Reviewed by Dawn Brown, LPC, NCC
Don't you hate those moments when stress kicks in? Your mind starts to run in a million different directions, and none of them are good. Your stomach feels like it has knots in it, and your heart is racing. It may be one thing you're worried about, or there might be a long list of things. You want to feel good again. If your feeling stressed, anxiety could be the reason.
Stress is a normal part of life and something that everyone will experience. That's probably not something that you want to hear. But it can be a good thing for you to hear. When you accept that no one here on Earth is going to live a stress-free life, it allows you to take the next steps of learning how to deal properly with feeling stressed, anxious, or worried.
The first thing that can help is learning how to identify when you're dealing with stress. If it's something that you've struggled with on a regular basis, it might have become hard to tell the difference between feeling like yourself and feeling stressed. Let's look at some of the different causes of stress.
Causes Of Stress
Many different things can cause stress, but they tend to boil down to just a few categories:
- Time management challenges
- Relationships issues
- Health concerns (physical or mental)
- Financial difficulties
- Situations outside of your control
If you think of something in your life that's causing you stress, it's likely to fall into one of these groups. Learning how to identify where the stress is coming from can help you find healthy ways to address it.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stress-Induced Anxiety?
First, it's important to understand the difference between stress and anxiety. Many people think they are the same thing and use the words interchangeably, but they are two different things.
Stress is the physical strain that is placed on you. Anxiety, on the other hand, includes the feelings you have when you feel anxious. For example, you may be feeling worried or afraid. The two, stress and anxiety, are often linked together, but they don't have to.
For example, you can experience stress without it turning into anxiety. But if you don't know how to properly handle and deal with the stress you have in life, it can easily transition into anxiety.
The symptoms of stress-induced anxiety include:
- Trouble with your digestive system or upset stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle aches and tension
- Chronic pain
- Changes in your eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty focusing
Addressing The Source Of Stress
If you're able to identify the root causes of stress in your life, you may identify some trouble areas you have.
If you're able to determine where your stress is coming from, it can help address that specific area in your life. For example, suppose you are struggling with stress because of a difficult relationship. In that case, it may help to attend counseling or work on building communication skills to address the relationship's issues. There may be other specific things that you can do to help improve your relationship as well. If the relationship is the cause of your stress, correcting these issues will naturally help reduce the stress and anxiety you feel.
If you're struggling to determine where your stress is coming from or why you feel so anxious, you could be dealing with a mental health challenge such as an anxiety disorder. If you're unable to determine on your own where your struggle is stemming from, it may be best to speak with your doctor or a mental health professional such as a therapist.
Ways To Handle Stress And Anxiety On Your Own
Even if you're able to identify the causes of stress and anxiety in your life, you may benefit from learning some effective ways to manage the symptoms while you work on addressing the root cause. Below are some strategies that you can try implementing in your own life to overcome stress and anxiety.
Exercise and physical activity can be an effective way to manage stress and anxiety in your life. Engaging in physical activity can boost the chemicals in your brain that help you feel happier and more relaxed. It has also been found to help reduce feelings of pain.
In order to experience the benefit of exercise, you can choose the activity that you enjoy the most. For example, you could go for a walk or a jog, play tennis, dance, lift weights, or go swimming. The exact activity you do doesn't matter, so choose how to be active that you enjoy the most.
Journaling can also be a great way to reduce the amount of pent up stress and anxiety you're experiencing. You may not be comfortable talking to someone else about the feelings you're having, but writing them down in a journal can help you feel like you've expressed herself. This can help you to feel like you've gotten some of the stress off of your chest. And you may even find that journaling helps you see solutions to problems that you might have been missing.
Some people prefer to hold on to their journals so they can look back at them in the future. Other people prefer to write about the stress that they're feeling and the situations that they're experiencing and then throw the paper away. You can do whichever option works the best for you.
Practice Yoga And/Or Deep Breathing
Deep breathing exercises and yoga tends to go hand in hand, although they don't have to. If you don't want to participate in yoga, you can still experience stress relief from practicing deep breathing. These practices help you calm your thoughts and slow the physical reaction that your body is experiencing.
As you can see from the list of stress-induced anxiety symptoms above, stress can have a very negative impact on your physical body. When you take the time to slow down by engaging in yoga or deep breathing exercises, you helped slow that physical response.
As your body starts to be in a calmer state, you may experience some of the tension of your anxiety melting away.
Give Yourself A Break
If you're experiencing anxiety or stress because your schedule is overwhelmed, you may benefit from giving yourself a break. This could be as simple as walking away from your desk and your computer for 5 minutes every few hours or taking a couple of days off. Many studies have found the benefit and importance of vacation time. This doesn't mean that you need to go away on vacation. It could be simply taking a few days off from your routine to rest and recharge.
Learn To Manage Your Time Better
Another strategy that can help reduce stress if you have an overcommitted schedule is to learn how to manage your time better. If you struggle to say no when people ask you to do things, you may find yourself running from one activity to another with no time to rest. Learning how to set priorities around your time can reduce the number of things you're doing and relieve some of your stress.
You may also benefit from identifying time wasters in your life. This can include social media, bingeing on television, taking phone calls when you should be working on something else, and not having yourself organized. If you practice tracking how you spend your time for a few days, it can help you identify areas that you're wasting time. This can show you key areas to address in order to reduce your stress.
If you identify that other people are a constant cause of stress in your life, you may benefit from learning how to set boundaries. When you establish boundaries in your life, you teach other people how you expect to be treated and OK with. If you have people in life used to taking advantage of you, setting boundaries can be a very important way to alleviate your anxiety and stress.
If you struggle with standing up for yourself, setting boundaries with people may feel overwhelming. In this case, you may benefit from enlisting the help of a therapist. They can help you identify what boundaries you would benefit from setting in your life and give you tips on how to implement them and stick to them.
Other Treatment Options
You may find that trying to treat your stress and anxiety at home on your own is not enough. And that doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with you. Many people struggle with anxiety disorders such as major depressive disorder with anxious distress.
If you find that your stress and anxiety feel like too much to handle on your own, many different kinds of therapy can help. You may also want to speak with your doctor or a psychiatrist about possible medications that can help you regain control of your anxiety levels. Different treatment plans work for different people, so don't give up if the first thing you try doesn't work.
If you're unsure if anxiety is the cause of the struggle you're going through, take this anxiety quiz to learn more. This is a good first step in helping yourself to feel better.