal with it.
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Q: What is stress and why do we experience it?
Simply put, stress is our mind and body’s response to outside pressures. Being faced with a new challenge, experiencing a change or feeling like you’ve lost control – these situations can overwhelm us and make us “stressed out”. It is important to know that we are all individuals and what might be a stressful experience for you may not be for someone else.
Q: What are the telltale signs of stress?
Stress can show up physically (through changes in your body or behavior) or mentally. You may experience physical symptoms of stress such as headache, muscle pain, difficulty sleeping, or a change in appetite, to name a few. It can affect the way you think and feel. You might feel nervous, more irritable than normal. You may find it difficult to concentrate or relax.
Q: Should we be trying to “get over” stress?
It can be tempting to move on, especially if you have deadlines or expectations, but getting through it can actually lead to more difficulty. In the short term, it can lead to constant worry, procrastination, difficulty sleeping, and worsening physical symptoms, but in the long term, chronic stress can mean that you are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression and anxiety disorders. It can even increase your risk for physical health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Q: Anxiety can sometimes happen without a trigger – what is it and why do we get it?
It is important to recognize that anxiety is a normal human emotion. Anxiety or feeling worried or scared before trying a new style of training, taking on a new challenge at work, or expecting a baby can actually be positive – forcing you to prepare, plan. in advance and to avoid becoming complacent. When we are faced with something that makes us feel worried or scared, our body’s sympathetic nervous system initiates the fight-or-flight response, preparing the body for action.
Q: What are the symptoms of anxiety?
The symptoms of anxiety are not too different from those when we are stressed. It can affect the way we think, feel and act. You might experience physical or bodily sensations. In fact, when your sympathetic nervous system kicks in, it causes adrenaline to be released into your bloodstream, which can cause your heart to speed up, which you experience as a palpitation. (It’s your heart sending blood to your legs in case you need to run away!) You may also notice that your breathing becomes faster and shallower. Anxiety can also affect your mood – you might feel flat out or depressed. If the anxiety persists and affects your daily life, it may indicate that it is an anxiety disorder.
Q: What if we listen to our anxiety and let it rule us?
Some people try to avoid certain situations that they think will cause anxiety, such as being in a crowded place. While this can be a short-term relief, continuing to avoid anxious situations can actually make you more fearful. You may find yourself even more preoccupied with worry, experiencing more physical symptoms, and constantly withdrawing from life experiences because of the “fear” that this will cause over anxiety.
Q: How do we know it’s time to seek help with stress or anxiety?
We will all experience stress and anxiety throughout our lives. For most of us, this will only affect us in the short term and will not affect our ability to live our lives, connect with others, or do our jobs. However, if you constantly feel stressed or anxious and experience worsening physical and emotional symptoms that are affecting your ability to take care of yourself, your relationships, or your career, it is important to seek advice from your doctor.
Emily Skye is a personal trainer and mother of two who founded a health and fitness program – Emily Skye FIT – the culmination of years of hard work, self-discovery, stepping into motherhood and realizing that the best thing you can be is strong and happy. Follow her on Instagram.