Often when I’m working with clients they ask me about the difference between stress and anxiety. I hear, “Everyone is stressed out so why can’t I handle this?” or “Why do I always feel tense?”. In a culture like ours where everyone is trying to do everything at once stress can feel pretty normal. It’s difficult to see when that tense and overwhelming feeling is coming from anxiety and not stress. Here are a few clues that what you are experiencing is anxiety:
The feelings last a long time. Stress is usually temporary. It can be a reaction to a specific change or challenge. A student is stressed because they have 3 tests in one day. Anxiety is longer lasting and does not directly relate to a specific change or challenge. It is a constant feeling of tension. The anxious student will feel tense and overwhelmed even after they finish their tests.
You can’t move. Though the feeling is difficult, stress can actually motivate you towards action. The student that is worried about their tests and pushes harder to study because of that pressure. Anxiety, on the other hand, is debilitating. You feel like you can’t move forward or do anything about it. Anxiety freezes you in place.
Anxiety is a bully. You find that your self talk is negative and demeaning. Anxiety will tell that student that they already failed those tests. When someone feels anxious their thoughts jump to conclusions and believe that the worst case scenario is definitely happening.
If you relate to these clues and are wondering whether you are struggling with anxiety, then you are not alone! You also don’t have to continue struggling with these thoughts and feelings. There are a lot of tools that can help including mindfulness techniques.
If you or a loved one is struggling with issues related to anxiety, then we’d like to help! If you’d like to talk to a therapist about anxiety or learn more about how therapy can help, then feel free to contact the Summit Counseling Center at 678-787-0958.