Stress and anxiety
We usually address the process of stress here at Stress Less Workshops, but what about its cousin, anxiety? What is the difference between stress and anxiety, and how would you handle them differently—or would you? To answer this, first we need to understand the nature of anxiety. In this article, we’ll get a deeper understanding of anxiety, how to recognize it, and what you can do about it. Disclaimer: none of the information presented here is intended as professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information does not substitute for the advice of a qualified, licensed medical or mental health professional.
Types of anxiety
Anxiety falls into three major groups. See if you can recognize any of these:
Panic is known by an intense sensation of fear, or even the fear of having (yet another) a panic attack—often without any clear or reasonable cause. You will recognize it by experiencing heightened physical arousal, perhaps including rapid heart rate, hyperventilation, dizziness, nausea, and so forth.
Generalized anxiety is defined as a six month or longer period of excessive worrying over normal things. If you’ve experienced this, you may have found your daily life robbed of pleasure, your attention impaired, or your overall mental state fraught with a sense of dread.
Social anxiety (aka “social phobia”) is marked by an avoidance of places and activities where others are present. You may even feel so anxious that you start to shake, blush, or break out into a sweat—not fun at all!
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety frequently presents telltale physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms. Do any of these seem familiar?
Anxious Body: The sensations you may experience in your body include negative feelings like fright or panic, flushing, sweating, and the red embarrassed face of social anxiety. Or, you may feel a more general buzzing tension like those people who seem a little too “wired” and worried. These symptoms can be better understood and managed with breathing techniques, mindfulness practices, and thought labeling (techniques we teach early on in the Stress Less Workshops Core Curriculum).
Anxious Mind: Mental symptoms are experienced as over-activity in the brain, which can create mental tension, worry, and mental anguish. With the right tools, you can keep anxiety from overrunning your life. For example, mind-mapping is a great tool for befriending the thoughts that disturb your mind-body connection.
Anxious Behavior: In order to avoid the feeling of anxiety, some people will avoid social situations that have previously caused panic, worry, or social anxiousness. This avoidance has the side effect of resulting in isolation, thereby increasing the social anxiety further.
Mismanaged anxiety can easily result in an overactive mind and body. But by recognizing the physical sensations, mental patterns, and behaviors that accompany anxiety, you can better tolerate and even ride with the experience. With the right skills—and practice—you can have peace with the entire cycle of these uncomfortable experiences. You can learn how to calm your mind and body more easily. At Stress Less Workshops, we do this by “Using Your Brain to Change Your Brain.”
Stress vs. anxiety
At Stress Less Workshops, we view stress as having a traceable cause, such as a job loss, looming deadline, newborn child, etc. These outside stressors can be clearly recognized and therefore prioritized and handled one at a time. Anxiety, on the other hand carries a more generalized sense of tension in the mind and body—often without a clear or reasonable cause. This tension can prevent a person from being fully present in their life. On top of that, those who experience anxiety often develop the added worry (anxiety!) about having yet another anxiety attack—again, often without a clear indication as to how to resolve it. If left unchecked, they may find themselves constantly on high alert in anticipation of a visit from the anxiety monster, ultimately feeling helpless about their stressful condition. The key is to break the cycle that perpetuates the stress response in your body and mind.
Emotional thoughts start in the brain. The body is notified of these thoughts and the mind goes into gear to solve the stress or “problem” presented. Managing stress and anxiety starts with a new thought process. You brain is a powerful and highly adaptable organ, and at Stress Less Workshops we take advantage of the most cutting edge research available to teach you how to change your brain—to actually change the neural pathways you use to think and respond. Pretty cool, huh? In just 4 weeks, the Stress Less Workshops core curriculum can help you change your relationship with stress and anxiety. Check out this email I received from a Stress Less Workshops participant:
I had a deadline to meet with a client project and I always depend on my assistant to help me get to the finish line on time. We traditionally run behind and stay late many nights and push thru to meet the deadlines. This particular project had many surprises and my trustworthy assistant had to go take care of a sick child at the 9th hour. Before the Stress Less Workshops program I would have had a fit, told her to bring her child to work or insist that she get a babysitter to take over. I needed her THERE! Thanks to the skills I learned from Stress Less Workshops, I found myself having a different experience. When presented with the news, I found myself automatically taking a deep breath and calming my body (and therefore my mind). With this breathing break that I learned about, I had the presence of mind to think of another solution to my impending deadline. The answer was clear, my assistant was going home to take care of her family and I asked her who on the staff she would recommend to help us finish the project. She came up with a perfect team member—one who I didn’t even know could do the work I needed. In the end, I had a happy assistant, a new team member to help bring projects to deadlines with more room to spare, and a happy client. Oh, by the way I got home at a decent hour to be with my own family and got a good night sleep, helping me give a relaxed professional presentation. Yes, I did get the account!
How many situations like that do you experience in your everyday personal and professional life? How would it change your life if you could handle these stressful situations with such grace and calm? As we saw in the story above, there is something calming and confidence building in Stress Less Workshops. The Stress Less Workshops program is a private, focused, and elegant solution to diffusing the distractions and worries in your mind. Want a change in your life? Use your brain to change your brain. Enroll in one of our virtual or on-site programs today.