Managing Stress to Reduce Anxiety:
Tips and Strategies
Ever find yourself tangled up in a web of stress and anxiety? Trust me, you’re not alone.
Many people think that stress and anxiety are the same things, but they are actually different. In fact, they’re more like distant cousins than identical twins.
Yep, they’re different, and understanding that difference can be a game-changer for your mental well-being.
Before I dive into this week’s post, if you’d prefer to watch or listen, please join me over on YouTube at Yoga & Wellness with Rachel.
Stress vs. Anxiety: What’s the Deal?
Stress and anxiety share many of the same symptoms, but there’s one main difference I want to talk about today. Stress is like that nagging to-do list you can’t stop thinking about, while anxiety is the “what if” monster that makes you dread the future.
Stress is usually triggered by an external situation, like an upcoming work deadline or a flat tire.
Note on Stress Types: Stress can be acute or chronic. Acute stress is short-lived and often tied to specific events or situations. Once the event passes, the stress usually fades. Chronic stress, however, sticks around and can be a constant companion, often leading to or exacerbating anxiety issues.
With acute stress, once you remove the stressor, the symptoms associated with it usually go away.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is often an internal response, like worrying about the unknown experiences ahead of us.
Why They’re Often Confused
Stress and anxiety share a lot of common symptoms and they often hit at the same time. When these two team up, it’s like a double whammy on your mental state. Unchecked stress can actually fuel your anxiety levels. Yikes, right?
Spotting the Signs
So how do you know if you’re stressed or anxious? Well, your body gives you some not-so-subtle hints:
- Increase in heartbeat
- Sweating, shivering or sometimes shaking
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to sleep
- Difficulty focusing
- Fast breathing
- Restlessness and anger
- Recurring thoughts that keep you up at night
- Teeth grinding
But wait, there’s more!
While these symptoms are common to both, there are some nuances:
Stress: Often comes with muscle tension, feeling overwhelmed, and fatigue.
Anxiety: May include a sense of impending doom, excessive worry, and even physical symptoms like nausea. Plus, anxiety often brings recurring thoughts that can keep you up at night, going over and over the same worries.
Does Stress Affect Anxiety?
Research indicates that stress has a significant influence on anxiety levels. When stress becomes a constant companion, it essentially paves the way for anxiety to take center stage. If this stress goes unmanaged over an extended period, it can escalate into severe episodes of anxiety. This is largely due to the hormone cortisol, which spikes during stress and has a direct impact on your emotional state. Elevated cortisol levels make it challenging to maintain a positive mindset, often leading to heightened anxiety that can have detrimental effects on your overall well-being.
How to Reduce Stress to Manage Anxiety
Getting a handle on your stress can be a key factor in helping to manage anxiety. Here are 7 key strategies to help reduce stress to manage anxiety.
Increase your physical activity
Physical activity isn’t just a fitness goal; it’s a mental health essential. A sedentary lifestyle not only ramps up stress but also enhances anxiety. So, whether it’s a sunrise walk, a yoga session, or a full-on gym workout, make movement a non-negotiable part of your day. Trust me, your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.
Eat nourishing foods
What you put on your plate isn’t just fuel; it’s the building blocks for your mental well-being. Instead of reaching for processed or sugar-packed options, aim for a colorful array of fruits and veggies. But don’t stop there—incorporate lean proteins like chicken or plant-based options like lentils and chickpeas. Add in whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, and don’t forget the healthy fats, like avocados or nuts. By focusing on a balanced meal that includes fiber, protein, and healthy fats, you’re setting the stage for a more stress-resilient, less anxious you.
Increase your water intake
Did you know that about 60% of your body is water? That’s why staying hydrated is so essential. It helps your kidneys flush out toxins and keeps stress and anxiety at bay. The general recommendation is to aim for about 8 cups of water a day, but this can vary depending on your activity level and climate.
Quick Hydration Tips:
- Set a Reminder: Use your phone to remind you to take a sip every hour.
- Add some flavor: If plain water is boring, add a squeeze of lemon or lime for a zesty twist.
- Carry a Reusable Bottle: Having water within arm’s reach makes it easier to stay on track.
For more tips, check out my recent post: Infused Water – Add Some Flavor and Fun to Your Water
Cut down your sugar intake, caffeine, and alcohol
Consuming caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks can affect your immune system by causing inflammation, disrupting nutrient absorption, and messing with your sleep. A weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to stress and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle that’s tough to break. So, while that sugary latte or second (or third) glass of wine might seem tempting, they could be doing more harm than good when it comes to stress and anxiety management. Moderation is key.
I used to be a pack-a-day smoker, mainly for the “stress relief” it seemed to offer. But here’s the kicker: that relief is an illusion. Smoking gives you a quick dopamine hit that feels good temporarily. But as the nicotine wears off, withdrawal kicks in, and you’re back to square one, often feeling even more stressed. Plus, let’s not forget the health toll—like heart issues and a weakened immune system—that adds another layer of stress. And to top it off, smoking spikes your cortisol levels, making it harder to keep stress and anxiety in check. So, while it feels like a quick fix, smoking actually perpetuates a cycle of stress and anxiety that’s hard to break.
Manage personal and professional life
Do you feel constantly torn between work demands and personal time? Trust me, you’re not alone. But here’s the thing: cultivating balance between the two is essential because leaning too far into one area can really throw the other area out of balance. The end result? A whole lot of stress and anxiety, and who needs that? So, make it a point to carve out time for both your professional and personal life. By doing this, you’re setting yourself up for a more balanced, and let’s face it, a much happier life.
Develop a proper sleep schedule for the night
Skimping on sleep? Trust me, it’s a recipe for increased stress and anxiety. A solid 7-8 hours of sleep is like a system reboot for your body and mind. You wake up refreshed, more focused, and yes, significantly more productive. The best part? Quality sleep is a natural stress reducer, setting the stage for a happier, more balanced you.
Use of supplements and medications
You might also consider exploring over-the-counter options for stress relief, like certain supplements and vitamins. Vitamin B complex, for instance, is a go-to for stress management. It not only nourishes your brain but also promotes a sense of calm. Just a heads-up, though: always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication or supplement.
When to Seek Help
If you’ve tried all the stress-busting techniques in the book and you’re still feeling overwhelmed, it might be time to seek professional guidance. Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with with a healthcare provider. Before you go, jot down your thoughts on what could be triggering your stress and anxiety. Make a list of questions you want to ask—this will help you have a more productive conversation about your mental and emotional well-being.
Feel free to ask your doctor anything and everything; you’re there to get the best treatment plan for you. Whether it’s therapy, medication, or a combination of both, follow the recommendations diligently for the best outcome.
Tying it All Together
So, there you have it. Stress and anxiety are like two peas in a pod; they feed off each other in ways that can really take a toll on your mental well-being. Long-term stress doesn’t just put you in a bad mood—it can ramp up your anxiety levels and seriously affect your overall health. But here’s the good news: you’ve got options. From balancing work and play to getting quality sleep and even considering supplements, there are actionable steps you can take to manage your stress and, by extension, your anxiety.
So why not give some of these techniques a try? Your future, stress-free self will thank you.