Have you ever attempted to manage your anxiety using therapy or self-help strategies only to find them ineffective? It’s possible that you’re using the wrong tools for the wrong emotions. While worry, anxiety, and stress are frequently mixed up, they require different management techniques. With years of experience supporting individuals who suffer from anxiety, I’m thrilled to offer my insights on this subject.
Stress, worry, and anxiety are three different aspects of our fear response.
Worry is: “A state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.” I commonly refer to this during my sessions as the ‘thinking’ part of anxiety. It’s when you’re worried about something that could happen but may not necessarily occur. it’s rooted in the prefrontal cortex, the thinking part of the brain.
Here are three examples of worrying thoughts that many people struggle with:
1. “What if something bad happens?” This common worry can stem from fear of the unknown or a lack of control over a situation. It’s important to remember that worrying about the worst-case scenario doesn’t actually prevent it from happening.
2. “I’m not good enough.” This negative self-talk can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Challenging these thoughts by focusing on your strengths and accomplishments and reminding yourself that everyone has flaws and makes mistakes is essential.
3. “People are judging me.” This worry can stem from social anxiety or a fear of rejection. It’s important to remember that most people are too busy worrying about themselves to spend much time judging others. And even if someone does judge you, it says more about them than it does about you.
On the flip side, stress can be defined as “a mental or emotional state of tension or strain caused by demanding or adverse circumstances.”Stress is often caused by external factors, such as work or relationships, and can negatively impact your physical and mental health.
The Primitive Nature of Stress: An Instinctual Response. It’s the body’s reaction to fear. Stress is a natural, instinctual reaction to fear that originates from the most primitive part of our brains. It’s an automatic response that can be traced back to our ancestors. Stress can manifest in various forms in our daily lives and impact us differently. Here are three examples of what stress might look like and how our bodies respond via the fight, flight or freeze response:
When faced with stress, our bodies may react in one of three ways: fight, flight, or freeze. Take a look at how each response can manifest in different situations:
- The fight response may occur when a deadline is approaching and you begin to feel overwhelmed. Your body prepares to confront the perceived threat, leading to physical tension, headaches, muscle soreness, and increased heart rate and blood pressure.
- The flight response may kick in when you’re walking home late at night and hear footsteps behind you. Your body prepares to escape the perceived threat, leading to rapid and shallow breathing, sweating palms, and an urge to run away from the situation.
- The freeze response may occur when you feel helpless or powerless in a situation like a car accident. Your body may shut down, causing you to feel numb or disconnected from the situation and making it difficult to take action or make decisions.
Stress is a common part of our daily lives, and it’s crucial to identify the warning signs and discover healthy methods to cope with it. If left untreated, stress can become chronic and have a negative impact on our well being. By gaining an understanding of how our bodies react to stress, we can take action to minimize its impact and enhance our overall health.