Emily Heil NFPT CPT, B.S. Health Promotion and Wellness
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “An estimated 264 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder…An estimated 31.1% of U.S. adults experience any anxiety disorder at some time in their lives… An estimated 19.1% of U.S. adults had any anxiety disorder in the past year.” Most people know the feeling of anxiety, the pressure that builds up in your chest, irritability, and the rapid heart rate. Everyone knows the feeling of stress – as if there is just too much to handle on your plate.
So what is the difference between anxiety and stress? Stress happens when our body undergoes a certain type of change. This could be anything from work pressures, to exercising, to your wedding day. But not all stress has to be bad. Some stress is good, and a certain amount of stress is healthy. You can manage stress by directing that energy either in a positive or negative path. If you direct it positively, you can successfully build up your stress tolerance. If you direct it negatively, it can set a whole different tone in your mood.
Some people who endure chronic stress may end up experiencing anxiety. This can interfere on many more levels of your life including your sleep, possible depression, GI problems, overwhelming feelings of doom, or even panic attacks. As you can see, anxiety and stress are basically siblings when it comes to their characteristics, but anxiety can take a much harder toll on your life. With all of the symptoms that anxiety brings, it can even put your relationships with your friends and family into jeopardy.
Now we know the difference between the two. Let’s chat about some ways to combat the anxiety and stress that you may have.
- Getting exercise- Whether this is 5 minutes or 50 minutes, exercise puts a good state of stress on the body that helps to release pleasurable hormones that influence your physiology. These hormones can last for hours and help you control the feelings that you might be having. A lot of people say that it is “a good outlet to reduce stress”.
- Cut the alcohol- Alcohol is a sedative, which means after the initial calming effect, your moods will return. I was taught in school that if you drink enough when you are angry or sad, prepare to have those emotions amplified. The impact that alcohol has on your body is astounding. Plus, if you get into this habit of using alcohol to cope, it can become an addictive substance.
- Spend time in meditation and prayer. Meditation and prayer are two very powerful habits for the body. You can even listen to positive and affirmative guided meditations. Doing these two things allows for you to tap into a deep part of your spirit, which can have a calming and rejuvenating effect. Focus on the positives and the aspects that you are grateful for in life and soon your brain will subconsciously focus on those and seek those things out during the day instead of the negatives.
- Two words: Essential. Oils. Aromatherapy can be very powerful. Have you ever peeled an orange and smelled that strong smell and felt your mood or your inner being shift? Even just a little bit? Did you know orange essential oil is an oil that is made to combat depression and help promote happiness? You are literally using plants in order to heal yourself. How cool?!
I don’t want to overwhelm you with all of the options that you could use to help your anxiety. So for now, if you haven’t tried these things then go ahead and try them. Worst case scenario, they are a bust and you end up wasting 5 minutes of your life. Best case scenario, you find something that helps you with your stress and anxiety and you are an overall happier person, and the people in your life grow closer to you because of it. And I don’t know about you, but to me, that would be worth it.